Weird things happen when the Kansas City Royals come to town, and more often than not, those weird things end up being bad for the Orioles. Monday's series opener was no exception to this, but the Orioles were able to overcome being on the wrong end of some of those weird plays by doing what they do best: Hitting dongs.
When the dust cleared away, the Orioles were on top, 4-1. With the Red Sox being idle on Monday, they're now a half game up in the American League East race.
The weird struck in the seventh inning, starting with the fact that O's starter Mike Wright pitched into that inning at all. Wright was so bad in his last start that he got demoted, only returning due to Darren O'Day's injury, and now here he was, not exactly dominating, but doing well for himself.
With one out in the inning, a couple of Royals you've probably never heard of before tonight - Paulo Orlando and Cheslor Cuthbert - picked up back-to-back singles just out of the reach of Manny Machado at shortstop. That part's not weird. The BABIP dragon's love of those dudes is well known.
The big fluke play
What was downright weird was the play that followed. Failed pinch runner Jarrod Dyson grounded a ball that went right to Machado, who quickly fed to Jonathan Schoop. With a speedy Dyson running, Schoop looked like he was caught halfway in between whether to throw the ball or hold on to it.
Schoop did make a throw, which he spiked right towards the ground, where it banged off the elbow of Cuthbert, who was sliding into second in the process. That surely hurts right now. Cuthbert came out of the game with a right elbow contusion. Hopefully he will be OK. If that happened to me, my arm would probably be amputated.
The result was bad for Cuthbert and good for the Royals. The ball floated and landed away from any of the O's fielders, so Orlando was able to score on this fluky play.
As it turned out, this was the first run either team scored in the game. The O's offense had, up until that point, been largely held in check by Royals starter Danny Duffy, who has the crucial advantage over the O's hitters that he throws with his left hand.
Duffy was dominating the O's in an almost embarrassing fashion - embarrassing for the O's hitters, that is. Duffy entered the seventh inning having thrown only 68 pitches, racking up eight strikeouts with only four baserunners allowed.
It was a bad enough performance that the game surely seemed over after that fluky run crossed the plate. Of course the Orioles would lose to the Royals on a play like that. It would have fit right in during the 2014 ALCS.
The Orioles home run party
The thing about the Orioles offense is that there will be home runs. Sometimes you may stop them for a day, two days, or even a few days. Sometimes you will stop them for six innings and you may think yourself safe. You are wrong. They are going to get you.
MLB's current home run king, Mark Trumbo, led off the seventh inning for the O's. Trumbo got a pitch about belt high on the outside part of the plate, extended his arms, and took it for a ride all the way into the O's bullpen, where it was caught by Brad Brach.
As suddenly as they trailed, the Orioles were even with the Royals again, thanks to Trumbo's 19th home run of the year. He remains the sole leader in the category for another day.
Home runs are contagious for this Orioles team. Once one guy hits one, everyone's inspired to get in on the act. It wasn't Chris Davis - he struck out. Matt Wieters, though, he gets to be the hero two days in a row. Wieters looked at one strike and then wrecked a pitch to deep center, sending Duffy packing from the game.
Just like that, Wright, still the pitcher of record, was in line to get a win. He earned it, holding the Royals to five hits and two walks over his seven innings of work, with only the unearned run allowed.
Luke Hochevar relieved Duffy. The O's offense kept it going: Nolan Reimold welcomed Hochevar with an infield single. Hochevar then walked Schoop. That's a hard thing to do.
Next up was leadoff man Adam Jones, who earlier in the game made an ill-advised decision to bunt. No bunting this time. Jones ripped a double that rolled towards the right field corner, easily scoring Reimold.
However, Schoop blew through a late stop sign on the play, perhaps confused by the rare stop sign from third base coach Bobby Dickerson. The stop sign gave Schoop enough pause that it slowed him down and he was an easy out at home.
The game ends with no drama
Because the Orioles were not too long ago losers for 14 straight seasons, plays like this still cause that old bad feeling to come back. "Oh, no! Now they'll lose because they didn't get that extra run!" Even though the Orioles were winning 3-1 at that point.
That was indeed the correct attitude to take from 1998-2011 because they were only going to hurt you. The bad old days are gone, my friend. Right now the eighth and ninth innings belong to Brad Brach and Zach Britton. Even they can make mistakes, but most of the time you are safe.
Brach struck out the side in the eighth inning, lowering his ERA to a number that can only be seen with the Hubble telescope. Britton needed only eight pitches in the ninth inning to send everyone home. Britton's ERA is pretty low as well: a 1.07 on the season. He now has 18 saves. Get these men on the All-Star team.
Just for good measure, Machado unleashed the frustration of what had up until then been an 0-3 night with three strikeouts by destroying a baseball thrown by Kelvin Herrera. The ball sailed and stayed fair for Machado's 15th home run of the season, putting the O's up 4-1. They did not need the extra run, though they will always take more, especially when they arrive thanks to a dong.
The series continues on Tuesday with another 7:05 game. Ubaldo Jimenez and Yordano Ventura are the scheduled starters for the game. If Wright can pitch a good game, maybe Jimenez can too? We can dream.