Royals

Royals back Guthrie with three homers, halt skid with 6-2 win over Orioles

Updated: 2013-05-10T05:29:03Z

By BOB DUTTON

The Kansas City Star

— The early returns from the Royals’ new-look lineup offered promise Thursday night by producing three home runs in a 6-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

That was plenty for Jeremy Guthrie to extend his club-record unbeaten streak to 18 starts and for the Royals to end a three-game skid while avoiding a three-game sweep.

“It’s been a tough stretch for us with all of the rainouts, the push-backs and delays and everything,” said third baseman Mike Moustakas, who hit one of the three homers.

“We’re trying to get our offense going. You try to get into a rhythm. We weren’t able to do that, but we’re starting to just play a little more consistently. Our offense is going to come around.”

Guthrie’s start didn’t quite have the buildup attached to James Shields’ recent outing against Tampa Bay, but this was the first time that he had faced his former team since a February 2012 trade sent him to Colorado.

He chose to minimize the emotional aspect.

“I’m just trying to win the game,” said Guthrie, who pitched five seasons for the Orioles. “I think someone else put it this way, ‘We’ve turned the page.’”

That someone was Baltimore manager Buck Showalter in pregame comments. Maybe those words rankled. Or provided extra motivation. Either way, Guthrie provided the sort of start the Royals needed to end their skid.

“He really competed through that whole game,” manager Ned Yost said. “There were times in the game when he got up a little bit and made adjustments. He kept his streak going and pitched great.”

Guthrie improved to 5-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.28 by limiting the Orioles to two runs (one earned) and seven hits in six innings. Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar closed out the victory.

“It was all right,” Guthrie said. “I made a couple of mistakes, but our offense did what we’ve been doing all year when I’ve been out there. Score big runs. Tack on a couple of extra ones.”

About that offense…

Yost revamped his lineup before the game, which included a shift of Alex Gordon from the leadoff role to third in the order in hopes of boosting run production.

And it was Gordon who ignited the attack with a two-run homer in a four-run fourth inning against Baltimore starter Freddy Garcia, which erased an early 1-0 deficit. Eric Hosmer also hit a two-run homer in the inning.

“Going first to third or third to first,” Gordon said, “I know I can do it. I don’t think it matters where anybody in this lineup hits, but our offense was struggling, so we needed to change it up. That’s what Ned did.”

Gordon’s drive gave him homers in three straight games — a career first — but Hosmer’s homer might hold greater significance; it was his first in 145 at-bats dating to Sept. 11, 2012, at Minnesota.

“There was definitely a sigh of relief,” Hosmer said. “I’ve been hitting some balls hard with nothing to show for it. To finally have one go out felt pretty good.”

Moustakas added a leadoff homer in the seventh against reliever T.J. McFarland. Moustakas also had a homer in Wednesday’s loss and, with four hits over the last two games, has his average up to .222.

“Hos has been smoking balls,” Yost said. “How many line-outs has he made to left field? He’s just got nothing to show for it. In reality, he’s been swinging the bat really well.

“And Moose has been swinging the bat well. Three hits (Wednesday) night and a homer. Those men are getting close.”

The bullpen was also dynamic after experiencing some recent yips.

Crow rolled through a perfect seventh with two strikeouts. Kelvin Herrera yielded a leadoff double in the eighth to Nick Markakis but struck out Adam Jones and Chris Davis before retiring Matt Wieters on a grounder to second.

Hochevar required just 11 pitches in the ninth in a non-save situation.

The Royals improved to 18-13 and pulled to within one-half game of first-place Detroit in the American League Central. The victory also kept them one-half game ahead of Cleveland.

Garcia, 0-1, made his second start for the Orioles since a five-start audition at Class AAA Norfolk after signing a minor-league contract. He was dominant in his six innings except for one four-batter stretch in the fourth.

The Orioles scored first by capitalizing on an error by shortstop Alcides Escobar, who throw wide to first after fielding Jones’ routine leadoff grounder in the second inning.

It was Escobar’s third error in a span of six innings.

Jones went to second on Wieters’ one-out single to center before scoring when J.J. Hardy blooped a single into center. Wieters tried for third on the play, but Lorenzo Cain delivered an on-target throw for the out.

Garcia retired the first 10 Royals before Cain reached on a one-out infield single in the fourth inning. Gordon followed with a two-run homer to deep right, and the Royals had their first lead in the series.

“It was one of those that felt good coming off the bat,” Gordon said. “This is a fun place to hit, for sure. It’s a little different from Kauffman. You just try to take advantage of that.

“I’m not trying to hit home runs, but I’m trying to drive the ball. That’s what happened.”

Billy Butler then singled before Hosmer sent a no-doubt drive over the wall to the left of dead center for a 4-1 lead.

“I’ve been trying to take positives from every at-bat,” he said. “Just take each at-bat one at a time and put in productive at-bats ... but that felt good.”

To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send email to bdutton@kcstar.com.

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