It was a tight game for most of the night and the thoughts began to creep into the heads of Baltimore Orioles fans of who would get the ball in the ninth inning if it remained a save situation and with the O's leading 2-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth fans got their answer, at least for a night. Zach Britton tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his first career save and Baltimore used a two run home run from Nelson Cruz for all the offense they would need as they took game one of their four game set 2-1 against the Kansas City Royals to end their four game losing streak.
Closer candidates were slowly marked off the list with the first being Darren O'Day as he entered the game in the sixth inning to relieve Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen (5-2) with one out. Bringing in O'Day in the sixth proved to be a brilliant move by Manager Buck Showalter as O'Day got the Orioles out of two on and one out jam to preserve the 2-1 lead.
In the eighth, another candidate, Ryan Webb came in with one out to replace Troy Patton and that was another name to cross off the list, but it what was happening in the bullpen that ended up being the biggest clue as both Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter were warming up in the pen, while Webb was on the mound. Once Webb finished the eighth, Britton began to warm and it became evident, that at least for the night, Britton was the new closer for the Birds.
The Orioles bullpen was fantastic as a whole on Thursday Night as they combined to throw 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief without allowing a single base runner.
Chen picked up his fifth victory of the season as he tossed 5 1/3 strong innings and out-dueled Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura (2-3). Chen finished the night having allowed just one run on seven hits, one walk and one strikeout over his 5 1/3 innings of work and the only run he gave up came on a sac fly in the fourth inning, where he worked out of a bases loaded jam with one out and allowing just the one run. Overall it was a good performance for Chen, even if it was just 5 1/3 innings as he did what he had to do, keep the slim lead the offense had given him.
Both Orioles runs came courtesy of a Cruz two run home run in the fourth inning as Cruz got a hold of a Ventura fastball and sent it over the right centerfield wall. It was his 12th homer of the season, which now puts him in second place in the American League behind Jose Abreu.
Although they did not score any more runs, Baltimore did chalk up ten hits on the night with Nick Markakis (3-4), Manny Machado (2-4), and JJ Hardy (2-4, 2B) each recording a multi-hit game for the Birds.
Baltimore will look to secure a series split tonight as they send Chris Tillman (3-2) to the mound to square off against former Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (2-2) with first pitch scheduled for 8:10 p.m. EST.
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