Jason Hammel wasn’t the best we’ve ever seen him, but he worked through some jams without allowing a run in six innings, which was more than the Orioles needed by the time their offensive explosion was over. It at first looked like the Orioles would let Royals starter Bruce Chen off the hook, but that all came to an end in the fifth inning.
After an easy first inning by Hammel, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs against Chen thanks to a walk (Robert Andino), a single (J.J. Hardy), and a HBP (Nick Markakis). Great start! Adam Jones came to the plate to a thunderous ovation (Birdland is excited about the impending extension, it seems) and knocked in the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly. Not the best possible outcome, but good enough. Matt Wieters popped up for the second out, and a single by Wilson Betemit loaded the bases again. But Chris Davis did what Chris Davis does against left-handed pitchers and struck out to end the inning.
Chen threw 28 pitches in the first inning, and it looked like the Orioles had him on the ropes. But they came out hacking in the second inning and Chen only threw eight pitches. Really. The third and the fourth innings featured more of the same as the frustration grew among the Orioles fans. We know the Orioles are better than this! It’s Bruce Chen! Well, in the next inning, the Orioles remembered both of those things as well.
In one of the crazier half-innings I’ve seen in awhile, the Orioles scored five runs in the fifth inning, knocking Chen out of the game before he recorded even one out. He walked Xavier Avery leading off, then it looked like Avery was picked off. Chen threw to first as Avery took off for second, but he is just SO fast! He beat the throw. From first! That brought Andino to the plate, and he hit a ball towards third that died in the grass for an infield single. Xavery moved to third on the play and then, with Hardy at the plate, Chen threw to first as Andino took off for second. AGAIN? This time the ball beat the runner to the bag but Andino performed a contortion act as he slid to avoid the tag. It was an amazing job by Andino and a great call by the umpire.
So thanks to a walk, an infield single, and two failed pickoff attempts, there were two runners in scoring position for Hardy, who knocked an opposite-field double off of the scoreboard in right field. That made the score 3-0 for about five seconds before Markakis knocked Hardy in on a double of his own. An RBI single from Adam Jones was the nail in Chen’s coffin, and he left having faced five batters without retiring one.
Kelvin Herrera replaced Chen and immediately struck out Matt Wieters and Wilson Betemit. Herrera was quite a bit different from Chen, throwing his fastball about 99 mph. With two outs and Chris Davis at the plate, Jones decided to join in on the base stealing shenanigans. The throw beat him to second but it deflected off of shortstop Alcides Escobar’s glove and went into center field. Jones went to third where he was able to score on Davis’ seeing-eye single into right field. That brought Avery up to the plate for the second time in the inning, but he grounded out, mercifully sending the Royals back to their dugout.
The O’s added on two more runs in the seventh inning thanks to a Chris Davis two-run homer, which made the score 8-0. After all of the close games the Orioles have played of late, this blowout was a breath of fresh air.
While Hammel was throwing zeros on the scoreboard, he did have his troubles. Although he only walked one, his control wasn't what we grown used to seeing from him and he needed a lot of pitches to get through his innings. It kept seeming like he might crumble, but he got out of every inning unscathed. For a guy who clearly didn’t have his best stuff tonight, Hammel’s effort was admirable.
With Hammel’s pitch count 104 after six innings and the game well in hand, Buck Showalter turned to the newly promoted Stu Pomeranz. Stu wasn’t as good tonight as he was when we last saw him. He got through the seventh allowing just a single, but gave up a two-run HR to Jeff Francoeur after Frenchy worked him for a twelve-pitch AB. Dana Eveland came on to pitch a 1-2-3 ninth to secure the win for the Orioles.