On the Road, O's Make a U-Turn in Kansas City; Now Home Awaits

By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 12, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 11 -- When the Baltimore Orioles arrived in town late Wednesday night, they were in the midst of a season-long five-game losing streak, a skid that pushed them under the .500 mark and threatened to derail what's been a surprising start.

But even with a 4-0 loss in the series finale with the Kansas City Royals on Sunday -- when Baltimore crumpled under the weight of Brian Bannister's eight-inning gem -- the Orioles won three of four games to stop the losing streak and salvage a three-city, 10-day road trip that at one point had all the makings of a disaster.

Despite winning just one game of six on the West Coast, Baltimore rebounded against the Royals, which allowed the Orioles to return home as they left: as a winning baseball team.

"We needed to do it, obviously," Orioles Manager Dave Trembley said. "We needed to regroup after losing three straight against Oakland and a couple of them got away from us against [Los Angeles]. But we came in here and regrouped, like I've seen us do before. We played some good baseball here."

Of course, the Orioles would have gladly taken the added bonus of finishing the recent road swing at 5-5, an accomplishment considering the trip's inauspicious beginning. But Bannister had his say in the matter, becoming the first pitcher to shut Baltimore out this season.

The Royals right-hander, who was making his first career start against the Orioles and had never faced a single hitter on Baltimore's roster, allowed just two hits.

"He's going to throw strikes, he's got movement, will keep the ball down," Trembley said after the game, ticking off the highlights of Bannister's scouting report, which proved quite accurate.

Bannister's performance was good enough to end Kansas City's 12-game losing streak to the Orioles dating from 2006, which was much to the liking of the 18,635 at Kauffman Stadium on a sunny but breezy afternoon.

"Cutters, sliders, four-seamers, two-seamers, he was just locating everything. He was down in the zone, he went in on us when he had to," said Orioles catcher Guillermo Quiroz, who reached base twice against Bannister. "Guys like this on days like this, you've just got to tip your hat to him."

While Bannister cruised along behind his wicked mix of pitches -- preventing an Oriole from so much as touching second base -- Baltimore left-hander Brain Burres allowed a base runner in every inning he pitched but the first.

"I didn't have very good command of my off-speed pitches today, so I was pretty much working mainly with the fastball," Burres said. "It was the only thing I could get over consistently. . . . It's tough to pitch like that for whole game."

Burres battled in the second inning, when he allowed one run while the Royals loaded the bases. But he induced two grounders that became forceouts at the plate, then got David DeJesus to fly out, keeping Kansas City to the lone run.

Said Trembley, "Burres today was walking a tightrope."

After Burres allowed another run in the third inning, the tightrope finally snapped in the seventh, when Joey Gathright drew a leadoff walk and DeJesus followed with a single. Kansas City chased Burres while scoring two runs.

For Baltimore, the loss ended a grueling 19-game stretch in which the Orioles played 16 on the road, escaping with a 7-9 record. Indeed, it could have been much worse.

"We did a good job," Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar said. "The road trip was tough but that's part of baseball. It's a long season, the boys have their heads high and we're playing good. It will be nice to get home and get in front of our fans, and our music and our stuff and get going."

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