KANSAS CITY - Anthony Santander appeared almost reluctant to don the Orioles’ home run chain Friday night.
After sneaking a meaningless solo home run inside Kauffman Stadium’s right field foul pole in the ninth inning of an 8-1 loss, Santander accepted the plastic chain with all the gravitas of a weathered monarch.
Tyler Nevin showed no such hesitancy Saturday. In fact, he welcomed it, beckoning Austin Hays to bestow the chain upon him after crushing a three-run, go-ahead homer to dead center field in the sixth inning of a 6-4 win over the Royals.
The honor was richly deserved.
Nevin’s 425-foot longball gave the Orioles their first lead since the third inning of Thursday’s series opener. Before the homer, the O’s had been outscored 18-7 in the first two-and-a-half games of their four-game series in Kansas City.
“Three run homers are usually good for the vibes,” Nevin joked after the game.
“I got a lot of it. I hit a few that I thought were gonna but didn’t, so I made sure that one went higher than the box, but that one felt pretty good.”
“Obviously a huge hit for us and one that we really needed,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I thought we were kind of flat early. Didn’t like how we came out of the game offensively, but we got the bats going and swung the bat a lot better the second half of the game.”
A day after being quieted by righty Jonathan Heasley, Baltimore’s bats fared better against Royals starter Daniel Lynch. The O’s put up four runs on eight hits against the 25-year-old, despite striking out seven times.
Particularly encouraging was the effort by designated hitter Adley Rutschman, who collected the first three-hit game of his young career, including a double in the fourth inning, a 110 mph single in the sixth and another double in the eighth.
“He hit four balls right on the screws," said Hyde. "Got some big hits for us. It was just a matter of time. I’m sure it’s a big relief for him having a game like he had today, but it was really impressive the way he swung the bat from both sides of the plate, line drives all over the park. Awesome, awesome day for him at the plate."
"It kind of goes back to controlling the controllables," said Rutschman. "You hit balls hard and eventually, baseball's one of those games, you’re gonna hit balls right at people, then you’re gonna have balls that are hit hard that fall for hits. So you gotta continue to roll with the punches and try to do the best you can.”
Down 3-0 in the fifth, the Orioles got things started offensively when Cedric Mullins singled home Jorge Mateo, cutting into the Royals’ lead. After Nevin’s lead-changing smash in the sixth, the O’s tacked on a run in the seventh on an Austin Hays RBI single and another in the eighth on a wild pitch that scored Rutschman.
Baltimore’s starters have struggled as a unit in the month of June, but Tyler Wells has remained mostly steady, compiling a 2.40 ERA over his last three starts coming into this afternoon. He continued the trend by allowing three runs on five hits while striking out four in six innings.
"He used all of his pitches, kept guys off balance, got big outs, love the quick sixth, kind of on a pitch count point there, kept us right there to allow us to get a chance to put a three-spot there in the sixth," said Hyde. "Outstanding effort by him.”
Wells’ performance snapped a nine-game streak without a quality start for an Orioles pitcher. But it didn’t appear to be headed that way after a rocky first inning.
After driving in three on Friday, Royals designated hitter Salvador Perez wasted no time picking up another RBI by driving in Whit Merrifield with a double in the first inning, giving Kansas City a 1-0 advantage.
Wells ran into more trouble in the fourth, when Kyle Isbel tripled home Michael A. Taylor, then scored on an Emmanuel Rivera single to make it a 3-0 game.
“It certainly felt good to be able to go deep into the game and give the bullpen a break, being able to give our team a chance to win,” said Wells. “That was the big thing for me. If there was anything to take out of the performance it was just being able to go out there and compete. Didn’t feel like I had my best stuff, best control. But I was able to keep us in the game, trying to give some length.”
The Orioles bullpen, which has been the strongest unit of the team since the calendar turned to June, bent but didn’t break. Things got hairy for Dillon Tate in the eighth after he loaded the bases with one out, but the Royals came away with just one run on a sac fly by Taylor.
The Orioles will send Dean Kremer to the hill tomorrow on getaway day, hoping to earn a series split before flying up to Toronto.