This is not the kind of game that'll win anyone any awards, but it's the kind of quick, solid win that Orioles fans are suddenly coming to expect. An adequate outing from Chris Tillman, a lockdown bullpen, and just enough offense let the Orioles cruise to a 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals that seemed shockingly easy -- maybe because the Royals made it easy, maybe because this team is finding ways to get just enough done most nights.
Chris Tillman, as Orioles fans have come to expect, didn't overpower the other team by any means, but he put in six respectable innings, allowing three earned runs for the quality start and the win. It actually wasn't the runs that did Tillman in for the night - they came off of home runs, mistake pitches to Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas that I could easily forgive since Tillman was pitching with a lead for the whole night. No, what limited Tillman's outing was walks to the likes of George Kottaras and Lorenzo Cain, and taking way too many batters to three-ball counts. When Tillman pitched like a pitcher with a lead, he was inducing mostly weak contact (HRs excepted) and going through quick at-bats. But at other times (the second and fourth innings especially), Tillman seemed not to trust his stuff and became his own worst enemy.
Fortunately, the Orioles hitters had some decent nights and capitalized on every Kansas City mistake aggressively. The scoring started with a two-run home run, drilled into the left-field seats by J.J. Hardy and scoring Matt Wieters. If this seems like an unlikely cast of characters for the Orioles this year, it is - and that can only be seen as a good thing, that the Orioles could put up a five-spot while Adam Jones and Chris Davis went a combined 1-for-7 with no extra bases.
The Orioles really put themselves over the top when the Royals came unraveled in the fifth inning and forgot how to throw a baseball for about ten minutes. Chris Dickerson started things off with a clean double, but things took a turn for the bizarre when Nate McLouth hit a grounder to short. Alcides Escobar tried to snare Dickerson at third, but made a terrible throw that hit Dickerson in the foot, putting runners on first and third with none out. McLouth took off successfully for second with Manny Machado at the plate, and moments later Machado plated Dickerson with a clean single. Machado took a cue from McLouth and took off running, and Kottaras bounced a poor throw to second base. McLouth alertly broke for home, and another poor throw let him score easily, and let Machado scramble to third. Just as quickly, Machado scored on a wild pitch. The bizarre sequence led to three runs in all, giving the Orioles a 5-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish, even though our old friend Bruce Chen held the Orioles scoreless for the last two innings.
The bullpen did its usual thing, locking down a narrow lead for three innings and getting the job done. Troy Patton, Darren O'Day, Brian Matusz and Jim Johnson allowed just a few baserunners and no earned runs. The closest thing to a threat came in the eighth, when O'Day logged two strikeouts but then gave up a weak infield single and hit Cain with a pitch. Fortunately, after letting an inherited runner score last night for the first time in quite a while, Matusz regained his old ways and put out the fire with a single pitch to Moustakas, a pop out to Matt Wieters.
Jim Johnson allowed an infield single to Elliot Johnson, but then logged a quick double play and struck out Jarrod Dyson to end the game. And just like that, the Orioles find themselves at 21-13, with the potential to be tied for the AL East lead if Minnesota finishes the beatdown they're currently administering to the Red Sox. This appears to be Birdland.