The Orioles set a Camden Yards record tonight with a walk-up crowd of nearly 11,000. It was Fireworks Night, but there also was a buzz in the air about Adam Jones' contract extension and the Orioles continuing to possess the best record in the American League.
It was loud until the end, when Dana Eveland recorded the final out to secure an 8-2 victory over the Royals.
"They're engaged, and it was a good atmosphere," manager Buck Showalter said. "And we've got to keep doing the things that make it continue. My first thought in the dugout was, 'What was the promotion?' You want the promotion to be good baseball."
The Orioles played it tonight, scoring five runs in the fifth inning to break open the game and shutting out the Royals until the eighth.
Jason Hammel blanked Kansas City for six innings, allowing five hits, walking one and striking out seven. He's 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA.
"He's been pretty crisp the whole year as far as his stuff," Showalter said. "He had to go to the tank there in the fifth. Came back out and had a strong sixth. Ham's got a four-pitch mix and that gives Matt (Wieters) a lot of weapons to work with back there. That's been a good combination. When you command the pitches that Jason has, you can really take advantage of a catcher's knowledge of hitters."
Hammel's right knee doesn't seem to be bothering him as much since he had it drained earlier in the week.
"It's not, knock on wood, as big a topic of conversation anymore," Showalter said. "It's going pretty good right now, especially when you get a chance to give him another day. I'll meet with him again. It's more tomorrow, but so far it's been pretty good. We feel like we've got a chance to manage it this season. Hopefully, that continues."
Hammel twice put runners on second and third with one out and didn't allow a run.
"The strikeouts were big," Showalter said. "When you've got four pitches there and a plus-fastball, you can give a hitter a lot of things to think about."
Shortstop J.J. Hardy made a leaping catch to rob Billy Butler and end the fifth.
"It's kind of a self-defense thing, too," Showalter said. "I don't know who jumped higher, him or Ham. Billy Butler is one of the better right-handed hitters in the league. He's a tough out, and he squares us up a lot. We dodged a bullet there."
The five-run fifth was keyed by back-to-back stolen bases by Xavier Avery and Robert Andino after Royals starter Bruce Chen appeared to pick them off first base.
"That was by design. We had worked on... no," Showalter said, drawing a big laugh from reporters. "Some people nonchalantly say, 'I got picked off,' and just kind of slide in there. Both of them beat it. Robert made a great slide there. And hats off to Gary (Cederstrom). A lot of guys, ball beats them, calls them out even though they were safe."
Did yesterday's off day rejuvenate the Orioles?
"Not really," Showalter said. "It's too short. I talked to eight or nine guys, what did you do? And most of them answered, 'Nothing.' Just to wake up and not have to be somewhere and not have to do something and be on schedule. Everybody spent it a little differently. Most guys with families were with their family. We've got a couple more coming up, and then it starts up again. They don't get spread out. I know it was good for Matt and J.J., and all our guys, really. Everybody's been playing at a high clip physically because of the challenge and all the extra-inning games."