BALTIMORE -- For the last 3 1/2 months, the Orioles have been dominant at Camden Yards, clinching the American League East title and winning the first two games of the AL Division Series -- en route to an easy sweep over the Tigers -- in Baltimore. But in the city's most important pair of games in 17 years, the O's seemed incapable of doing the very things that got them here.
For the second consecutive night, Baltimore watched a short start lead to late-game disappointment. Closer Zach Britton, fresh off walking the bases loaded one night earlier, surrendered two ninth-inning runs, one of which was charged to Darren O'Day, in Saturday's 6-4 loss to the Royals in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series. The defeat puts the Orioles, who will travel to Kansas City for three games, in a worrisome 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven set.
Baltimore's pitching, which has guided the club since late June, has faltered on the big stage in their first back-to- back losses at Camden Yards since June 28-29. Britton didn't pitch terribly, but watched a few bad bounces dictate the game, leaving the Orioles with the tough task of trying to make sure the speedy Royals don't run away with the series.
"The series ain't over," said center fielder Adam Jones, who hit a two-run homer, but also struck out in a pivotal seventh inning. "You guys [in the media] thinking it's over, why are we going to show up on Monday? We've got a lot of baseball to play in this series. Let's get back after it. We're going to get KC and go there to get two on the road, and let's go there and have some fun, eat some barbecue."
To enjoy Kauffman Stadium and ensure the Orioles, who hold home-field advantage, force another trip back to Baltimore, the team will have to get its pitching in order and steal back some momentum from a Royals team that is a perfect 6-0 in October.
WHAT WENT WRONG
O'Day, who gave up a solo homer in Game 1's loss, said he'd take the heat for Game 2, but thought it was more bad luck than anything. After a 50-foot leadoff single by Omar Infante in the ninth, O'Day exited for Britton, who allowed a one-out double down the right-field line to Alcides Escobar, scoring pinch-runner Terrance Gore for a 5-4 lead. After third baseman Ryan Flaherty missed on Jarrod Dyson's grounder, Lorenzo Cain's single put the Royals up two.
"You are seeing a lot of odd things right now, things you don't normally see during the season. Like a right-hander taking Britton's sinker down the first-base line," catcher Caleb Joseph said. "[Britton] got the ground balls he needed. He got two of them actually. But they are finding holes right now. At some point we've got to do our best to roadblock that and try to counter it."
Bullpen letdown: Britton didn't pitch badly, but he and O'Day, who was lights out during the season, have taken center stage in the early part of the series.
"It can be kind of maddening if you let it, but you trust your instincts and know your guys," manager Buck Showalter said of the bounces going against his relievers lately. "I'm really proud of Zach, threw the ball really well. We had some ground balls find some holes, and got to keep grinding and some of those things will -- we've had some fortunate things happen to us, too."
Another short start: Orioles right-hander Bud Norris, who turned in the O's best start of the Division Series, was charged with four runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings. The outing was the second consecutive night Baltimore's rotation was unable to go longer than 4 1/3 innings, a troublesome trend for a group of starters that had been on a roll since June.
The O's were in an immediate deficit courtesy of Eric Hosmer's broken-bat single one out into the game. Hardy made a valiant effort, but the perfectly placed ball dropped into shallow left field and the speedy Nori Aoki and Cain scored to make it a 2-0 deficit. Norris gave up a run in the third and, after the Orioles scored two in the bottom half to tie it at 3, Mike Moustakas hit a go-ahead homer -- his fourth of the postseason -- the following frame.
Baltimore recorded its first 1-2-3 inning of the series in the eighth inning, with lefty Andrew Miller nailing down the first two outs and O'Day striking out Salvador Perez. The Royals set a new postseason record, topping the 2002 Athletics (15) with 17 consecutive innings with at least one runner on.
Cruz's two hits in Game 2 Gave him multihit efforts in six consecutive postseason games dating back to the 2012 AL Wild Card Game against the Orioles when he was with the Rangers. It is a new postseason record.
After a postponement Monday, Game 3 of the ALCS will take place in Kansas City on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, with lefty Wei-Yin Chen going opposite former Orioles right-hander Jeremy Guthrie at Kauffman Stadium.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.