BALTIMORE — Billy Butler and Jeff Francoeur provided the Royals with a little home run muscle Sunday afternoon, but this 4-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles stemmed more from a second straight lockdown bullpen effort.
“It just worked out, almost exactly, the way it worked out (Saturday),” manager Ned Yost said. “We had the matchups working. Just instead of (Kelvin) Herrera, we had Greg Holland (on Saturday). It was a good day.”
Jonathan Broxton, as he did Saturday, pitched the ninth and registered his 10th save in 12 chances. Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, José Mijares and Aaron Crow provided the bridge from starter Luke Hochevar. Collins, 2-0, got the victory.
In all, the Royals got a combined 41/3 scoreless innings from their five relievers after getting 31/3 scoreless innings from four relievers in Saturday’s 4-3 victory.
“Our bullpen is phenomenal,” Hochevar said. “Every guy you hand the ball off to is going to go out and get it done. That makes it nice, but that’s no excuse for not giving us length.”
Hochevar probably deserved better. He yielded just one earned run, but the Orioles made him work on a muggy afternoon at Camden Yards. Hochevar had thrown 104 pitches when he exited with two on and two outs in the fifth.
“Every AB,” Hochevar said, “it seemed I’d go 1-2, then foul ball, foul ball, ball, foul ball, foul ball. There were a lot of deep counts. When that happens, you’ve just got to find a way to fight through it and limit the damage.”
The Royals created some unnecessary drama in the ninth when Francoeur and second baseman Johnny Giavotella collided on what should have been an inning-ending pop into short right field by J.J. Hardy. The ball dropped for a two-base error.
Broxton ended the game by striking out Nick Markakis.
“I’m just looking at the ball,” Francoeur said, “and I started screaming that I’ve got it. I guess he did the same thing. I don’t really care now, but if Markakis had hit one out, I would have been a little more (mad).”
It was Francoeur hitting one out — leading off the sixth against Orioles starter Brian Matusz — that broke a 2-2 tie. It was Francoeur’s fifth homer in 14 games following a 32-game drought that extended to last season.
“He’s just hot right now, swinging the bat really well,” said Matusz, who dropped to 4-5 after allowing four runs in six innings. “He’s got a good eye for the plate, battles with two strikes. He’s just hot and was able to connect.”
Alcides Escobar’s one-out single turned into another run when Humberto “Doubles” Quintero pulled a two-out drive into the left-field corner. Escobar beat the throw home for a 4-2 lead.
“I expected to score,” Escobar said. “It’s two outs, and the ball is at the wall. I didn’t want to stop at third. I’m fast. (Third-base coach) Eddie Rodrigues knows that, and he sent me to home plate.”
Eleven of Quintero’s 23 hits this season are doubles.
The two-run sixth came after Collins bailed out Hochevar in the Baltimore fifth. Hochevar exited after hitting Chris Davis on a 1-2 pitch with two outs with Adam Jones on second after a one-out double.
The Orioles started the runners on Collins’ first pitch to Wilson Betemit, which prompted Giavotella to break for the base. That put Gio in perfect position to catch Betemit’s liner up the middle for the final out.
“We didn’t do much after the fifth there,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “That was the story. They made us pay for whatever mistakes Brian made. We had trouble with Butler and Francoeur, and they got us again here.”
Butler’s homer came with two outs in the first and opened the scoring. It was his third homer in four games and boosted his club-leading total to 11.
“When I get a good pitch to hit,” he said, “I’m not missing it. I got a fastball 2-0. When you’re ahead in the count, you like to take advantage of it. I guess I’m doing that lately.”
The lead didn’t survive the Orioles’ first. Hardy pumped a one-out single into center and scored when Markakis’ sinking liner to center turned into an RBI double when Mitch Maier gambled on a diving catch.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Maier said. “It just kept sinking. By the time it got to me, it was under my glove. Off the bat, I thought I had a shot.”
Maier got the run back in the second inning with a successful safety squeeze after singles by Francoeur and Escobar. That 2-1 lead lasted until the fourth when Hochevar paid for starting the inning with a four-pitch walk to Betemit.
Robert Andino erased Betemit on a one-out, fielder’s-choice grounder to short, but Andino stole second and went to third when Quintero threw the ball into center. Xavier Avery tied the game by pulling an 0-2 fastball into right field for an RBI single.
It stayed 2-2 until Francoeur’s homer in the sixth. After Escobar scored from first on Quintero’s double, the Royals hunkered down behind their relief corps.
Collins worked a one-two-three sixth inning on 10 pitches with two strikeouts. Herrera retired the side in order in a 12-pitch seventh.
Herrera also got the first out in the eighth before Yost called on Mijares, who immediately yielded a double to Davis. After Betemit grounded to third, the Orioles sent up Steve Tolleson to bat for Nick Johnson.
That prompted a counter-move to Crow, who ended the inning with a strikeout. Broxton then worked around the two-out error in the ninth, which leaves the Royals at 3-3 on a nine-game trip that began in New York and continues Monday in Cleveland.
“We got off to a good start in New York by winning that first game,” Francoeur said. “Then we lost three in a row, and I think we knew it was time to get going here. There’s a lot of baseball left. If our lineup can start getting into a groove, it’s going to be huge.”
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.