Royals squander early lead in 5-3 loss to Orioles

Baltimore Orioles' Adam Jones (10) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Thursday, May 17, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. The Orioles won 5-3.

Baltimore Orioles' Adam Jones (10) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Thursday, May 17, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. The Orioles won 5-3. Photo by The Associated Press.

KANSAS CITY (AP) — It wasn’t the two-run single by J.J. Hardy in the seventh inning that caused the most angst for Royals reliever Aaron Crow, even though they wound up being the deciding runs.

It was the two walks he issued before Hardy stepped to the plate.

They loaded the bases for the Orioles’ shortstop, whose single snapped a tie and allowed Baltimore to squeak out a 5-3 victory over Kansas City on Thursday.

“I just didn’t get the job done. Putting those two guys on gave them an extra run,” Crow said. “In that situation, I need to go out and attack those guys, and if they beat you, so be it. I just can’t give guys free bases and it ended up hurting me today.”

It certainly hurt the Royals, whose bullpen squandered a two-run cushion in the ninth inning the previous night, and then gave up a homer to Adam Jones in the 15th inning for a 4-3 loss.

Jones added a two-run homer in the fourth Thursday to jumpstart the Orioles’ comeback.

It was his third straight game going deep. Baltimore is 12-1 when Jones hits a home run, and his 13 homers on the year matches what he had by June 25 last season.

“He’s hot right now. He’s really hot,” Hardy said. “He’s been swinging the bat impressively.”

Brian Matusz (3-4) won for the third time in four starts after enduring a career-worst 12-decision losing streak. He allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk in six innings.

Relievers Luis Ayala and Pedro Strop made it through two innings unscathed, and Jim Johnson worked the ninth for his 14th save. He’s converted 22 straight since Aug. 14, 2011.

Luke Hochevar (3-4) pitched well for six innings. His only real miscue was the two-run homer by Jones in the fourth. But the right-hander ran into trouble in the seventh, allowing back-to-back singles by Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis, the start of a three-run inning for the Orioles.

Hochevar was pulled after Davis’ base hit, which center fielder Jarrod Dyson grossly misplayed. The ball bounced in front of him and went to the wall, allowing Betemit to score.

“I want him to be aggressive, but I don’t want the ball getting by him in that situation,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He had a shot at it and realized the ball had some topspin on it, and stopped and it skipped right by him. In that situation you do not want the ball to get by you. That opened up a whole different can of worms for us.”

Crow came into the game and got two quick outs, but then walked No. 9 hitter Luis Exposito and leadoff hitter Xavier Avery. Hardy followed with a two-run single that broke the tie and sent the Orioles to their seventh straight road win, their best stretch since 1999.

Kansas City had ample opportunities to pick up a couple wins against Baltimore, but instead wound up with a pair of frustrating losses in the two-game, midweek series.

Jonathan Broxton blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning of the opener Wednesday night, and the Royals eventually lost their third straight extra-inning game. They jumped out to a three-run lead after three innings Thursday before the Orioles mounted their comeback.

Humberto Quintero’s two-run double and Johnny Giavotella’s RBI single to right brought in the runs for Kansas City, but that’s all that Matusz allowed in a strong outing.

Hochevar was just as good most of the afternoon.

After watching his ERA balloon to a run per inning, the former No. 1 overall draft pick put together seven innings of three-hit ball in his last start against the White Sox. Hochevar ran his scoreless innings streak to 10 before making a mistake on a pitch to Jones.

“My focus has not changed from the beginning of the year to now,” he said. “Still going out with the mindset of executing quality pitches and fight like crazy to get this team a win.”

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