KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - In the span of just a couple innings, the Baltimore Orioles went from struggling to break up a perfect game to having the winning run on second base with two outs in the ninth inning.
They nearly turned a miserable night into a memorable one.
Instead, Royals closer Greg Holland rebounded to strike out Nelson Cruz, preserving Kansas City’s 1-0 victory Saturday night. It also made a winner of Danny Duffy, who had a perfect game going until Adam Jones sent a single up the middle with two outs in the seventh inning.
“We found a way to get back in it in the ninth and had the right guys at the plate,” said Orioles bench coach John Russell, who acted as manager as Buck Showalter attended his daughter’s graduation. “We still found a way to make it interesting.”
Duffy (2-3) was pulled after another single in the eighth, but the Orioles were unable to build off it against reliever Wade Davis. Holland came in for the ninth and gave up a single and two walks to load the bases for Cruz, who struck out with the game on the line.
Bud Norris (2-4) was the hard-luck loser, allowing four hits and a walk in 7 1-3 innings.
The lone run he allowed came in the first, when Nori Aoki led off with a single, stole second and then scored on Butler’s single to center. The hit ended a 0-for-10 slump, and gave Kansas City only its second run in the first three games of the four-game set.
“Their guy was pretty tough tonight,” Norris said. “It was a tough one to lose. I’m trying to put up zeroes. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Duffy missed most of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he began this season in the bullpen after losing the competition for a rotation spot in spring training. But he was forced back into the rotation a few weeks ago, when Bruce Chen landed on the disabled list with a back injury, and has pitched so well that he may have claimed the spot for good.
After struggling with control most of his first three seasons, Duffy has finally started to harness his stuff. He allowed one run on two hits in four innings in his first start May 3 against Detroit, and one run on two hits in six innings last week in Seattle.
He wound up losing both games when the Royals failed to score a run for him.
Perhaps with that in mind, Duffy kept the Orioles off the scoreboard entirely. He never got close to allowing a hit until Caleb Joseph hit a liner at third baseman Mike Moustakas to end the sixth inning, and Alex Gordon made a spectacular diving catch on Nick Markakis’s flyball to lead off the seventh. Duffy then struck out Manny Machado before Jones delivered his single.
“I heard somebody say this is the type for, like, a perfect game,” said the Orioles’ Caleb Joseph. “Right after that, somebody said, ‘Jonesy is about to rip one right here.’”
Asked whether he took any satisfaction in breaking up the perfect game, Jones replied: “I don’t care about all that. I just don’t want to see it done against my team.”
The crowd gave Duffy a standing ovation after the hit, and then another when he exited the game. Duffy sheepishly waved his cap in appreciation as he entered the dugout.
“I was just trying to stay calm,” Duuffy said. “Mechanics will come through on their own if you trust your stuff, you don’t overdo anything. And we were on the attack all day.”
NOTES: Jones has a 12-game hitting streak. … The Royals have had four no-hitters in their history, the last by Brett Saberhagen against the White Sox on Aug. 26, 1991. The Orioles have not been no-hit since Sept. 1, 2007, when Clay Buchholz accomplished the feat for Boston. … Royals RHP James Shields and Orioles RHP Ubaldo Jimenez start Sunday’s series finale.
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