BALTIMORE—The Orioles received an outstanding start Monday from rookie left-hander Zac Lowther, whose first major league start on May 8th wasn’t pleasant. His second one was.
Lowther, who allowed just three hits, including former Oriole Hanser Alberto’s home run in six innings, looked to be in line for his first win. However, the Kansas City Royals scored two runs against Cole Sulser in the eighth for a 3-2 come-from-behind win before an announced Labor Day crowd of 11,973 at Oriole Park.
Sulser (4-4) came in trying to protect a 2-1 lead and gave up a leadoff double to Whit Merrifield. He moved to third on a sacrifice by Nicky Lopez and scored on a bloop single to right by Salvador Perez.
With two outs, Carlos Santana singled, and a single by Andrew Benintendi scored Perez to give the Royals a 3-2 lead.
Domingo Tapia (2-0), who recorded five outs, was the winner. Scott Barlow picked up his 11th save, but not before some dramatics.
Anthony Santander hit a long fly to left that could have been a home run had Benintendi not caught it at the wall. Jorge Mateo flied to center, and DJ Stewart singled to left before Jahmai Jones struck out to end the game.
The Orioles (43-93) were seeking their third straight win. After two one-run wins at Yankee Stadium, they were seeking their fifth three-game winning streak. After the All-Star break, they won two of three at Kansas City (62-76).
It was their fifth straight one-run game.
“You want to play competitive games, and I’m disappointed when we only score two runs,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I’d like to help out our pitchers there.
“I was really impressed with our at-bats in the ninth inning. A really good arm in Barlow. We drove the ball three times. Good to see us fight there in the ninth … I’d like to see us score some runs to take some pressure off the pitching. I’d like to win these close games, especially when we have the lead there late.”
Lowther was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk before the game. Hyde said he’ll get more starts this month as the Orioles look at prospective starters for 2022.
“I just want to show them there was a reason I was put on this team,” Lowther said. “Just being able to go out and do everything that got me to this point and being able to execute going forward.
“The beginning of the season wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go from my standpoint, whether it be performance-based or health-based. Being able to finish this year strong is my main point and being able to show them, this is what I’m able to offer.”
Lowther strained his left shoulder in July.
“It’s been really different, for sure,” Lowther said. “Going from a starting role to a relieving role. I wasn’t really used to that, but I thought I took it in stride as much as I could, and then the injuries, I wasn’t able to give everything thing I had, and my stuff wasn’t as crisp as I would like to [be]. I think that the injury gave me a good reset.
“I was able to go down to Florida and get my body right, get my mind right, and then as I worked my way back up, I was able to feel out what I needed to work on and what would get me back to Baltimore. I was able to do that pretty quickly.”
In Lowther’s start against the Red Sox four months ago, he allowed seven runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings.
On Monday, Lowther pitched six innings, the longest he has thrown in the majors or the minors, allowing a run on three hits. He walked two and struck out two.
“He left with a lead, and he was a lot sharper than he was when he was up here previously,” Hyde said.
A third-inning single by Austin Hays drove home Austin Wynns to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead against Kris Bubic. Hays extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
“I think my luck has increased a little bit,” Hays said. “I’ve gotten some balls to fall,”
Alberto, in his return to Baltimore, where he played in 2019 and 2020, hit his second home run of the season in the fifth to tie the score, 1-1.
Cedric Mullins’ 26th home run, which gave him the team lead, put the Orioles in front, 2-1, in the bottom of the fifth.
Jorge López replaced Lowther in the seventh and turned his right ankle after he caught Ryan Mountcastle’s toss to first base on Benintendi’s grounder to begin the inning. López left the game, and the Orioles said they were waiting for diagnostic testing.
“He rolled it pretty good on the base there,” Hyde said. “We won’t know that until later tonight, maybe tomorrow.”
Conner Greene finished the scoreless inning, and Hyde said that he was reluctant to use some of his relievers. Marcos Diplán and Tanner Scott had worked the last two games, and he said he didn’t want to use Tyler Wells, if possible.
“I was hoping Lopie could go into the seventh, possibly into the eighth,” Hyde said. “It definitely affected how things lined up at the end.”
Notes: Right-handed pitcher Dusten Knight was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Lowther. … Infielder Ramón Urías, who left Sunday’s game because of upper leg soreness, sat out Monday’s game as did Trey Mancini, who had “general soreness,” according to Hyde. … Eddie Murray, who celebrated the 25th anniversary of his 500th home run, threw out the first pitch to Mancini .… Diplán got his first major league win and Tyler Wells his first save on Sunday. It was the second time this season and the 11th time since 1969 that Oriole pitchers had their first win and saves in the same game. … Mullins was the designated hitter for the first time in his career. … Zack Burdi, who pitched a scoreless ninth, is the 56th player used by the Orioles, two short of the franchise record, set in 2019. … Ryan McKenna, who started in center, struck out twice and has struck out 10 times in his last 14 at-bats. … Alexander Wells (1-2, 7.71 ERA) will face Jackson Kowar (0-2, 8.18) on Tuesday night.