There were plenty of the reasons for the Orioles to feel good about their 6-5, 12-inning victory over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday as they headed for a six-game West Coast road trip to Oakland and Seattle.
It was their third series sweep of the season and their fifth straight win overall, a season high. It pushed them to a 24-24 record, the first time the Orioles have been at .500 since May 1.
And it came in dramatic, comeback fashion -- the second time in three games in which they have beaten the Royals in their final at-bat. This one ended when Vladimir Guerrero singled home Robert Andino against Royals reliever Louis Coleman (0-2) on a muggy afternoon at Camden Yards before an announced 22,270.
But the real feel-good comeback story -- or at least the first chapter of it -- was penned Thursday by the once-can't-miss left fielder who missed terribly in 2010 and was stuck in neutral in the minors until last week.
Thursday's victory was, in essence, the work of 27-year-old Nolan Reimold, who was recalled from the minors Friday and had the game of his young career against the Royals.
Making just his third start this season, Reimold had four hits, four RBIs, two runs and a walk in five plate appearances. He hit a solo homer in the second inning against Kansas City starter Jeff Francis, a three-run shot in the third and a double in the 11th that might have been the game-winner had it not bounced over the wall, stopping Mark Reynolds at third base.
"I'm happy for him. He made the most of his opportunities," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Reimold. "I pride myself on listening to people who have seen guys more, and they kept telling me that Nolan wasn't physically right all last year and some other challenges that he had. In the last two weeks, he's really done well, and hats off to the people who have had him. The evaluators told us where he was. They really thought he was clicking."
Reimold was a bit of a surprise call-up considering he had hit .237 with six homers in 139 at-bats at Triple-A Norfolk, though he was 6-for-16 with two homers in the four games before his promotion.
"Down there, I just hadn't really gotten hot yet," said Reimold, who set personal big league highs Thursday with the two homers and four RBIs. "So it was bound to come soon. I was feeling pretty good, so I got called up, happy to be here, and it carried over."
Reimold was supposed to be the club's left fielder of the future after hitting 15 homers and compiling a .365 on-base percentage in 104 games in 2009 before an Achilles injury ended that season. He couldn't bounce back from the injury and personal issues in 2010, batting .207 before being demoted to Norfolk. He was nearly traded this December, but the Orioles held on to him.
This week -- with six hits and 16 total bases in 11 at-bats -- Reimold has flashed the talent that Orioles players and fans remember from 2009.
"I think this year we've seen him in a good spot," Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie said. "He's very confident, and he's going to continue to contribute for us. So that's a good thing for the Orioles, having Nolan swinging the bat the way he is and playing great defense, too."
Reimold almost single-handedly rescued Guthrie, who turned in an uneven outing in which he surrendered five runs (four earned) on nine hits. He struck out four, walked none and had just one bad inning, the second, in which he threw 41 pitches and gave up four runs on five hits.
The inning was prolonged by a catcher's-interference call on Craig Tatum, who was making his season debut, and perhaps by Reimold, who threw to the wrong base on an earlier single to left. Guthrie eventually got out of the jam, triggering a run of 14 of 18 batters retired. He gave up just one more run after the second on consecutive doubles to Chris Getz and Alex Gordon in the fourth to wipe out the Orioles' brief lead.
"My goal at the start of the game was to get deeper than seven [innings], so the circumstances changed," Guthrie said. "It would have made it tough to get beyond that, but I would have loved to have been able to keep it at 5-4 and see if we could keep the momentum on our side. It didn't work out that way."
Guthrie threw 106 pitches (74 strikes) in the seven innings, garnering praise from Showalter for going deep into the steamy day after such a high pitch count early on.
"To think that he was going to give us that many innings," Showalter said. "I went down to him after the next-to-last inning and asked him how he was doing, and he said: 'I'm fine. Let's go.' And I think it's also a tribute to how well-conditioned an athlete he is. He's as good-conditioned as we have, and you like him in those situations."