Orioles reliever Paul Kilgus says he knows better. He has been around. At 29, he's with his fourth major-league team.
Kilgus could kick himself for what he did last night. He allowed himself to be distracted by a baserunner when, in fact, it was the man at the plate who had the lethal weapon.
Kirk Gibson saw something white leave Kilgus' hand and beat it with a stick. The home run -- No. 200 of Gibson's career -- with one out and Brian McRae aboard in the top of the ninth broke a 4-4 tie and gave the Kansas City Royals a 6-4 victory and a sweep of the three-game series with the Orioles.
Burdened by a five-game losing streak, the Orioles will open a three-game series in Toronto tonight (7:35, HTS) and then return to face the Minnesota Twins Monday.
Orioles manager John Oates pointed out that the lefthanded Kilgus made good pitches to strike out lefthanded-hitting Jim Eisenreich and committed no great sin in letting McRae reach "on a chop up the middle." Trouble was, Kilgus never did switch his attention from McRae.
"He concentrated on keeping McRae close to the base and made a mistake on Gibson," Oates said.
Kilgus nodded in agreement. In his preoccupation with McRae, Kilgus didn't take his regular kick in starting his delivery to the lefthanded-hitting Gibson. As a result, the fastball was over the center of the plate instead of down and away.
"If I could do it again, I'd forget McRae and think about Gibson," Kilgus said. "If he steals second, he steals second. I know better. I just got wrapped up in McRae. I know he can run."
What disturbs Kilgus is that it was his third straight undistinguished outing. He hadn't permitted a run in six straight appearances, but in his last three, spanning only two innings, he has allowed 10 runs. His earned run average has soared from 3.16 to 5.31.
"After the first bad outing, I said OK, but after the second I said, 'Get your act together,' " Kilgus said. "This time I felt I threw as well as I have in a long time, but I worried too much about the runner. I've just been in a funk the last couple of outings."
The game bore a resemblance to the previous night's when the Orioles made up an 8-1 deficit only to lose, 9-8 on a Danny Tartabull home run. Last night they fell behind, 4-0, but came back to tie it with a four-run fourth.
Bob Melvin, a .232 hitter batting .333 with men in scoring position, pulled the Orioles abreast with a two-run single. Of his nine RBIs this season, five have tied the game or put the club ahead; three were game-winners.
"I seem to bear down with men on," Melvin said. "If I could tell you why, I'd do it all the time."
Melvin's hit gave starter Roy Smith new life. But in the top of the fifth, with two out, Smith issued a walk and a single. He departed in favor of Todd Frohwirth after throwing a staggering 95 pitches.
Smith issued three walks; in his previous 20 1/3 innings, he walked only four.
"I wasn't sharp," Smith said. "I was bouncing my curve, which is better than hanging it, but if I don't establish it for strikes, they won't bite when it's out of the strike zone."
Frohwirth worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings. It was a major-league high for the submarine pitcher in innings pitched, and he was one off his strikeouts standard of six for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1989.
Despite McRae's leadoff triple, Frohwirth got out of the seventh unscratched. Gibson grounded out, McRae holding.
Oates then had the audacity to order George Brett walked intentionally to get to Danny Tartabull, who already had three home runs and eight RBIs in the series. Tartabull obediently grounded into a double play.
"We walked a guy to get to a guy who has killed us," Oates said. "But Brett's a great clutch hitter and I felt we had a better chance to get a ground ball with Tartabull than Brett."
The Orioles' five-game winning streak matches their longest of the season and they're now 7-13 under Oates after dropping eight of their last 10. During his first week on the job, Oates lost weight. Lately, he admits he hasn't slept well.
"I got a haircut the other day and was asked if I wanted my hair tinted," said Oates, who has a few gray hairs. "Never been asked that before."
Oates declined. "Keep the faith," he said. "Keep working at it."