BALTIMORE — The early returns from the Royals’ new-look lineup offered promise Thursday night by producing three home runs in a 6-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
That was plenty for Jeremy Guthrie to extend his club-record unbeaten streak to 18 starts and for the Royals to end a three-game losing streak and avoid a three-game sweep.
Guthrie’s start didn’t quite have the build-up attached to James Shields’ recent outing against Tampa Bay, but this was the first time that Guthrie pitched against the Orioles.
It turned into a pleasant reunion.
Guthrie improved to 5-0 by limiting his former club — he played here from 2007-11 — to two runs (one earned) and seven hits in six innings. Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar closed out the victory.
Manager Ned Yost revamped his lineup before the game, which include a shift of Alex Gordon from the leadoff role to third in the order in hopes of boosting run production.
And it was Gordon who ignited the attack with a two-run homer in a four-run fourth inning against Baltimore starter Freddy Garcia, which erased an early 1-0 deficit. Eric Hosmer also hit a two-run homer in the inning.
Both blasts were notable.
Gordon’s drive gave him homers in three straight games — a career first. Hosmer’s homer was his first in 145 at-bats dating to Sept. 11, 2012 at Minnesota.
Mike Moustakas added a leadoff homer in the seventh against reliever T.J. McFarland.
Crow rolled through a perfect in with two strikeouts. Kelvin Herrera yielded a leadoff double in the eighth to Nick Markakis but struck out Adam Jones and Chris Davis before retiring Matt Wieters on a grounder to second.
Hochevar worked a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.
The Royals improved to 18-13 and pulled to within a half game of first-place Detroit in the American League Central Division. The victory also kept the Royals a half game ahead of Cleveland.
Garcia (0-1) made his second start for the Orioles since a five-start audition at Tripple-A Norfolk after signing a minor-league contract. He was dominant, too, except for one four-batter stretch in the fourth.
Garcia gave up four runs and five hits in six innings before exiting after only 77 pitches.
The Orioles scored first.
An error by shortstop Alcides Escobar on Jones’ leadoff ground in the second inning led to problems. It was a routine grounder, but Escobar made an off-line throw that pulled Hosmer away from first base.
It was Escobar’s third error in a span of six innings.
Jones went to second on Wieters’ one-out single to center before scoring when J.J. Hardy blooped a single into center. Wieters tried for third on the play, but Lorenzo Cain delivered an on-target throw for the out.
Garcia retired the first 10 Royals before Cain reached on a one-out infield single in the fourth inning. Gordon followed with a two-run homer to deep right.
The Royals had their first lead in the series.
Billy Butler then singled before Hosmer sent a no-doubt drive over the wall to the left of dead center for a 4-1 lead.
Guthrie gave one run back immediately when Chris Davis led off the bottom of the inning with a boomer to center. That was Guthrie’s first earned run in 19 2/3 innings — dating to the fifth inning on April 21 at Boston.