O's use solid Cole Irvin outing, early offense to beat Kansas City (updated)

In an attempt to take the first two games of this series, the Orioles sent left-hander Cole Irvin to the mound today. He would have a chance to pitch his team to a win and perhaps to pitch himself back into the starting five in the rotation.

Today he was a big part of doing the first part and probably got the second done as well.

Irvin allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings after entering with an ERA of 10.38, as the Orioles beat Kansas City 6-1 in front of 34,136 at Oriole Park. Baltimore improves to 40-24 on the year, to 4-1 against Kansas City and to 14-6-1 in 21 series.

Irvin got some solid defense behind him in both the infield and outfield and needed 72 pitches, 55 for strikes to get those 16 outs. He allowed six hits and just that one run after giving up six, three and six runs in his early-season starts for the Orioles. That was before he was sent out to the minors where he went 6-1 with a 3.21 ERA in seven Triple-A starts.

Before the game, manager Brandon Hyde said Irvin had “every opportunity” to lock down a rotation spot, adding, “Be nice to have a left-handed starter in our rotation.”

Irvin said it meant a lot to get his first O's win and he learned a lot during his trip back to the minors.

“It was extremely meaningful," he said. "You don’t want to not perform well. Wanted to give the team a qualiy effort and keep the team in it. Didn’t hurt myself by walking guys. Felt really good to finally get that win in an O’s uniform. Definitely happy about it.

“Humility goes a long way. There were things I needed to address as a man and I felt like I did that down there. Cleaned up some mechanical things as well. I learned a little bit. I wouldn’t be surprised if I see those guys (in Norfolk) again at some point. I don’t want to but knowing that my option has been used and knowing how the season could go. Just need to focus on the next start."

The Orioles scored first today and coming into this game, were 21-5 this year when doing so.

Right fielder Anthony Santander saved runs in the top of the first and drove one home in the bottom half as the Orioles led 2-0 after an inning and 3-0 at the end of two.

Making his first O’s start since April 13, Irvin pitched a scoreless first around two singles with Santander’s help. He made a leaping catch against the right-field wall that might have saved a three-run homer or least an extra-base hit by Maikel Garcia. A pair of one-out singles put two men on before Bobby Witt Jr. grounded out ahead of Garcia’s drive to right.

“Played great defensively," Hyde said. "(Aaron) Hicksie, Santander in right field made some really nice plays. We’ve been playing pretty good defense as of late. Cole was pitching to contact and we played good defense behind him."

Kansas City right-hander Brady Singer, with an ERA of 6.45 at game time, needed 39 pitches to leave the bases loaded in the first, but also fell behind 2-0.

The O’s drew three walks that inning, the first by Adley Rutschman with one out and he scored on Santander’s hard-hit ground double into the right-field corner. He hit a 3-2 slider 104 mph to give Baltimore the 1-0 lead. Aaron Hicks walked with one out and Ryan O’Hearn’s RBI single to center field made it a 2-0 lead. But Josh Lester was robbed on a grounder to second when Michael Massey made a diving stop and the long last of the first finally ended for Singer.

"Our first inning, that was one of our better offensive innings, even though we only scored two. The patience at the plate and the way we were managing at-bats and we haven’t done that very much. Good to see. And got the starter’s pitch count up early," Hyde said.

Gunnar Henderson’s bat stayed hot when he hit a leadoff homer to center to start the home second. Batting leadoff for the first time this year and third time in his MLB career, he drilled a first-pitch Singer slider 408 feet for a 3-0 lead. It was homer No. 8 for Henderson, who has three over his six games and 17 plate appearances. His bat stayed hot as the O’s extended their early lead.

Meanwhile, Irvin got rolling, retiring the side in order in the third on 16 pitches and in the fourth on 12. But he was scored on in the fifth, allowing an Edward Olivares double and a Freddy Fermin RBI single. There were some loud outs as well in the fifth and right-hander Bryan Baker replaced Irvin after he gave up a one-out single in the sixth.

Irvin's day was helped along by a diving catch in the second from center fielder Aaron Hicks and a sparkling play in the infield by second baseman Adam Frazier an inning later. He ranged up the middle and made an off-balance jump throw to get Nick Pratto at first.

The defense helped Irvin get the win and he summed up why he was better than those poor outings from April.

“Command," he said. "I just got back to throwing the ball the way I want. There were a few nerves coming into today. I wanted to perform well and pitch and felt like I did that. Was executing fastballs in and out and threw some good changeups. Some really good sliders and cutters that I’m pretty proud. Small increments of succss and I have to keep building."

The O’s turned a 3-1 lead into a 4-1 edge on Austin Hays’ RBI single in the fifth. That hit scored Satander after his second double of the day.

Because there always seems to be some late-game drama in most Orioles wins, there was today. Austin Voth started the seventh with a three-run lead and promptly walked two batters. After a strikeout, lefty Cionel Pérez came on and ended that threat with a 3-2 pitch called third strike and a groundout. Pérez then pitched a scoreless eighth, getting help from Hicks in center, who made a nice catch on a deep drive. Mike Baumann got the final three outs. 

In the last of the eighth, Adam Frazier's two-run homer added some insurance runs. It was No. 7 this year and No. 50 in his big league career. 

The Orioles became the fourth MLB teams to 40 wins, a total they did not get to last season until game No. 84. 

Kansas City (18-46) scored 23 runs in three games against O's pitching in early May at Kauffman Stadium, but has just three runs this series. The Royals have lost five in a row, eight of nine and 15 of 19 games.

The Orioles have three-game sweeps over Detroit and Toronto this year and could add K.C. to the list at Oriole Park on Sunday afternoon.

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