An extended rain delay Saturday only provided Royals starter Luis Mendoza with additional time to bask in his native Mexico’s gold-medal upset of Brazil in the Olympic soccer final before starting his own night’s work.
Mendoza then delivered six shutout innings before weakening in a 7-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. The Royals backed Mendoza with a four-homer barrage that produced a seven-run lead before the Orioles stirred to life.
“It was a good feeling to see my country win,” Mendoza said while flashing an enormous smile. “Before the game, during the rain delay, I watched the last minutes of it again. That got me pumped up to pitch today.”
The Royals made it easy for Mendoza by jumping to a 4-0 lead through three innings against Orioles starter Chris Tillman. They hit homers in each of those innings. Tillman, 5-2, had won four straight starts but took a beating: six runs in 52/3 innings.
“Mendoza has been pitching his (backside) off,” left fielder Alex Gordon said, “but we just haven’t been scoring runs for him. It was about time we got some for him.”
Gordon led off the game with a homer to left. Salvy Perez hit a two-run shot in the second inning, and Billy Butler extended his career-best total to 24 with a two-out drive in the third.
The Royals got two two-out runs in the sixth before Gordon went deep again in the seventh inning for his second career two-homer game. The other was Sept. 2, 2007, against Minnesota at the Metrodome.
Gordon has four homers in nine games after hitting just five in his first 103 games.
“I’m just trying to put together good at-bats,” he said, “and whatever happens, happens. It’s probably the park a little bit. If I hit those in Kauffman Stadium, who knows if they go out? You take advantage of the places you play.
“I’m not trying to hit home runs, but I was able to get a couple of good swings and do some damage with them. Maybe I was a little more aggressive than I’ve been in the past.”
The four homers overall matched the Royals’ season high. They hit four on two other occasions: April 25 in an 8-2 victory at Cleveland, and June 24 in an 11-8 loss to St. Louis at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals also have 12 homers while going 4-2 through the first six games of a seven-game trip that began with three games in Chicago. They have won eight of their last 12 overall.
“It’s the parks,” manager Ned Yost said. “Those balls don’t go out in our park, but they go out in this park. You play the park.”
Mendoza, 6-8, carried a four-hit shutout and a seven-run lead into the seventh inning before finding trouble after a leadoff walk to Wilson Betemit.
“For six innings, he was really good,” Yost said. “Real efficient with his pitches. Was getting quick outs. He wasn’t in much trouble, and when he was, he made pitches to get out of it. He just kind of unraveled in the seventh.”
Chris Davis followed the walk to Betemit by ramming a single past second baseman Chris Getz. Manny Machado then pulled an RBI double past third on a sharp grounder before Omar Quintanilla made it 7-3 by flicking a two-run single into center.
“I still felt good,” Mendoza said, “but ground balls found the holes. That’s just part of the game.”
Yost called on Kelvin Herrera, who prevented further damage in the seventh before pitching a scoreless eighth. Tim Collins set the Orioles down in order in the ninth with two strikeouts.
“Let me tell you something about that team over there,” Yost said. “I don’t feel safe with a seven-run lead. Those guys have a propensity of battling back and getting back into those games. Herrera did a great job of shutting it down in the seventh.”
The victory enabled the Royals to vacate sole possession of last place in the American League Central Division. They are now tied with Minnesota and, through the beauty of the alphabet, will appear to have moved past the Twins in papers across the country.
It all just took a while. Rain delayed the first pitch by 3 hours, 9 minutes, and the game didn’t end until 1:13 a.m. Eastern time. It makes for a quick turnaround before this afternoon’s series finale.
“Can we just do a night/day double-header,” Butler asked, “and just get on the plane and go home?”
Pretty much, that is exactly what will happen.
When the rains halted — and after the Orioles honored Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray by unveiling a statue in a pre-game ceremony — Gordon hit the game’s third pitch over a leaping Nate McLouth at the left-field wall.
It was Gordon’s second leadoff homer of the series and third in 10 games. Four of his nine homers this season have opened games, and he has nine leadoff dingers in his career.
The Royals extended their lead to 3-0 in the second after Lorenzo Cain led off with a line single to center. Perez followed by tomahawking a 1-1 cutter over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.
Butler’s teed off on a 3-0 cutter in the third inning for a 4-0 lead. His 24 homers are the most by a Royals player since Carlos Beltran hit 26 in 2003.
The Royals made it 6-0 and knocked out Tillman in the sixth.
It started with two outs when Tillman hit Perez in apparent retaliation for Mendoza plunking Adam Jones in the fourth inning. When Jeff Francoeur followed with a walk, the Orioles brought in Miguel Socolovich to face Eric Hosmer.
That didn’t work.
Hosmer grounded a first-pitch changeup into center for an RBI single that moved Francoeur to third. The Royals then executed a delayed double steal. Catcher Matt Wieters threw to second — and threw wildly. Hosmer was safe, and Francoeur scored.
Francoeur became the first Royal to steal home since Sept. 19, 2010, when Yuniesky Betancourt, in his first tour, did it against Cleveland at Kauffman Stadium.
Both runs were charged to Tillman.
Gordon’s second homer opened the seventh inning against Socolovich and made it 7-0.
“It was a long day,” Mendoza said. “Every starting pitcher has his own program for what they want to do that day. I just tried to stay focused. I knew I was going to start tonight. So I just stayed focused.”
And he watched Mexico win gold. Again and again.