The past two days, the Royals have found themselves taking a page out of the 2012 Orioles' book.
Kansas City's 4-3 walk-off win over Baltimore on Wednesday night was the Royals' Major League-leading 36th one-run game this season. While they're only 19-17 in those contests, they've won eight of their last nine and 13 of 18 one-run affairs.
The Orioles know a thing or two about winning those close games, of course. Baltimore went 29-9 in one-run contests last year, the highest winning percentage in Major League history. But the O's have now lost two games in a row by the narrowest of margins, and they'll turn to their most consistent starter to help them get back on track Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez enters the series finale with a club-high eight straight quality starts. His production hasn't declined away from Baltimore, as he's 3-3 with a 2.93 ERA and seven quality starts in his nine road outings this year. The Orioles haven't rewarded his work, however, as they're just 3-6 in those nine games.
One of those three wins came last Saturday in Texas, where Gonzalez allowed one run on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings to pick up his second straight win.
"I started off a little slow and I've been building up during the whole year and that's what counts," Gonzalez said, "and hopefully, I can keep it going to keep our team in ballgames and win some more."
Gonzalez will square off with former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie, who played for Baltimore from 2007-11 and was their Opening Day starter in 2008-09 and '11. This will be his second time facing his former club, as Guthrie gave up two runs (one earned) on seven hits and three walks over six innings in a 6-2 victory at Camden Yards on May 9.
In his last start on Saturday, Guthrie yielded five runs, 10 hits and two walks but escaped with a 6-5 victory over the Tigers as the Royals beat up on Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
Guthrie's 6-2 record at home this year comes in spite of a 4.61 ERA over his nine starts at Kauffman Stadium.
Orioles: K-Rod another late-inning option
New reliever Francisco Rodriguez came to Baltimore with 10 saves and a 1.09 ERA in 25 appearances with Milwaukee this season. He's recorded double-digit saves in nine of the last 10 seasons, including a Major League record 62 with the Angels in 2008, so he's obviously an option for manager Buck Showalter in the final innings.
But how about throwing him into the ninth inning along with closer Jim Johnson? Showalter said he'd treat Rodriguez like Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Troy Patton or Jairo Asencio in that regard: K-Rod will close "if it fits."
"I feel comfortable that we have a lot of people capable of doing it. He knows and our guys know what he's here for, and it's another good what if?" Showalter said. "You can't pitch every day, so there are days when a win presents itself and you need to have other weapons."
• The Orioles on Wednesday announced the signing of outfielder Dariel Alvarez to a Minor League contract, a deal first reported last week by MLB.com. Alvarez, 24, will be assigned to Class A Frederick after reporting to Sarasota, Fla.
Royals: Tough stretch almost over
Every manager, coach and player will say that there is no such thing as an "easy schedule" in the Majors, but there's no doubting that Kansas City is about to end a particularly rough patch on its calendar. Thursday's game will conclude the Royals' 20-game stretch in which they played five clubs who entered Wednesday night a combined 50 games over .500: the Orioles, Tigers, Indians, A's and Yankees.
After Thursday's series finale, the Royals will take on the White Sox, Twins and Mets on the road before coming home to once again face Minnesota. All three of those clubs rank fourth or fifth in their respective divisions.
• Left fielder Alex Gordon sat out Wednesday's game -- "Just a day off," manager Ned Yost said -- amid a 2-for-19 slump this homestand and a 12-for-57 skid in July.
• Before the Royals' walk-off win on Wednesday night, the Orioles were 46-4 this season when leading after seven innings.
• Miguel Tejada has hit in nine of his last 10 games, batting .292 (11-for-37) during that stretch.