Pena’s pair of home runs not enough

ROY­ALS 4, ORI­OLES 3

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL - BY ED­UARDO A. ENCINA

kansas city, mo. — Ori­oles Man­ager Buck Showal­ter warned that the Kansas City Roy­als were bet­ter than their record in­di­cated. And af­ter two games at Kauff­man Sta­dium, the Ori­oles are in dan­ger of be­ing swept by a Roy­als team that owns the worst record in the Amer­i­can League.

Backup catcher Fran­cisco Pena hit two solo homers off Roy­als right-han­der Nate Karns, but oth­er­wise the Ori­oles had just four hits against Kansas City pitch­ing in a 4-3 loss, their third straight one-run de­feat.

Karns posted a ca­reer-high 12 strike­outs over just five in­nings. Karns, who re­ceived a no-de­ci­sion, was re­mark­ably ef­fi­cient with his knuckle change-up, draw­ing 17 of his 18 swing­ing strikes on the pitch. Karns ac­tu­ally threw his change-up (42 times) more than his fast­ball (41) on the night.

The Ori­oles (22-13) have now lost three straight and have lost seven of their past 10 games on the road. Their record away from Cam­den Yards (9-10) is be­low .500 for the first time this sea­son.

They have scored just five runs in two games at Kauff­man Sta­dium, but their strug­gles have been com­pounded by a wounded bullpen that is forc­ing untested re­liev­ers into high-lever­age sit­u­a­tions.

Roy­als des­ig­nated hit­ter Brandon Moss snapped a 3-3 tie in the sixth with a solo homer off righthander Alec Asher (1-2). It was Moss’s se­cond homer this se­ries, and Asher — who has a rep­u­ta­tion for keep­ing the ball in the park — has now al­lowed home runs in con­sec­u­tive out­ings.

First base­man Chris Davis tied the game in the sixth in­ning with a solo homer off Roy­als re­liever Seth Maness (1-0). But that was the Ori­oles’ fi­nal hit, as the Kansas City bullpen re­tired 12 of its last 13 hit­ters.

Pena en­tered Satur­day night with just one home run in 54 ma­jor league plate ap­pear­ances, but he pre­dicted he’d find his power stroke for a spe­cial cause against the Roy­als.

With the teams wear­ing pink-let­tered jer­seys and caps Satur­day and Sun­day for Mother’s Day, Pena told Ori­oles pub­lic re­la­tions direc­tor Kris­ten Hu­dak dur­ing bat­ting prac­tice Satur­day that he was go­ing to hit a home run for his mother and then look into the MASN TV cam­era in the vis­it­ing dugout and wave to her.

Pena did bet­ter than that, swat­ting two solo homers — while swing­ing a pink bat — for the first multi-homer game of his big league ca­reer.

With his play­ing time set to di­min­ish with the pend­ing re­turn of start­ing catcher Wel­ing­ton Castillo on Tues­day, Pena took ad­van­tage of a rare start. He launched a 2-2 knuckle curve from Karns into the Roy­als’ bullpen be­yond the left field fence in the third in his first at-bat. He then took a first­pitch fast­ball over the Roy­als’ bullpen in his se­cond at-bat in the fifth, giv­ing the Ori­oles a 2-1 lead. As promised, Pena made his way to the dugout TV cam­era well af­ter each homer.

CHAR­LIE RIEDEL/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ori­oles catcher Fran­cisco Pena points as he crosses the plate in the third in­ning af­ter de­liv­er­ing on his vow to homer for his mother.

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