Left fielder Felix Pie (18) and his Orioles teammates celebrate… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
For six of the seven innings in which he pitched Wednesday night, Kansas City Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar was nearly unhittable.
In the other inning, Hochevar was unwatchable, as the Orioles pounded out eight runs in the fourth to batter the Royals, 9-2, in an incredibly odd win, their season-high-tying fourth straight victory.
The Orioles sent 13 batters to the plate in an eight-run fourth, their highest output in one frame since June 26, 2009, against the Washington Nationals, when they also plated eight runs in one inning.
"There was a lot of excitement, a lot of piles of energy; we were all puling for each other," said Orioles first baseman Luke Scott, who had a run-scoring double in the fourth. "It's like a feeding frenzy of sharks. One hits the bait, and the next thing you know, pieces start flying. You see what sharks do: They just feed off making a frenzy. It's a lot of positive energy. It was fun."
The Orioles (23-24) tallied six hits and three walks in the fourth and received a standing ovation from the announced 15,740 at Camden Yards when the offensive stampede finally subsided. The Orioles managed just two other base runners in six additional innings against Hochevar but added a solo homer by Mark Reynolds against reliever Robinson Tejeda in the eighth.
"There were a lot of good at-bats from people all through the order in that inning, and [we] didn't give in to, 'OK, that's enough,'" Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "They didn't have emotional at-bats. They knew the guy was struggling a little bit with his command. Hopefully, it bodes well for us when we get all our bullets."
How unaccustomed are the 2011 Orioles to such a flurry of runs?
Consider that their previous high this season for runs in an inning was five, on April 7 against the Detroit Tigers. Consider that the Orioles previously had scored eight runs or more in a game just five times this season. And that they had scored just 18 runs all year in the fourth inning -- a span of 46 games.
"It was about damn time," said Adam Jones, who had a leadoff double and a two-run single in the fourth. "It was about time when we get one of those instances where you bat twice in an inning."
The Orioles' biggest offensive breakout occurred with Brian Roberts (concussion) and Derrek Lee (left oblique strain) on the disabled list, and it came against Hochevar, the former No. 1 overall pick in 2006 who had held the mighty Texas Rangers to just one run in 8 2/3 innings in his last outing.
"Everywhere I wanted to throw the baseball, I didn't throw it there. There's no excuse for it. I'm a lot better than that. That was just really bad," said Hochevar (3-5). "I don't think I've ever had a game where I had that terrible of an inning. I don't know what to tell you. That was just really bad."
Hochevar was charged with eight runs (seven earned) in the fourth but, to save his bullpen, remained in the game and retired nine straight after his own personal disaster.
"I didn't want to have to go to the 'pen in the fourth inning," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I knew if he could get through it, he would probably settle down and be OK. That's exactly what happened, but too much damage was done."
It all started so meekly.
Jones led off with a double off the out-of-town scoreboard in right, his 10th two-base hit of the season. He moved to third on Nick Markakis' single and scored when Vladimir Guerrero hit a dribbler down the third base line. Wilson Betemit's only play was at first, allowing Guerrero to pick up his 20th RBI of the season.
After Matt Wieters walked, Scott doubled into the right-field corner to drive in Markakis with the second run. Wieters scored on a wild pitch, Reynolds walked and J.J. Hardy added a RBI single.
No. 9 Ryan Adams drew a four-pitch walk and Felix Pie smacked a RBI single before Jones' two-run base hit, which gave him a team-high 28 RBIs. Jones is batting .390 with nine extra-base hits in his past 14 games. He has 14 RBIs since May 2.
"He's a very smart hitter, a very dangerous hitter. He's looking for pitches, kind of like a hunter would," Scott said. "I know when I'm swinging the bat well, I tend to start zeroing in on a certain pitch and location. That's what I see him doing."
The Orioles picked up their final run when Guerrero hit a grounder to short and Alcides Escobar unleashed a wild throw, allowing Pie to score and put the Royals (22-26) into an eight-run hole.
The barrage made life comfortable for Orioles starter Jake Arrieta (6-2), who allowed five hits and two runs -- on Melky Cabrera's homer in the fifth -- in six innings. He struck out seven and walked three while struggling with his command most of the night. He threw 106 pitches (66 for strikes), including 46 in the first two innings.