KANSAS CITY, MO. — KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Only the Orioles, it seems, could have this many plot lines develop during a simple getaway game against the worst team in the American League.
Only the Orioles could see not one, but two of the guys who are competing for the starting second base job get hurt in a span of two innings.
Only they could have that overshadow the mood yesterday afternoon as Karim Garcia, their latest trade acquisition, smashed two home runs and the team matched its franchise record for extra-base hits in a single game with 11.
And, by the way, Rookie of the Year candidate Daniel Cabrera pitched five innings in sweltering, 92-degree heat to claim another victory, as the Orioles defeated the Kansas City Royals, 12-3, at Kauff- man Stadium.
After sweeping two games from the Royals to improve their record after the All-Star break to 4-2, the Orioles kept a grip on their excitement while they awaited word on the injuries.
When the news came, it was good. Jerry Hairston was diagnosed with a bruised rib cage muscle after crashing into the right-field wall to make a spectacular third-inning catch. And the X-rays on Brian Roberts' right pinkie showed no broken bones after he took a vicious hop off his bare hand in the fourth inning.
"It's amazing they both got hurt on the same day," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. "Let's hope it's a real temporary thing, and they're both ready to play [tonight]."
For a while, it looked like the Orioles' ongoing second base controversy had been solved. Spending another game in right field while Roberts patrolled second, Hairston crashed face-first into the wall to rob Mike Sweeney of extra bases to start the third inning.
It was Hairston's third acrobatic catch in right field on this road trip, but this time, he lay on the ground, writhing in pain. When he hit the wall, his right arm was extended above his head, so the underarm took the impact, and that's how he got the bruise.
Orioles trainer Richie Bancells said Hairston's availability for tonight's game in Boston will depend on how stiff his rib cage feels overnight.
Before the seriousness of Hairston's injury was ascertained, the Orioles watched Roberts leave the game in obvious pain. Roberts, who has started 80 of the team's 91 games at second base, took a hard smash from Angel Berroa off his right hand.
After stopping the ball, Roberts picked it up and made an errant throw to first. Originally scored as an error, the play was later changed to a hit. With his options suddenly limited, Mazzilli turned to Luis Lopez to replace Roberts at second base.
"We don't want to lose any players [to injury]," said Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, whose two-run, first-inning homer gave the team a lead it never relinquished. "I don't know how those guys are doing right now. But I think it's nice to get a couple wins here so we can go to Boston, playing the way we can."
Originally, this game was billed as a battle between two of the AL's most promising rookie pitchers - Cabrera, 23, and the Royals' Zack Greinke, 20.
But the Orioles pounded Greinke (2-7) for eight runs and chased him by the third inning. Tejada, Larry Bigbie, Robert Machado and Garcia all tagged the right-hander for home runs.
Cabrera (8-3) didn't exactly have it easy. Staked to a quick two-run lead, he still required 30 pitches to escape the first inning.
The Royals trimmed the score to 2-1 before the Orioles pulled away with three runs in the second and three more in the third.
Garcia, who went hitless in 16 at-bats with the Orioles in 2000, had a splendid return. His two-run homer off Greinke in the third inning stretched the lead to 8-1. And he added a three-run shot off Dennys Reyes in the sixth.
"It feels great," Garcia said. "I was just trying to put the ball in play, and I was fortunate to hit a couple of home runs and help the team."
Cabrera allowed three runs, two earned, on eight hits in five innings, and with his pitch count at 98 in the blistering sun, Mazzilli turned to Eddy Rodriguez to start the sixth.
The Orioles have won 10 of Cabrera's 14 starts this season, including seven in a row. He hasn't taken a loss since June 15 at Los Angeles. But after making it look easy before the All-Star break, Cabrera has had to labor through his past two victories, including Thursday's six-inning, three-run performance at Tampa Bay.
"That's good," Cabrera said. "The last two games I won, and I didn't have all my same stuff."