KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was a most eventful road trip, but the Baltimore Orioles could not get even last night at Royals Stadium.
The Kansas City Royals' Bret Saberhagen combined with two relief pitchers to hold the Orioles to seven hits and complete a sweep of the two-game series with a 5-1 victory.
The Orioles lost the final three games to finish 3-5 on an eight-game swing through the American League West that featured a no-hitter and four games that were decided in the eighth inning or later.
But last night's game was decided much earlier than that -- in a four-run third inning that sent right-hander Bob Milacki to his fourth loss in nine 1991 decisions.
Milacki went on to pitch eight innings and his first complete-game performance since June 30, 1990, but the Orioles never recovered from the early deficit. Perhaps they never recovered from the all-night flight two nights earlier and the 5 1/2 -hour game that kept them at Royals Stadium until 2 a.m. yesterday.
The Orioles have played the past 12 games on the road, four of them before the three-day All-Star break. Tonight, they will open a nine-game homestand and will play 20 of the next 26 games at Memorial Stadium.
Though they have a better overall record on the road, it probably will be good to get home after a run of late-inning defeats.
This wasn't one of them. Saberhagen pitched a strong seven innings, giving up six hits and an unearned run on the way to his seventh victory. Former Orioles pitcher Storm Davis worked the eighth, and Jeff Montgomery closed out the ninth to give the Royals their third straight victory.
Milacki was coming off his six-inning, no-hit performance against the Oakland Athletics on July 13, but his hitless innings streak did not stay alive for long.
Royals center fielder Gary Thurman lined a one-out double into the left-field corner in the first inning and ended up at third when Brady Anderson threw the ball to an uncovered second base for an error.
Milacki struck out George Brett and Danny Tartabull to get out of that jam, but the Royals sent 10 batters to the plate in the third inning to score four runs on four hits and two walks.
"He's throwing the ball pretty well overall," manager John Oates said. "He threw some pitches that overmatched some of their hitters, then came back with some hittable ones. It wasn't the best game he's thrown, but it wasn't the worst either."
There had been some doubt whether Milacki would make last night's start after he suffered a bruised right index finger in the no-hitter, but he took the mound without reservations and took some lumps for the effort.
He walked the leadoff batter in the third and gave up four consecutive hits, the most damaging a two-run double by Kirk Gibson that gave the Royals the lead. Thurman followed with his second hit of the game, and George Brett made it 3-0 with a single through the middle.
The final run of the inning scored on a sacrifice fly by Tartabull that Anderson mishandled in left field for his second error of the game.
Milacki weathered the inning and went the distance -- a testament to his resilience and a break for the beleaguered bullpen.
Perhaps Milacki has earned an extra measure of respect because he has been the most effective Orioles starter over the past six weeks. He was 4-1 in his previous eight starts, dating to June 6.
"It came down to just one bad inning," Milacki said. "Other than that, I pitched well. I thought I made some good pitches, but I made some bad ones, too. I'm just glad I got to finish the game and save the bullpen.
"My hand felt fine. If it didn't, I probably wouldn't have lasted nine innings."
Saberhagen worked with runners on base in five of his first six innings, but it took a passed ball in the fourth to set up the Orioles' first run. Anderson walked and Cal Ripken delivered his second hit of the game before both moved up on a pitch that skipped by rookie catcher Tim Spehr.
Sam Horn struck out, but Randy Milligan brought the run home with a bouncer to second base. It was Milligan's sixth RBI of the two-game series and his 20th in the past 23 games.
Ripken turned in his second multiple-hit game in a row, raising his American League-leading total to 41. He also strengthened his league lead in batting average (.337), hits (120) and total bases (202).