Bullpen strong as Royals hold off Orioles 5-4

Royals fans got a taste of what life will be like without top setup men Kyle Farnsworth and Robinson Tejeda, and early indications are that it might not be so bad.

Yep, the bullpen – led by Kanekoa Texeira, Jesse Chavez, Blake Wood and Joakim Soria – certainly did its part in the Royals 5-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.

After a strong start by starter Bruce Chen, the four combined to allow one run over the final four innings and clinch the third straight victory for the Royals (45-6).

The victory is the first in almost a month for Bruce Chen (6-5) who allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits in five innings.

Chen outdueled Baltimore starter Kevin Millwood (2-11), who surrendered five runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

But early on, it looked like the Royals would do more damage against Millwood. Leadoff singles by Chris Getz and Jason Kendall set the table for Billy Butler, who drove in the first run of the game with a double to right. José Guillen drove home Kendall with a grounder to shot, and Wilson Betemit made the score 3-0 with a single to right.

Baltimore answered in the second with a solo home run by Luke Scott and a RBI double by Markakis in the third, but the Royals extended their lead to 4-2 when Alex Gordon hit an opposite field home run (his second home run in three games) of Millwood.

Chen maintained the lead until the sixth inning, when Baltimore used a bunt single, a throwing error by Chen and a single to load the bases with no out. The brought Royals manager Ned Yost to the mound, who removed Chen after 101 pitches in favor of Kanekoa Texiera.

This was a particularly sticky situation, but Texeira rose to the occasion by forcing the next batter, Josh Bell, to ground into a double play. One run scored, but Texeira limited the damage by striking out Cesar Izturis to end the inning.

Perhaps buoyed by Texeira’s high-wire act, the Royals added another run in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a single by Mitch Maier. They could have had more, too, as they had runners at first and second with no outs at one point.

But after Yuniesky Betancourt flied out and Gregor Blanco singled to left, third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez sent Gordon home despite the fact outfielder Felix Pie fielded the ball in shallow left field. Gordon was thrown ount at the plate and the lead remained 5-3.

It didn’t matter, as the Royals bullpen took care of things from there. Chavez’s only blemish in the seventh inning came on a Ty Wigginton, and Wood pitched a perfect eighth.

The Orioles, however, made things interesting against Soria in the ninth with a lead-off single and Julio Lugo reaching on a throwing error by Wilson Betemit.

But Soria got Markakis to ground into a double play, and after a four-pitch walk to Wigginton, he worked his way back from a 3-0 count to retire Luke Scott – credit second baseman Chris Getz, who made a diving stop to his left and threw Scott out at first – to earn his 29th save.

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