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O’s go up early, bullpen locks down 8-4 win late

The offense came out swinging in support of Jorge López, who flamed out in the fifth inning once again.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles reversed roles on Saturday night in Kansas City as they were the ones to go up big early on and, despite some predictably sketchy pitching from starter Jorge López, held on for the win at Kauffman Stadium.

It has often been the case this season that a tardy Orioles fan would flip on MASN in the first or second inning and see their team already trailing by what feels like an insurmountable deficit. That same fan would have been pleasantly surprising this evening as the O’s were up 7-0 before the conclusion of the third inning.

Baltimore’s first two runs came in the second inning. DJ Stewart led off with a single, followed by an Anthony Santander walk. Ramón Urías knocked in Stewart with a base hit, and then Domingo Leyba drove in Santander with a ground out to the right side of the infield.

Then the O’s really broke things open in the third inning. It all started, as it often does, with a leadoff double from Cedric Mullins. What followed were five straight singles from Trey Mancini, Ryan Mountcastle, Stewart, Santander, and Urías to make it 6-0 and knock Royals starter Brady Singer from the game after recording just six outs. Richard Lovelady would come on relief to settle things down, but not before allowing one of his inherited runs to score on a Pedro Severino base hit.

Kansas City did not go down without a fight. They got on the board in the bottom of the third when Carlos Santana doubled home Nicky Lopez, who had singled ahead of him.

Other than that, O’s starter Jorge López cruised through his first four innings, as he normally does. His teammates even gave him one more insurance run in the top of the fourth inning as Mancini led off with the 10th triple of his career and scored right away on a sac fly off the bat of Mountcastle behind him.

Unfortunately, López’s wheels would fall off in the fifth inning once again. The first three batters of the inning reached on two singles and a walk. During the next at-bat, López uncorked a wild pitch with a slider that bounced well outside of the zone and would have been impossible for even the most nimble catchers to block, let alone someone that has had the defensive struggles of Severino this season. A runner scored on the miscue. Another single followed to score the Royals’ fourth run of the day and kick López from the game.

López has failed to complete the fifth inning 12 times in 18 starts this season. His season ERA is up to 6.04 ERA. You don’t need to be a stathead to know that those numbers are not good, especially from a starting pitcher that now has quite a track record of these sorts of performances. But really, what else is Brandon Hyde supposed to do? Until preferable options present themselves, this is what they need to roll with.

The good news is that the Orioles bullpen brought their “good stuff” to this game. Hyde turned to four different pitchers to record the final 13 outs and each of them was more effective than the last. Paul Fry earned the win as he was the one to come in and clean up López’s mess in the fifth inning and then stay on for a clean sixth inning. Dillon Tate took care of business in the seventh. Tanner Scott did the same in the eighth. And Tyler Wells closed things out in the ninth.

There was a lot to like from the O’s lineup as well. Mullins, Mancini, Stewart, and Urías all had multi-hit evenings. The team managed to score eight times despite not hitting a home run, and they walked four times while striking out just seven times. The key there was well-timed hits (7-for-14 with runners in scoring position). That’s a good night at the office from just about everyone.

The Orioles will have a chance to win this series in the rubber game on Sunday. Matt Harvey (3-10, 7.70 ERA) will start for the good guys, and he will be opposed by Carlos Hernández (1-0, 4.98 ERA). First pitch is 2:10 p.m.