KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Honestly, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli would prefer his team found a different formula for success. He doesn't enjoy watching the Orioles fall behind early. He'd rather avoid sending pitching coach Ray Miller to the mound in the second inning to comfort a starting pitcher that has seemingly lost his way.
But it's hard for Mazzilli to grouse too much, not as the Orioles continue to turn sizable deficits into comfortable leads, apparent losses into routine wins. Last night's deficit was three runs, essentially overcome by a couple of swings from Melvin Mora.
The third baseman homered twice, including a three-run shot, and David Newhan also hit a home run, helping Bruce Chen and the Orioles defeat the Royals, 7-4, in front of 10,375 at Kauffman Stadium.
"It doesn't matter how many runs they score," said Mora, who now has nine home runs and 24 RBIs. "We know we are going to score runs. I think we are going to score more runs than anybody in the big leagues.
"We know we are going to lose some games, but right now, this is our time."
Their fourth straight win, 15th in come-from-behind fashion, coupled by a Boston Red Sox loss earlier in the day against the Oakland Athletics, gives the Orioles a 3 1/2 -game lead in the American League East. The Orioles (26-13), now 13-4 on the road this season, haven't been 13 games over.500 since the end of the 1997 season. They'll attempt the series sweep of the Royals (11-29) this afternoon behind Rodrigo Lopez.
"You'd like to get a big lead too, but you just have to battle," said Mazzilli, whose team won, 12-8, in the series opener on Tuesday after being down 8-2 at one point. "You have to fight to get back in the game, and they did that tonight. We have guys one through nine that can take you out of the park."
All seven of the Orioles' runs last night came with two-out hits, highlighted by Mora's three-run, third-inning shot off Kansas City starter D.J. Carrasco (0-1). That homer, which traveled 392 feet to left-center, tied the game at 3 and stabilized Chen.
Mora's second homer - he now has two multi-homer games this season and five for his career - was a bases-empty shot in the sixth inning, which followed Newhan's two-run homer.
Before the Orioles arrived here, Royals pitching had given up just nine home runs in 18 games at Kauffman Stadium. The Orioles have seven the past two nights. After collecting 15 hits on Tuesday, the Orioles had 14 last night, including three by Jay Gibbons. Rafael Palmeiro, Tuesday night's hero, had two hits and reached base four times and has now reached in nine of his past 11 at-bats.
And as Mora pointed out, the Royals are "lucky because Miguel Tejada hasn't even gotten hot yet." The Orioles shortstop is 2-for-8 with no RBIs in the series.
"On this team, you are going to get your chances because there are guys on base all day," said Newhan, whose homer off reliever Andrew Sisco gave the Orioles a 6-3 lead and was his second of the season and second in three days. "Pitchers just don't get a chance to take a deep breath."
Much like he did last Thursday against Chicago, Chen struggled early, giving up three runs in the second inning, before retiring 10 of the next 13 Royals to get into the seventh. Chen left with two outs in that inning after giving up an RBI single to Tony Graffanino, who cut the Orioles' lead to 7-4. Chen allowed seven hits, four earned runs and struck out a season-high eight.
After Chen departed, Todd Williams got the last out in the seventh the hard way. Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney hit a hard liner off Williams' right biceps, but the ball caromed to Palmeiro, who tagged first for the last out. Williams appeared shaken as he headed to the Orioles' dugout.
He said later that he was just a little sore and was "relieved" to have just gotten the out. Mazzilli said he is day-to-day, as is B.J. Surhoff, who was pinch-hit for in the ninth after his back tightened up.
Steve Kline pitched a scoreless eighth and B.J. Ryan, who was appearing in his fourth straight game, came on in the ninth for his 12th save. Chen improved to 5-2 and now has a 3.63 ERA.
When Chen walked off the mound after giving up three runs in the second, Mora and Tejada met him in the dugout and said, "Just keep them right there and we are going to win this game," Chen recalled.
The next half inning, Mora hit the three-run home run to tie the game. Javy Lopez then put the Orioles up 4-3 with a double that scored Palmeiro in the fifth.
"These guys are unbelievable," Chen said. "When I gave up three runs, they got three right back. They did their job and I felt like I had to do mine."
Mora celebrated his home run by tapping his chest and then his lips - the gesture that Sammy Sosa has made famous after many of his home runs. The Orioles are now 8-4 without Sosa, who is on the disabled list because of a staph infection on the bottom of his left foot.
"I just wanted him to know that we are thinking about him," Mora said. "He is with us."