BALTIMORE | In the end Tuesday night, the Royals found themselves waging a battle with the Baltimore Orioles to see which bullpen would blink first at Camden Yards.
And guess what?
It wasn’t the Royals.
John Buck delivered a two-out RBI single in the 11th inning that lifted the Royals to a 4-3 victory. That makes two victories in a row for the first time since July 5-6, and their first back-to-back road victories since June 23-24.
“It feels good,” said center fielder Willie Bloomquist, whose home run in the eighth inning erased a 3-2 deficit. “That was a game that, a week ago, we had no shot of winning. We battled and found a way to get it done.”
The Royals’ bullpen, for the second straight game, played a major role by authoring five shutout innings. That came one night after four scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory over the Orioles in Monday’s series opener.
That represents a stunning turnaround for a unit that permitted 27 earned runs in 26 innings over the previous nine games.
“We talked about that and how it’s time to start over,” said Jamey Wright, who got the victory by working two innings before Joakim Soria closed out the game.
“With the kind of arms we have in our bullpen, we shouldn’t be pitching the way we’ve pitched. I’d go to every single fan and apologize if I could. But it is what it is, and it’s time for us to step it up and get better. The last two nights have been a good start.”
John Bale, Roman Colon, Wright and Soria formed the winning relay behind starter Brian Bannister. Wright, 1-3, retired all six batters in his two innings before Soria worked around a leadoff single for his 17th save in 19 opportunities.
“Hopefully,” manager Trey Hillman said, “it’s like hitting and there will be a residual effect to the rest of the guys. It’s not too late to start a positive streak in the same respect that we had a negative streak after the All-Star break.”
Mark Teahen started the winning rally against Danys Baez, 4-4, when his leadoff squibber up the first-base line refused to roll foul.
“I was sitting fastball,” Teahen deadpanned, “and just got the barrel of the bat on it.”
That’s right. Jokes and smiles are OK again in the Royals’ clubhouse.
“I really didn’t think it would stay fair.” Teahen said. “It’s a nice bonus that it did. We were due for a little break here or there. We’ll definitely take it and enjoy it.”
Teahen stole second with one out and scored when Buck lined a single into right.
“With Teahen at second base,” Buck said, “I knew if I could hit the outfield grass, there was a good chance he was going to score. I just tried to put it in play.”
It was the Royals’ first hit all night in six opportunities with runners in scoring position.
“We’re still leaving a lot of runners on base,” Hillman said, “but when you’re leaving that many runners on base, the upside of that is at least you’re getting some hitsThat’s a start.”
Bannister produced a quality start for the eighth time in his last 10 outings but, for the eighth time in that span, found it insufficient to get a victory. He gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings.
Orioles starter Jason Bergen lugged a personal eight-game losing streak, and a 6.55 ERA, into the game but limited the Royals to two runs and six hits in six innings. Bergen handed a 3-2 lead to reliever Mark Hendrickson in the seventh.
Bloomquist had two singles in addition to his homer in leading a 10-hit attack. Brayan Peña had two singles, and Billy Butler cracked a two-run homer in the first inning that staked Bannister to an early lead.
The lead didn’t last. Adam Jones hit a two-run homer in the Baltimore first. Both teams then squandered opportunities before rookie Matt Wieters, who had four hits, delivered a two-out RBI single in the Orioles’ sixth.
The Royals still trailed 3-2 when Bloomquist opened the eighth inning with a homer against reliever Jim Johnson. It was Bloomquist’s third homer of the season, a career high. He had 12 over the previous seven seasons in Seattle.
Bloomquist credited hitting coach Kevin Seitzer for telling to look for a first-pitch fastball.
“I had it in my mind to take a strike there,” Bloomquist said, “and I asked him, and he said, `No, look for a pitch up and go get ’em.’ I was looking for a fastball and got a fastball middle in. I wasn’t trying to go yard, but it went there.”
The bullpen held fast until Buck’s game-winning single.
“That’s called two in a row,” Hillman said. “I like it.”
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