Orioles 9, Royals 2: One bad inning breaks Hochevar

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 25: Adam Jones #10 of the Baltimore Orioles blows a bubble while walking off the field after the Orioles defeated the Kansas City Royals 9-2 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 25, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

This was just a weird game. Weird. Kansas City's starting pitcher, Luke Hochevar, shut down the Orioles for three innings, gave up eight runs in the next, and the went right back to dominating. Jake Arrieta threw so many pitches it looked like he'd be hitting the showers early, but ended up pitching six innings and getting the win. And weirdest of all, Mike Gonzalez pitched a perfect ninth inning to end the game.

Arrieta, who has had issues with high pitch counts this season, immediately got himself into trouble in the first inning. After a twenty-five pitch first, Arrieta walked two in the second, and labored through third, working around a leadoff double by Alex Gordon. He seemed to settle down in the fourth inning, but then after a long break while the Orioles whooped up on Hochevar, he walked the leadoff batter and then, two outs later, Melky Cabrera took him deep for a two-run homer. Jake gave up two more singles in the sixth inning, but got out of it without allowing another run.

That was the end of the line for Jake, and the fact that he got through six innings was pretty amazing. By the end of the third I thought he'd be lucky to make it one more inning, but he worked through it. His final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 HR. He threw 106 pitches.

Now, onto the fun stuff. 

Luke Hochevar is not a good pitcher. That we knew going into the game. But through the first three innings, it appeared that no one bothered informing the Orioles. Hochevar needed just seven pitches in the first inning, making short work of Felix Pie, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. Vladimir Guerrero singled in the second, but was erased on a double play off the bat of Matt Wieters as Hochevar threw eleven pitches. Ten pitches into the bottom of the third inning and Hochevar had induced three ground outs and looked untouchable.

That's when things got weird. Hochevar went from dominating to dominated in a flash, as the Orioles piled eights runs on him in the fourth inning. Jones, who is just on fire of late, started the inning with a double to right field, and a single by Markakis put runners on second and third for Vlad. Vlad grounded out to third, but the ball was hit softly enough that Jones was able to score from third. Wieters followed that up with a walk, kicking off a run of seven straight Orioles to reach base.

With runners on first and third, Luke Scott stepped to the plate. Luke hasn't looked great at the plate lately, but he jumped on a ball that Hochever left over the plate and sent it to right field for a double to score Markakis. Wieters moved to third on the play and then scored on a wild pitch with Mark Reynolds at the plate. Reynolds took four straight pitches for a walk, then J.J. Hardy singled right up the middle on the first pitch he saw. That knocked in Scott and gave the O's a 4-0 lead. Ryan Adams took advantage of Hochevar's wildness and also took a four-pitch walk to load the bases.

Bases loaded for Felix Pie? You know that made me nervous! I started to say to myself, "No double play, no double play," but before I could even get through my chant once, Felix swung at the first pitch (as Felix tends to do) and lined a single to left field, scoring Reynolds. Yay, Felix!

With that, the Orioles had officially batted around. Jones, who started the inning with a double, worked a 3-2 count against Hochevar, and then singled to center for his second hit of the inning. Hardy and Adams raced home and the Orioles were ahead 7-0. Vladdy then took his second AB of the inning, and a ground ball that should have ended the inning, but shortstop Alcides Escobar threw the ball away as Felix scored the O's 8th run of the inning. Wieters then grounded out to first and the inning was finally over.

What a crazy inning. Eight runs is the most the Orioles have scored in an inning all season as they worked Hochevar for six hits and three walks in the inning. He threw thirty-nine pitches, but because he started the inning with only twenty-eight, he was still at a very manageable count of sixty-seven.

Normally, when a pitcher gives up eight runs in an inning, that's the last you see of him. But not tonight. Hochevar returned for the fifth inning and from there shut down the Orioles like the fourth inning never happened. The Orioles didn't get another hit off of him and he ended up pitching seven innings and throwing 105 pitches. Insane. Just insane.

Robinson Tejeda took over for enigmatic Hochevar and allowed just one hit, a home run to Mark Reynolds. Good on ya', Mark, for delivering on your promise for once.

After Arrieta labored through six innings, Jim Johnson came in to pitch the seventh and eighth innings. He got into a jam in the seventh, giving up two singles, but pitched a perfect eighth. With a seven-run lead and the game well in hand, Mike Gonzalez pitched a perfect ninth inning and didn't look half bad doing so.

With that the Orioles have won their second straight series and matched their season-high win streak of four games. With a win tomorrow the Orioles can sweep the Royals, set a new season high in consecutive wins, and get out of town a .500 team. See you then!
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