KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After Greg Zaun was removed for a pinch hitter last Thursday in Minnesota, veteran teammate Harold Baines told the Orioles rookie catcher that the one way to keep that from happening was to start hitting.
Zaun apparently took his advice to heart. He had seven hits in three games since, including a critical two-run double that helped to propel the Orioles to a 6-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals last night.
Right-hander Mike Mussina pitched eight strong innings to pick up his 11th victory, tying him with Kevin Appier for most victories in the American League. Mussina struck out six, walked none and allowed six hits.
The Orioles have been hurting for offense since catcher Chris Hoiles went on the disabled list a week ago, but in the three-game series against the Royals, Hoiles' replacement was blameless.
Zaun walked to lead off the third inning, when the Orioles took a 2-0 lead. Curtis Goodwin struck out, after failing to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but Royals starter Tom Gordon walked Brady Anderson, Zaun moving to second base.
Bret Barberie flied to left, but Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro slammed a line drive between left fielder Vince Coleman and center fielder Tom Goodwin, the ball hitting the wall. By the time Coleman relayed the ball back into the infield, Zaun and Anderson, running hard with two outs, had both scored easily.
The Orioles added to their lead in the fourth inning. Baines scorched a single to right, and Kevin Bass walked. Leo Gomez singled to left, Baines stopping at third. Zaun walked to the plate, with the bases loaded.
On Friday night, Zaun drove in four runs with three singles. On Saturday, he hit a bases-empty homer, a single and a double. In two days, Zaun had six hits in eight at-bats, with two runs scored and five RBIs.
And more: Zaun, batting left-handed, rammed a liner into right. Because the outfield was shifted toward left, right fielder Jon Nunnally had to run a long way to reach the bouncing ball, and by the time he did relay the ball back into the infield, Zaun was on second and two runs had scored.
Goodwin grounded out, hitting a bouncer right back to Gordon, but the Royals right-hander was on the ropes; left-hander Mike Magnante was warming in the bullpen.
Royals manager Bob Boone ordered an intentional walk of left-handed-hitting Anderson, hoping that the next hitter -- Barberie -- might hit into a double play and cut off the rally.
But Gordon ruined that strategy by falling behind Barberie 3-0 and eventually walking him, to force in a run. Boone stalked out of the dugout to remove Gordon, who had walked five hitters in just 3 1/3 innings.
Gordon, who had beaten the Orioles in the recent series in Baltimore, is 0-4 against them at Kauffman Stadium -- the only team he's never beaten there.
The inning ended when Royals third baseman Keith Lockhart made a diving stop of Palmeiro's hard smash down the line, then got to his knees to start a 5-4-3 double play, but the Orioles led 5-0 with Mussina on the mound.
The Royals made up a little ground in the bottom of the fourth inning. Lockhart, who had spent almost all of his decade-long career in the minor leagues before this year and now often hits third for Kansas City, hammered a long drive to right. The ball carried over the head of right fielder Bass, bouncing on the warning track and into the bullpen.
Wally Joyner grounded out to first, advancing Lockhart to third, and then Bob Hamelin mashed a hard grounder up the middle. Barberie dove to his right to spear the ball, and got up to throw out Hamelin, but Lockhart scored on the play.
The Orioles scored a sixth run in the top of the sixth inning, Baines hitting a 2-2 pitch from Magnante over the right-field wall. It was Baines' second homer in two days, and his 13th of the year.
The Royals got another run in the seventh against Mussina, after there were two outs. Greg Gagne doubled and David Howard singled, scoring Gagne, and Mussina, who finished the night with 121 pitches, seemed to be tiring. The Orioles' bullpen started warming.
But catcher Brent Mayne grounded out to end the inning, and Mussina retired Kansas City in order in the bottom of the eighth, before giving way to Jesse Orosco, who pitched a hitless ninth.