Meche stellar in loss to Orioles
Tosses six shutout innings, then leaves with hamstring strain
BALTIMORE -- Buddy Bell's bullpen is in flux and his offense is struggling. Still, the Kansas City Royals manager couldn't bring himself to risk a $55 million investment three starts into the season.
Gil Meche pitched six shutout innings before departing with a mild strain of his right hamstring and a one-run cushion. But the Royals' bullpen couldn't hold the lead, and Kansas City lost 2-1 in 10 innings to Baltimore on Thursday night.
Meche was long gone by the time Jay Gibbons sliced a run-scoring line drive to left field with two outs in the 10th. The right-hander didn't return after striking out Aubrey Huff for the third time, the injury occurring when Meche threw a curveball during that final encounter.
"I just felt a little stiffness, like a charley horse feeling," said Meche, who scattered seven hits and benefited from three double plays. "It was very unfamiliar to me. I've never had anything to do with my hamstrings ever."
Catcher John Buck knew something was wrong when he saw Meche wince.
"I saw him, after a pitch, kind of cringe and (he) was playing with it," Buck said. "I noticed he didn't really get extension for his next couple of pitches. He got that last strikeout, and I kind of watched him walk off the mound and he came up to me and said, 'I felt a little twinge.' I let Buddy know."
By that time, Meche had retreated to the Royals clubhouse to talk to trainer Nick Swartz.
"I couldn't risk going back out there and maybe doing some bad damage to it," Meche said. "It didn't hurt. Unless something hurts, I'm pitching. I came in here with Nick and asked him to stretch it out. I thought it might have been a cramp. It still could have been."
Meche wasn't happy about leaving a one-run game with the Royals -- bidding for their second road win, something that didn't happen until May 5 last year -- already ahead. Bell said Meche would be evaluated Friday, and Meche vowed to be ready for his next scheduled start, Tuesday at Detroit.
"I was able to get out of jams all day long," said Meche, who walked one, struck out five and lowered his ERA to 3.10. "I felt like when I needed to make pitches, I was. In a 1-0 game, you don't want to come out. You kind of feel like you've got a rhythm going."
Orioles starter Steve Trachsel was equally effective in a match-up of free-agent extremes. Where Meche's signing to a five-year, $55 million deal by the Royals raised eyebrows because observers thought Kansas City overspent for him, Trachsel went unsigned after a 15-8 season in 2006 with the New York Mets. That is, until a season-ending shoulder injury to Kris Benson left Baltimore in need of a starter.
Trachsel didn't allow a hit until Ross Gload led off the fifth with a soft liner to center. Trachsel allowed a run on three hits, walked one and struck out one in seven innings.
"Trachsel mixes pitches and speeds very well," Bell said. "He was in and out, very seldom in the middle of the plate. That's how he pitches and when he pitches like that, he's very good."
The Royals finally broke through in the sixth, when Buck led off with a double into the left-field corner. With two outs, Mark Grudzielanek singled to left, scoring Buck. With the hit, Grudzielanek improved to 14-for-38 (.368) lifetime against Trachsel.
Meche departed after the sixth and the Orioles tied the game against Jimmy Gobble, though Baltimore could have taken the lead if not for a questionable coaching decision.
Gibbons singled to center, and Kevin Millar followed with a double to the left-center gap. Third base coach Juan Samuel waved the slow-footed Gibbons home, but shortstop Tony Pena's relay off left fielder Esteban German's throw easily beat Gibbons by a step and Buck tagged him out.
Corey Patterson popped out, and ex-Royal Paul Bako tied the game with a bloop double to short left field.
From there, the teams matched bullpens. On the day the Royals learned that injured closer Octavio Dotel had to cut short a rehabilitation session with a recurrence of pain in his strained left oblique muscle, Kansas City relievers -- with the exception of rookie Joakim Soria -- scuffled.
Joel Peralta relieved Gobble and got out of the seventh, then stranded the go-ahead run at third in the eighth. Soria, who will likely get the chance to close games until Dotel returns, worked a 1-2-3 ninth and handed the game over to Jason Standridge (0-1).
Brian Roberts opened the 10th with a ground-rule double into the left-field corner. A sacrifice bunt by Melvin Mora moved Roberts to third and intentional walks to Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada loaded the bases. After Huff grounded into a fielder's choice force-out at home, Gibbons lined an 0-1 pitch into left for the game-winner.
Chris Ray (1-1) got the victory with a perfect 10th inning.
"It's not a secret, we're not swinging the bats all that well, either," Bell said. "It's tough to win ballgames when you only score one."
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.