KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The baseball gods were good to Orioles manager Phil Regan last night. They must've seen the Orioles' pitiful hitting in Minnesota and decided to give the poor man a break.
What gifts the baseball gods bestowed in the Orioles' 10-6 victory over Kansas City last night, in the middle of a team-wide hitting slump. Four RBIs from catcher Greg Zaun, who doubled his career RBI total. A grand slam by second baseman Bret Barberie, who more than doubled his season RBI total. Six improbable runs in a fourth-inning rally that began with two outs and nobody on base.
"It's just what we needed," Regan said. "They both picked us up tonight, just when we needed it."
The victory prevented the Orioles from falling farther behind the Boston Red Sox, in this critical two-week stretch during which Regan must manage without Chris Hoiles or Jeffrey Hammonds.
The Orioles racked up 15 hits in the three games before last night. So when the Kansas City Royals built a 3-0 lead in the first three innings against Jamie Moyer, Ewing Kauffman Stadium must've felt like Death Valley to the Orioles.
The Orioles had one hit in the first three innings, a two-out single by Cal Ripken in the first inning, and this against Royals starter Melvin Bunch, who had won just one game in the minors before being called up last week.
Ripken lined out to start the fourth, and Harold Baines popped out. Meanwhile, the Red Sox were scoring in double digits against the Twins. Regan wore a grim expression in the dugout.
Orioles right fielder Kevin Bass walked, and Leo Gomez, hitting .208, smashed a single off the glove of third baseman Gary Gaetti. This brought catcher Zaun to the plate.
Before the game, Regan had spoken of how the Orioles are struggling for offense from the bottom of their lineup. "Zaun is catching well," he said, stating the obvious, "but it doesn't appear as if he's going to be an offensive threat like Hoiles."
A nice way of saying that Zaun isn't one to hit three-run homers, which is exactly what the Orioles needed in this game as the offense was looking for a jump-start.
With Zaun at bat, Bunch threw a wild pitch, and both runners advanced. On Thursday, Regan had pinch-hit for Zaun, and afterward, he told his manager flatly, "I can hit."
Yes. Zaun reached out and pulled a looping line drive toward second baseman Chris Stynes, who leaped and stretched and reached but couldn't reach the ball. Both runners scored on Zaun's single.
Curtis Goodwin, slumping of late, singled to right, and then Brady Anderson walked, loading the bases. Royals pitching coach Bruce Kison strolled out to talk to Bunch, and with Barberie coming to bat and Rafael Palmeiro on deck, you wouldn't have blamed Kison if he had said something along these lines: Throw Barberie a strike, because you don't want to have a hot power hitter like Palmeiro coming to bat.
Bunch was frazzled, by this time, and he threw two pitches very high and out of the strike zone to Barberie. In Minnesota on Thursday, the Orioles continually helped wild Twins starter Frankie Rodriguez by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, chasing pitches when they were ahead on the count.
Barberie made that mistake against Bunch; the rookie had just walked Anderson and thrown the first two pitches nowhere near the strike zone, and Barberie swung at the 2-0 pitch -- and fouled it off.
Barberie stepped out of the box, gathered himself. "With two outs," he said, "I was looking to drive a ball in that situation."
Hitting from the left side of the plate, Barberie lifted a high, deep fly, which has become something of a trademark for him this year. Big difference on this one, though: This one landed over the right field wall, barely, Barberie's first homer since July 10, 1994.
"I was blowing at it as it was up there," Barberie said.
Orioles 6, Royals 3, courtesy of Zaun and Barberie.
The Royals scored two more runs against Moyer and reliever Mike Oquist in the bottom of the fourth. But then Zaun and Barberie answered.
Zaun singled home Bass in the fifth inning, restoring the Orioles' lead back to two runs. Anderson singled to open the sixth inning, and when his hit was misplayed by right fielder Joe Nunnally, Anderson hustled to third. Barberie lifted a fly ball to right, and Anderson scored, the fifth RBI for Barberie, the most by an Oriole since Palmeiro drove in five against New York last Aug. 10.
Going into the game, Barberie had a total of four RBIs.
The Orioles added two runs in the ninth, Zaun singling home the first run, his fourth RBI. Goodwin hit a sacrifice fly, the first Oriole run that wasn't driven home by Barberie or Zaun.
Regan turned out to be right, noting that Zaun apparently isn't an offensive threat like Hoiles. Zaun now has one four-RBI game this season, Hoiles none.
Somebody read Regan's pre-game quote about Zaun back to him. Zaun is catching well, but it doesn't appear as if he's going to be an offensive threat like Hoiles.
"I said that?" Regan said.
"I take it back."
Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Site: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Kevin Brown (5-6, 3.87) vs. Royals' Mark Gubicza (7-7, 3.82)