The Orioles in the month of May had quite a gauntlet to go through with the quality of teams that they played against. One could say that they have passed that test with flying colors by virtue of being in first place on Memorial Day weekend in the American League East.
The flighted ones had a day off on Thursday, and on Friday, they faced the lowly Kansas City Royals. When all was said and done, the Orioles – thanks to a combination of great, the longball, and taking of advantage of mistakes – defeated the Royals, 8-2, to take the first contest of a three-game set.
They are now 29-17 and lead the division by a game over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Jason Hammel – who had been ailing with a bad knee over the past few weeks – was stellar, going six shutout innings, gave up five hits and struck out seven. He ran up his pitch count to over 100 by the time he was done, and could not go much deeper. Hammel did allow a good number of Royals to reach base; however, he was able to the strikeout, and his defense – a leaping catch by J.J. Hardy was golden in the fifth inning – to quash a rally.
The Orioles only real mistake came in the eighth inning, as Stu Pomeranz – who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk – allowed a two-run homer to Jeff Francoeur.
Baltimore’s offense came alive as Chris Davis had a strong game, driving in three and hitting a monster two-run homer in the seventh inning - his 7th of the season. Nick Markakis has three hits – two doubles; Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy each drove in two and Robert Andino scored twice.
They had a five run fifth inning aided by two huge failed pickoffs by the Royals – almost inexplicable – that allowed Xavier Avery and Robert Andino to steal second, back-to-back. Both men would score, and Hardy, Markakis, Jones and Davis all plated runs.
Bruce Chen – a former Oriole – last decade took the loss for the Royals on the mound. He lasted a little more than four innings and was charged with six runs.
Finally, the Orioles and their fans made a little history on Friday. They had the largest walk-up crowd in the history of Camden Yards, selling over 11,000 tickets after 5 p.m.
Obviously a combination of a winning team, great weather, student night, great buzz, and a fireworks show after the game got people out. It was nice to see the park gradually fill as the night went along, and the crowd was incredibly lively and vocal.
Finally, the news of the day aside from the Orioles' win was the talk of an Adam Jones contract extension. It is not official yet, but the crowd at Camden Yards showed their love to Adam Jones in his first at-bat, as many gave him a loud cheer, and some gave him a standing ovation. Very nice.