Orioles manager Buck Showalter was more than happy to play the role of decoy following the Orioles' 6-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday afternoon, content to buy time during his postgame interview session as his players celebrated outfielder Hyun Soo Kim's first career major league home run inside the visiting clubhouse of Progressive Field.
Kim's solo homer off Indians reliever Jeff Manship broke a tied game in the seventh inning was the winning run in the Orioles' series-clinching victory over Cleveland in front of an announced 18,565. The team recovered Kim's home run ball from the right-field stands, and shortly after the game, the dugout lineup card was being authenticated for him.
Kim – the South Korean import who has worked his way into the Orioles' starting lineup after a woeful spring training – had hit 142 homers over the past decade playing in the Korean Baseball Organization, including a career-high 28 homers last season.
"I think his teammates are happier than he is," Showalter said. "He's hit a home run before. They're doing some things up there right now. I'm trying to stall you all. But that was fun. And to be a W, one that kind of helped decide the game, it was pretty cool to watch. He collided with one and ran into it and ran like he'd never hit one before. But that was cool. We got the ball. Bribed somebody in the outfield. I'm sure we paid dearly for it. I've got it on my desk. I hope it's still there."
After going 1-for-3 on Sunday, Kim is 7-for-18 in his five straight starts. He is hitting .383 on the season, despite his homer being just his third extra-base hit.
"I can't lie that I wasn't looking for [a home run], but I was mainly focused on making a good hit with good contact and hit the ball as hard as possible," Kim said through interpreter Danny Lee. "That was my main focus. …I was really excited to have my first home run to make a contribution to the team win. That was the main thing that made me happy. I would have been still been happy if the home run came in the situation that doesn't decide the win or loss, but because it actually helped the team to win, it really made me happy."
Despite having a losing record (4-5) on their three-city roadtrip, the Orioles rebounded from their three-game sweep in Houston, taking two of three in Cleveland to return home with series wins over the Angels and Indians on the trip.
The power behind Kim's swings has improved steadily since spring training, and his home run Sunday was unquestionably his hardest-hit ball this season. Kim turned on a 2-2 letter-high fastball from Manship and sent it deep into the right-field seats.
When Kim returned to the dugout, he received the silent treatment from his teammates before players suddenly mobbed him with high fives and sunflower seeds.
"I've seen a reaction like that in Korea, so I was aware of it, so I thought maybe I should just step back until they react," Kim said.
"I hate that, OK?" Showalter said jokingly. "I'm sitting there and he comes by me. First of all, we know he's a sharp guy. He had it figured out about halfway to home, I think. He handled it well. Even the interpreter did. He might not have a job tomorrow because he hires him, basically. That was pretty good."
Tillman wins despite homers: Despite falling victim to the home run ball, right-hander Chris Tillman won his sixth straight decision Sunday.
Tillman allowed three homers, as many as he yielded in his 10 previous starts this season, but still earned the win after the Orioles took the lead in the seventh on Kim's homer. Tillman's seven-game streak of quality starts was snapped as he allowed four runs – all of those runs scored on home runs – over six innings.
"You're walking through landmines there the whole game and you knew they were going to make a run at you because they're just too good an offensive team," Showalter said.
Tillman didn't allow a hit through his first three innings of work, facing the minimum number of hitters over that span. He was staked to a 4-0 lead before allowing a solo homer to Carlos Santana on the first pitch of the fourth inning.
After issuing a one-out walk to shortstop Francisco Lindor, Tillman hung a 0-2 curveball to Mike Napoli that Napoli hit into the left-field bleachers. Second baseman Jason Kipnis added a leadoff solo homer in the sixth that tied the game.
"I would have liked to get a little deeper there," Tillman said. "That's a good hitting ballclub. They made some adjustments and they put a lot of good swings on some pitches. [Hitters] one through nine, it's a pretty solid team. I would like to get deeper, but it is what it is. Sometimes, they don't cooperate."
Britton seals 14th save: Closer Zach Britton had to work his way out of trouble in the ninth, creating his own jam after allowing back-to-back singles to open the inning, bringing the potential winning run to the plate in three consecutive at bats.
Following singles by bottom-of-the-order hitters Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis, Britton induced a potential double-play ball from Carlos Santana. But third baseman Ryan Flaherty couldn't tag Byrd going from second to third, delaying his throw to second.
Schoop got the force out at second and appeared to have gunned down the runner at first base, as well. The play was initially ruled a 5-4-3 double play, but Santana was ruled safe at first after video review.