The Baltimore Orioles today salvaged a split with the Kansas City Royals, overcoming a shaky outing from Tommy Hunter thanks to home runs from Manny Machado and Nick Markakis and timely hitting from Mark Reynolds. And of course, as with many wins for the Orioles, thanks to another outstanding effort from the bullpen.
After wasting two baserunners in first inning (including a leadoff double from Markakis), the O's took the lead in the second inning thanks to their new star, Machado. Reynolds drew a walk ahead of him, and Machado decided it was time to show the world that he also has power to the opposite field. The ball bounced off the top of the wall in right-center and ricocheted back onto the field, causing the umps to after first call the play a double. But one quick review from the umpires later, Machado had his third home run in just four games and the Orioles had a 2-0 lead.
While the Royals had baserunners in each of the first three innings, Hunter held them off the board until the fourth. Mike Moustakas led off with a home run (a Tommy Hunter specialty!), then three of the next four batters reached to load the bases with just one out. Brayan Pena hit a fly ball to Lew Ford in left field, who made a good throw to the plate, but not good enough to get Billy Butler at the plate.
The Royals went ahead in the very next inning but the Orioles were lucky that the Royals scored just one. Two singles with no outs put runners on the corners, but Moustakas was kind enough to ground into a double play. A run scored, but the bases were empty with two outs so that when Butler singled immediately after, no damage was done. Hunter induced a ground ball from Lorenzo Cain to end the inning.
Hunter was finished after five innings, thankfully. He pulled a Houdini act in the fourth and fifth innings to keep the royals to just three runs, frankly.
The Royals finished the top of the fifth with a 3-2 lead, but it didn't last long. With two outs in the bottom half, Markakis did his best Manny Machado impression with a home run of his own. It actually went to the same part of the park as Machado's, but was deep enough that there was no doubt about it.
Bruce Chen came out of the sixth inning for the Royals, but he didn't last long. He retired Nate McLouth for the first out, but back-to-back walks to Adam Jones and Lew Ford marked the end of his day. He was replaced by Louis Coleman, whose first task was to pitch to Reynolds. He failed his task, as Reynolds singled down the left field line to knock in Jones and give the Orioles the lead. It was a good chance for the O's to rally for more runs, but it wasn't to be. Neither Machado nor Robert Andino couldn't knock them in.
They did add on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. McLouth walked and Jones singled to start things, then both moved up on a sacrifie bunt from Ford. KC's pitcher picked a prime time to uncork a wild pitch, and McLouth came in to score the fifth run. Again the last two batters couldn't do anything to get another run in.
You hate to see the team leave runners on base like that, but with the bullpen's performance this afternoon they didn't need anything more than a one-run lead. Following Hunter's five innings, Buck sent out Luis Ayala, Troy Patton, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson for one inning each, and between the four of them they allowed just one baserunner (a walk by Strop). For as many innings as the bullpen as pitched this year, they are still going strong. I might vote for the lot for Most Valuable Oriole this year (just kidding, they don't let me vote).
The Orioles have an off-day tomorrow and will start a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.