KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Johnny Giavotella was hitting in the situations he wanted. He failed to deliver.
In his first three at-bats, Giavotella stranded five runners, including three in scoring position, as the Kansas City Royals lost 2-1 to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.
“I want to be up in those situations. I have confidence in my abilities to come through in those situations, unfortunately tonight I didn’t,” Giavotella said.
After Wei-Yin Chen (5-2) left in the sixth inning, four Orioles relievers did not allow a Royal to reach base, retiring 11 straight.
“They came in and just pounded the zone, came right at us,” Giavotella said. “We just weren’t able to put any good at-bats against them and score any runs.”
That spoiled a solid pitching performance by rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura, who allowed two runs and seven hits, while walking one and striking out nine.
“He pitched great,” Giavotella said. “We just couldn’t back him up with any runs.”
After Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer in the fourth, Ventura retired the next 10 batters, striking out seven, including six straight during one stretch.
“I thought he was impressive all night,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The Royals got a scare in the fourth when catcher Salvador Perez went down when he banged into third baseman Manny Machado’s knee on a head-first slide. Perez remained on the ground for a couple of minutes as Yost and trainers rushed to his aid. Perez remained in the game.
“It didn’t even have anything to do with his head,” Yost said. “It was his neck. He’s fine.”
Cruz homered after Chris Davis drew a walk to lead off the fourth. It was Cruz’s 12th home run, which is second in the American League to the 15 of Chicago White Sox rookie Jose Abreu. Cruz’s 35 RBIs are tied for second in the AL.
“Every time I’ve faced him, he’s never swung at the first pitch, so I wanted to get ahead in the count and throw a good pitch,” Ventura said with teammate Bruce Chen acting as his interpreter. “He swung and he hit it out.”
Chen limited the Royals to one run and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings with one walk and one strikeout. Chen, who is 5-1 in his past seven starts, was removed in the sixth after Perez walked and Alex Gordon singled with one out. Darren O’Day replaced Chen and struck out Danny Valencia and retried Giavotella on a fly to right.
Valencia’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the fourth scored Eric Hosmer for the only run off Chen.
Left-hander Zack Britton, who had not allowed a run in 7 1-3 innings and eight appearances, worked a perfect ninth for his first major league save. Manager Buck Showalter elected to go to Britton after closer Tommy Hunter blew his past two save chances.
The Orioles, who went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, threatened in the seventh and eighth innings, but came away empty.
Gordon, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, threw out J.J. Hardy at the plate to end the seventh for his fourth outfield assist this season and his 58th since moving to the outfield in 2011. Hardy attempted to score from second on Nick Markakis’ single.
Machado and Adam Jones led off the Orioles eighth with singles off Louis Coleman, the third Kansas City pitcher. Kelvin Herrera replaced Coleman and struck out Davis and Cruz and retired Steve Clevenger on a grounder to strand the runners.
NOTES: The Orioles recalled RHP Evan Meek from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned RHP Kevin Gausman, who lost a Wednesday start to Detroit, to the same club. … Markakis snapped an 0-for-14 skid with three singles. … Royals RHP Wade Davis has a stiff neck and was not available.