BALTIMORE -- The Orioles officially locked up center fielder Adam Jones on Sunday, but you couldn't help but feel as if they let a series slip away.
Despite chasing Royals starter Luke Hochevar from the game after 4 2/3 innings, Baltimore couldn't muster up enough offense and starter Brian Matusz saw his three-game win streak slip away with a 4-2 loss in the rubber game.
The O's, who entered the game tied with Texas for the best record in the American League, have lost five of their last seven games and end a six-game homestand a disappointing 2-4, dropping two of three to a Royals club with the AL's second-worst record.
"We've got a tough road," manager Buck Showalter said of his team's upcoming trip to AL East Division cities Toronto, Tampa Bay and Boston. "That's why this is hard to do. We'd like to play a little better at home. There were some games right there for us. We'd especially like to have won today with what we were celebrating. It was a special day at the ballpark with the military here. But you walk through that tunnel every day and see what the game has in store for you. We'll make adjustments."
Baltimore, which paid homage to our nation's servicemen and women with a Military Appreciation Day crowd of 33,919, went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. The loss -- coupled with Tampa Bay's win over Boston -- put the Orioles (29-19) in a first-place tie with the Rays atop the AL East on the heels of their first consecutive series losses this season.
"We had our chances, we couldn't do it," second baseman Robert Andino said of an Orioles club that won its first three games against Kansas City this season before dropping the last two.
""I don't take anything from them. They got a good bullpen. They got good pitching. They came at us, and pitched good against us. They got the plays when they needed to get them, and we just didn't do it."
Hochevar was effective in the abbreviated start, and despite working deep counts, the Orioles had little to show for it with seven hits and a walk resulting in two runs (one earned).
"We are going to have those days," Matusz said of the lineup's struggles. "Obviously, we have a strong offense. But I still got to pitch better. Got to make better pitches when I needed [to]."
Trying to become the first pitcher to win five games in a month since Erik Bedard in 2007, Matusz was tagged with the loss despite turning in his fifth quality start. The 25-year-old lefty went six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks.
"I made some bad pitches today to their big hitters," said Matusz, who threw 100 pitches. "That was my goal starting the game, not to let their big guys hurt me, and I did. And I made some good pitches when I needed to, but I fell shy today."
The 25-year-old lefty surrendered a first-inning homer to Billy Butler, his second in as many games, and Matusz allowed an unearned run in the following frame. Third baseman Wilson Betemit made a leaping snag on Johnny Giavotella's hard-hit liner to help Matusz pitch around a pair of walks in the fifth inning, and he surrendered a solo homer to Jeff Francoeur in his final frame.
It was Matusz's second multi-homer start of the year and Showalter went to Darren O'Day -- who turned in 1 1/3 scoreless innings -- to keep the game close. Troy Patton fanned a pair of batters to end the top of the eighth.
"I think it's more the inability to mount much offensively," Showalter said of the game's final outcome. "I think Brian pitched well enough. He kept us in that ballgame, kept us in striking distance. Overall, it's a competitive outing."
Down a run, the O's tied it at 2 with rookie Xavier Avery's two-out RBI single in the fourth inning. Andino reached on a fielder's choice, stole second and advanced to third on catcher Humberto Quintero's errant throw, before Avery punched a ball into right field.
The O's had runners on second in the eighth and ninth innings, but couldn't score, stranding Chris Davis after a one-out double in the eighth and J.J. Hardy on second to end the game. The result was frustrating for the Orioles, who leave Baltimore 3-2 against the Royals this season.
"These guys came and they played us tough in Kansas City last week," Royals manager Ned Yost said of the O's two-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium. "To come in here, as good as they are, I mean they're a darn good team. I'm very impressed with their pitching. I'm very impressed with their offense. They locked up a key component, Adam Jones, today. That's a good job for [our] team to come in here and take two out of three."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.