Hardy homers keep happening (O's lead 5-3)

For the third time in his last four games, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy has hit a home run.

Hardy deposited an 80-mph slider from Royals starter Luis Mendoza inside the left field foul pole to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning.

Matt Wieters led off with a single, continuing his recent tear, and Hardy followed with his sixth home run of the season. Wieters doubled twice and drove in three runs last night, including the game-winner in the eighth inning.

Hardy has built a modest five-game hitting streak, which looks bigger considering that his average was down to .188 before it started. He has seven hits, including the three homers, over his last five games.

The Orioles wasted a two-out walk by Nick Markakis and an Adam Jones single in the first.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman threw 13 pitches in the first inning and 29 in the second, but he kept the Royals from scoring. He stranded two runners in the second and struck out two.

Tillman retired the side in order in the third on only nine pitches. His fastball is mostly 88-89 mph, though he's hit 91 mph a few times. He was routinely in the mid-90s in his last start in Anaheim, when he shut out the Angels on three hits over eight innings.

Down on the farm, Triple-A Norfolk's Jair Jurrjens allowed three runs (two earned) and four hits in the first inning at Buffalo, with two strikeouts and a wild pitch. He threw 30 pitches.

Jason Pridie hit a leadoff home run, and Lew Ford had an RBI double.

Update: Tillman retired nine of 10 batters before Alex Gordon homered with two outs in the fifth to reduce the Orioles' lead to 2-1. Gordon hit a two-run shot off Brian Matusz last night.

The Orioles responded right away, scoring three runs and forcing the Royals into a bunch of mistakes.

Chris Dickerson led off with a double and moved to third on a fielder's choice grounder from Nate McLouth and throwing error by shortstop Alcides Escobar. The ball appeared to hit Dickerson on the leg as he dived into the bag.

Manny Machado followed with an RBI single. And then it got weird.

Machado swiped second, and McLouth raced home when catcher George Kottaras' throw to second bounced a few feet past Escobar. Machado took third on Escobar's second throwing error of the inning - and the second error of that bizarre sequence - and he scored on a wild pitch.

Crazy.

Only one run was earned in the inning.

The official scorer originally gave McLouth a steal of home, the first by the Orioles since Robert Andino on June 14, 2009 against the Atlanta Braves. However, since McLouth was initially going back to third base before Kottaras' poor throw to second, the error was the correct call.

Anyway, the Orioles lead 5-1 in the top of the sixth.

Update II: It's still crazy.

Tillman retired the first two batters in the sixth, walked Lorenzo Cain and served up a two-run homer to Moustakas.

Orioles 5, Royals 3.

Moustakas was batting .196 with one homer before tonight. He's 3-for-3 with a two-run shot.

The Royals did the Orioles another favor. Elliot Johnson singled, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Score it 9-4-6.

Tillman is up to 93 pitches in six innings.

Update III: Tillman allowed three runs and five hits in six innings, with three walks, two strikeouts, two home runs and a wild pitch.

Troy Patton breezed through the seventh.

Tillman has allowed six runs in his last four starts over 26 2/3 innings.

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