No universal ground rules surfaced Thursday afternoon to frustrate the Royals. No down-to-the-last-pitch anxiety, either. No, this 9-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles was a take-no-prisoners thumping at Kauffman Stadium.
“How about that?” left fielder Alex Gordon observed. “It feels a lot better.”
The Royals started with a four-run first inning, which wiped out a 1-0 deficit, and rolled from there to their fifth victory in six home games since returning from an 0-6 road trip. Their 14 home victories (in 20 games) are the most of any club.
“I think this ballpark really fit our style of game,” said lefty Bruce Chen, who permitted just one run and five hits in seven innings. “My teammates did an outstanding job of scoring early.
“When that happens, I just try to be aggressive, pound the strike zone and let my defense play for me.”
Eight different Royals either scored or drove in a run in a balanced 12-hit attack that provided a resounding response to a frustrating 3-2 loss Wednesday – when a ball wedged beneath an outfield pad short-circuited a potential comeback victory.
Melky Cabrera had three hits, including a homer, while scoring three times and driving in four runs. His homer in the eighth inning against reliever Clay Rapada closed the scoring.
“It feels good because I contributed,” Cabrera said, “but there were other players who played their part. Everybody contributed offensively. The first inning was impressive as was the way Bruce Chen pitched.”
Mike Aviles, Chris Getz and Alcides Escobar each had two hits apiece.
Chen, 4-1, moved his career record back above .500 at 52-51. He is 11-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 19 starts since last Aug. 1. Baltimore’s five hits were all singles.
“A lot of it had to do with the lead he had,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It plays right into his (hands). He makes a good presentation when you're really ultra-aggressive off of him. He knows who he is. That's why he's been around a while.”
Jeremy Jeffress closed out the victory by retiring six straight batters over the final two innings. That included a 14-pitch battle with Adam Jones to start the ninth that climaxed with a fly out to right.
Steady rain delayed the first pitch by 35 minutes to 1:45 p.m., but the skies soon cleared for an afternoon crowd of 29,927 on the annual School Day at the K promotion. The rains didn’t return until well after the game ended.
The Royals, 17-14, entered the game with eight doubles more than any club in either league and added five more in boosting their season total to 76. More important, all five came at key moments.
Wilson Betemit had a RBI double in the four-run first; Escobar and Getz had back-to-back doubles for a run in the second; and Cabrera and Billy Butler had RBI doubles in a three-run fourth.
The first eight runs came against Baltimore starter Chris Tillman, who also gave up 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings. Tillman’s record dropped to 1-3, while his ERA spiked to 7.16.
The Orioles, 14-16, jumped to a first-inning lead after Nick Markakis punched a one-out single into center and went to second on Derrek Lee’s fly to deep center.
After an intentional walk to Vladimir Guerrero, Chen jumped ahead 0-2 on Jones before surrendering an RBI single. After that, it was all Royals – starting with a four-run response later in the first inning.
Getz reached on a leadoff single when shortstop Robert Andino double-clutched the throw after fielding a soft grounder. Getz stole second before scoring on Cabrera’s single up the middle.
Cabrera took second on the throw, which allowed him to score when Gordon grounded a single through the right side. Gordon went to second on a one-out balk and scored when Betemit pulled a two-out double into the right-field corner.
The Royals then caught a break when Aviles lofted a routine pop to the left side. Andino appeared to lose the ball in a then-sunless sky, and the ball dropped between him and third baseman Mark Reynolds for an RBI single.
Chen allowed just four runners over the next six innings.
“That might have been his best game of the year,” catcher Brayan Peña said, “because of the way he was mixing his pitches. He was finally hitting the spots with his changeup. That makes his fastball look like it’s 100 mph.
“We’ve always known we can hit. And when our pitching does the job, it’s a lot of fun.”