Jim Rooker deserved better. The rookie left-hander held the powerful Baltimore Orioles scoreless for 7 2/3 innings while the Royals clung to a 1-0 lead. But pinch-hitter Curt Motton changed all that with a two-run home run in the eighth inning. That was all the offense Baltimore needed for a 2-1 win at Memorial Stadium.
This was Rooker’s second straight strong showing against the eventual American League champions. On July 31 in Kansas City, he held them to three runs on seven hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts. On this Wednesday night in Baltimore, he was even better. He allowed five hits and no walks while striking out four. Before Motton’s home run, Baltimore had not had a runner reach second base.
This start meant that Rooker had held Baltimore to five runs over 17 innings, yet had two losses to show for it because the Royals scored two runs combined in the two games. This time, they were overcome by Baltimore starter Mike Cuellar, who allowed four hits and two walks over eight innings. He struck out five.
Kansas City’s lone run came in the fourth, as Lou Piniella led off with a triple. With Ed Kirkpatrick at the plate, a Cuellar balk brought in the run. Kirkpatrick eventually walked, and Joe Foy singled. The inning turned around quickly, however, when catcher Ellie Rodriguez hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Brooks Robinson, who stepped on third for a force out. Robinson fired to second for the out there, and second baseman Davey Johnson threw to first baseman Boog Powell to complete the triple play, the first one the Royals had ever hit into.
The Royals had one last chance to tie the game in the ninth, as Piniella singled with two outs. But reliever Pete Richert, who had started the inning with two quick outs, retired Hawk Taylor on a popup to record his ninth save.
With the loss, the Royals dropped to 44-64. They were in fourth place in the AL West, 23 games behind Minnesota.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL196908060.shtml