KANSAS CITY, Mo.—In order to be successful as a major league pitcher, David Hess must be far better than he was on Sunday.
Not only did Hess allow nine hits in four innings, he committed two throwing errors and threw a costly wild pitch. Although one of the five runs he allowed was technically unearned, it came on his error.
Hess allowed Whit Merrifield to score in the third when he tried to pick off Alex Gordon at first and threw wildly. Later in the inning, his pickoff throw to second to try to nab Jorge Bonifacio was off-target, and Bonifacio scored when Breyvic Valera’s throw to third was errant.
That three-error inning was costly as the Royals scored three runs in the third on the way to a three-game sweep of the Orioles, 9-1.
“I think the toughest thing is giving them extra bases and extra outs to work with,” Hess said.
“That is something that I have prided myself on through the minor leagues and then up here as well, being able to field my position well. And do what we need to do to keep guys honest out there. I mean, they beat me at that today and going forward that is something we’re going to learn from and not let happen again.”
Kansas City has excellent speed, and sometimes it can get in a pitcher’s head, Hess acknowledged.
“I think in those instances it wasn’t necessarily me being concerned with them taking that extra base, but just trying to keep them honest more than anything,” Hess said. “…That saves some pitches right there and allows us to go deeper in the game.”
Mike Wright allowed four runs in the eighth.
The sweep leaves the Orioles with a 40-97 record. Kansas City’s 45-91 mark is 5 ½ games ahead of Baltimore’s.
Davis heating up
It’s generally gone unnoticed, but Chris Davis has been hitting well the last few weeks. Since Aug. 14, Davis is 18-for-63 (.286). He was 2-for-3 on Sunday.
His average has moved up from .158 to .177. It’s at its highest point since May 11. His season high is .187 on May 4.
With four weeks to go in the season, Davis faces a challenge to try to keep his average moving up, and would love a big final month.
“It would mean a lot,” Davis said of a September push. “My goal the last couple of months was to stick to my plan and continue to work, try to build some momentum going into the offseason. Obviously, this has been a tough year for me on all fronts, but I think there’s still work to be done. Still time where I can put some good things to use and hopefully finish out on top.”
Manager Buck Showalter has noticed Davis’ push.
“Chris has been in a good place for a while,” Showalter said. “As far as he’s going to have a game that may not look good statistically, but as far as his approach and all the things that we get to see, he’s in as good a place I think as he’s been all year. He’s been fun to watch.”
Givens still closing
The Orioles have had few save opportunities this season, and that means fewer chances for Mychal Givens to prove he’s the right choice as the team’s closer.
Givens allowed a two-run home run to Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield on Saturday, and the game-ending homer pushed Givens’ record to 0-7. In his first three seasons, Givens was 18-2. He’s blown four of his nine save chances.
He’s had only three chances since Aug. 14, and converted only one of them.
“That need to pitch him back-to-back has not been there as much,” Showalter said.
There is no other experienced closer on the Orioles’ staff, and it seems unlikely that Showalter will look elsewhere for a ninth-inning reliever.
“We’re looking at all options right now to make sure we make good decisions as we go forward,” Showalter said
“I’m not going to get backed in a corner either way. I consider what best serves the needs of the players and the organization on a given night. I’m not going to have Mike sit around for five days waiting on a close situation.”
Nunez takes a seat
Renato Nunez, who had started 29 straight games, didn’t start Sunday’s game. He was used as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Tim Beckham, who was 4-for-4 in Saturday’s loss, and Adam Jones, who lately has been rested in day games, both sat out.
Jonathan Villar started at short, Jace Peterson played third, and Valera, who was recalled Saturday, was at second.
“I know Timmy’s a little banged up. Been playing a lot, too,” Showalter said. “We’re going to keep moving guys around, keep playing everybody.”
Rule 5 blues
Pedro Araujo, who has been on the disabled list since June 11 because of a sprained right elbow, won’t be activated by the Orioles this month. The Rule 5 pitcher must spend the first 17 days of next season on the active roster to fulfill his Rule 5 obligations.
Araujo had a Platelet-Rich Plasma shot in his elbow last month and won’t be ready to pitch before the season ends Sept. 30.
“He’s going to be fine, I think for next year,” Showalter said.
Anthony Santander, who divided his time on the active roster between 2017 and 2018 to fulfill his Rule 5 status, could be added to the major league roster in the coming days. The seasons for Norfolk and Bowie end Monday.
“When his season’s over, I’m sure he’ll get consideration, as will some other guys,” Showalter said.
Hess appeared to strike out Brett Phillips to start the third, but the ball eluded catcher Caleb Joseph. Initially, Phillips was ruled out on Joseph’s throw, but after a replay review, the call was overturned. The Royals have been successful on a phenomenal 81 percent (29-for-36) of replay reviews, best in the majors.