The Orioles picked up a win in a see-saw battle with Kansas City at Camden Yards Sunday, earning a split with the Royals.
The birds got to Royals starter Bruce Chen (L, 8-10) in the second inning. Mark Reynolds worked Chen for an eight-pitch walk, bringing up the talk of the town, rookie Manny Machado. Chen, the veteran, crafty junkballer, started the 20-year old rookie with two quick strikes. He tried to tempt Machado with a couple of pitches out of the strike zone, but the kid would have neither of them. Chen played with the rookie’s anxiety, tossing over to first base a few times when Reynolds clearly wasn’t looking to swipe a base.
Finally, on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, with a 2-2 count, Chen left an 86 MPH fastball up and over the plate. Machado went out after it and drove it over the right-center field fence. The ball hit beyond the fence and ricocheted back onto the playing field. Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain played it as it the ball was still in play, and actually sold it to the umpires. But after a brief review of the replay, the umpiring crew got the call right: home run, Manny Machado, and the Orioles were up, 2-0.
KC answered in the fourth. Mike Moustakas led off against O’s starter Tommy Hunter with his 18th home run, and the 27th surrendered by Hunter this year. Billy Butler singled. Cain flew out to right. Then Jeff Francoeur singled, and Eric Hosmer drew a walk—working back from an 0-2 count. That , loaded the bases with just one away for catcher Brayan Pena.
On the third pitch of the at-bat, Pena drove one to fairly deep left field. Lew Ford made the catch, and fired a terrific throw in to the plate, with the pokey Butler chugging in from third. The throw beat Butler, but came in to catcher Taylor Teagarden on a tough, in-between hop. Teagarden could not come up with it, and Butler was in to tie the game at 2.
In the fifth, Alex Gordon led off with a hit for the Royals. Alcides Escobar followed that with a base hit, and KC had Hunter in big trouble with runners were on the corners and no outs. Hunter, the fly ball pitcher pitching in a home run ballpark, faced off against Moustakas again. An inning earlier, the young Kansas City third baseman turned on a high fastball from Hunter, hitting it off the foul pole for a home run. This time, Hunter would get exactly what he needed.
Moustakas pounded a 92 MPH fastball into the ground at second baseman Robert Andino, who started the 4-6-3 double play. Gordon scored, and Kansas City took the lead, but the threat of a big inning, one of Hunter’s season-long nemeses, was gone. Butler followed with a hit, and Hunter got Cain on a force out to end the inning. The Royals sent five men to the plate in the fifth. Three of them collected hits, but they could score only one run.
Chen was within one strike of getting out of the Orioles’ fifth unscathed, but on a two-out, 3-2 pitch to Nick Markakis, Chen missed his mark by about 8 inches, and Markakis made him pay. Pena set up on the outside part of the plat, and Chen’s pitch was right down the heart of the dish. Markakis launched the 84 MPH sinker (which stayed up) into the seats in right, tying things at 3.
Luis Ayala (W, 4-3) replaced Hunter in the sixth and set the side down in order for just the second time all day. He would be rewarded by his ‘mates in the bottom half of the sixth.
With one out, Chen issued back-to-back walks to Adam Jones, and Ford. Chen’s day was done, as manager Ned Yost called on Louis Coleman to face Reynolds. Again, Reynolds went deep into the count, working Coleman for six pitches, and a 2-2 count. On the sixth pitch, Reynolds picked on a high, 79 MPH slider and lined it for a hit to left. Jones scored to give the O’s the lead again, at 4-3.
The birds tacked on an insurance run in the eighth on a walk, a single, a sac bunt and a passed ball. Jim Johnson slammed the door on the Royals in a perfect ninth for his 34th save, and a 5-3 Orioles win.
The Orioles get to enjoy an off day at home Monday before welcoming the Boston Red Sox to Camden Yards for a three-game set starting Tuesday. Yes, the Sox are struggling at 57-59, 5.5 games behind to Orioles. But make no mistake, this will be a huge series. If the Red Sox are going to climb back into it, they have to be thinking it will start with this upcoming series, and the series that follows for them, at Yankee Stadium. The Sox are, of course, a veteran team. This isn’t their first rodeo. Expect them to come to play. Wei-Yin Chen (10-7, 3.79) pitches Tuesday for the birds. The Red Sox have made no announcement as to who may be on the mound for them. Game time is 7:05.
- So many things have gone right with these 2012 Orioles, but has anything gone more right than Manny Machado’s first series in the big leagues? 6/16 (.374), 5R, 1 double, 1 triple, 3HR, 7RBI.
- Great work again today from the bullpen. Ayala, Troy Patton, Pedro Strop, and Johnson combined for 4IP, 0H, 1BB, 3K. Total domination.
- Great job by Buck Showalter getting Hunter out when he did. It may be tempting to run the starter back out after the offense tied things up in the fifth, looking to get the “W” for him. But Hunter was clearly at the end of the tank. 7 of the last 12 batters Hunter faced had reached base. It was time. Also, a gutsy move in the ninth to get Jones, who’d made his first career start as the DH, into the field defensively in center field. In a two-run game, Showalter cashed in his DH for that move, against a team that can hit.
- Reynolds, whose hit in the sixth was the decisive offensive play of the game, also made a huge play with the glove, ending the Royals’ fourth with a diving stop. If he doesn’t make that play, at least one more run scores, and the Royals turn the order over to the top.
- 0-fer games from JJ Hardy, Teagarden, Andino and Ford. Lew Ford is now just 4/27 with the Orioles.