The Royals had every reason to lose to the Orioles on Sunday. They fell into an early 3-0 deficit against a pitcher who seemed to have complete command. They committed four errors. They even pulled a wild strategic gamble by calling for a suicide squeeze on back-to-back pitches.
Yet, John Buck had a tiebreaking RBI triple in the eighth and the Royals gratefully deposited a 7-4 victory in the win column that squared the four-game series.
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"If you'd told me we were going to commit four errors and still have a chance to win the ballgame, and win it by the margin we did, I'd have told you you were crazy," said Royals manager Trey Hillman. "It took us a while to wake up."
It was the first time the Royals had committed four errors in a game and still won since April 10, 2003 at Detroit.
"A total missed opportunity," said Baltimore catcher Gregg Zaun. "We should have been able to close that one out and win that ballgame."
Juan Cruz (3-0), the fourth Royals pitcher, retired all six batters he faced for his 11th straight winning decision. He has not lost since June 9, 2007, when he was with Arizona.
Buck connected off Jim Johnson (2-2) for his third triple of the season after David DeJesus doubled leading off the eighth. The Royals called a suicide squeeze with Coco Crisp at the plate, but Buck stopped his dash home and retreated to the bag when Crisp did not try to make contract.
On the very next pitch, Buck bolted toward home as Crisp pushed a deadened bunt back toward the mound. Buck was safe and so was Crisp, who eventually scored the seventh run on Billy Butler's RBI single.
"I saw who it was at the plate and first I was thinking Coco might do it on his own and knowing Trey is an aggressive manager as far as that kind of stuff, I figured he might do it," Buck said.
Buck wasn't surprised to see the suicide squeeze put on a second time.
"No, I wasn't. I was actually looking for it again," he said.
Buck, Jose Guillen and Butler each had two RBIs for the Royals, who had lost seven of eight after winning six in a row and taking over first place in the AL Central.
Baltimore starter Koji Uehara allowed only two hits the first five innings, but surrendered two doubles and two singles to the first four batters in the sixth and left trailing 4-3.
Robinson Tejada relieved a shaky Luke Hochevar with one out in the fourth and pitched 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief for the Royals.
DeJesus tripled just past the glove of a diving Nick Markakis in right-center and scored on Buck's infield out to make it 3-1 in the third. Butler had an RBI double in the sixth and Guillen put the Royals on top 4-3 with a two-run double.
"We were playing pretty sloppy early on," DeJesus said. "But our pitching kept us in there. Our middle relief guys did a great job of keeping it close. We were able to put some good at-bats late. Johnny did a great job of not selling the bunt too early."
Hochevar, who gave up eight runs in only two innings in his first start after being recalled from Triple-A Omaha, went 3 1/3 innings and was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on three hits, three walks and a strikeout.
"I wish they would have left Hochevar in a little bit longer," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "But Trey could see what was going on."
Apparently, Hillman could.
"He wasn't going to pull out of it himself, in my opinion," Hillman said.
Felx Pie had an RBI triple in the Baltimore third and scored on Brian Roberts' single. Roberts then stole second, continued to third on catcher Buck's throwing error and scored on Hochevar's passed ball for a 3-0 lead.
Nolan Reimold tied it 4-4 in the eighth on an infield grounder.
Buck nailed Aubrey Huff trying to steal second in the second inning, making him 2-for-17 in throwing out runners. ... Baltimore is 0-5 in series finales on the road. ... The last time KC had four errors in a game and was in 2005. ... Aubrey Huff extended his hitting streak to eight games. ... Buck is the first Royals catcher to have three triples in one year since Mike Macfarlane in 1994.