Nothing comes easily for these Orioles. But at least a win came Wednesday night.
Staked to a lead by Mark Trumbo's thunderous two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning, Brad Brach and the error-prone Orioles infield brought the winning run to the plate before sneaking out a 5-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
It ended a seven-game losing streak for the Orioles (9-27), who have spent the entire season waiting for someone — anyone — to deliver what has been expected of them this year.
Andrew Cashner gave the six steady innings he was brought here for. Chris Davis, the slugger who at some point stopped slugging, hit a three-run home run to left field to dig them out of a 2-0 hole. And Mark Trumbo, who last season lost his late-inning clutch touch, drove in the winning runs with a scalded single in the eighth inning.
"It was a nice indication of when we're going right," Trumbo said. "I thought Chris had a really timely home run there. That was a nice spark for us. Cash threw the ball really well, and then a little late-inning rally. Nice win."
At the worst, it's a nice win in a season in which they're scarce. But when they come this sporadically, the Orioles can be excused for taking it to mean something more.
"We think that every day — today's going to be the beginning of something special," manager Buck Showalter said.
The Orioles went almost an entire game without an error, and the one they had didn't cost them. Dominant left-hander Richard Bleier faced the minimum in two shutout relief innings, and Brad Brach pitched a scoreless ninth, and for the first time in over a week, the Orioles were left with nothing to rue after 27 outs.
That's as good a first step toward digging out of the Orioles' nightmare start as any. Everything leading up to the ninth inning indicated they'd done just that before the announced 14,375 at Camden Yards, at least until the tense ninth.
Starting out with a 1-2-3 inning, and not one that included 10 runs against as Tuesday night's game featured, likely helped with that. Cashner and left-hander Eric Skoglund matched zeros for the first three innings before Kansas City got its first hit — a single by Salvador Pérez — then pulled ahead on a home run by Lucas Duda two pitches later in the fourth inning.
Davis didn't let that deficit stick. Adam Jones led off the home fourth with a single and was at third base after a single by Jonathan Schoop when Davis scored both with his fourth home run of the season — and third off a lefty — to pull the Orioles ahead.
Then, all of Cashner's greatest bugaboos this season coalesced in the sixth inning, which turned a would-be win into a no-decision. First is the fact that Cashner allows the leadoff man in an inning to reach base at a .436 clip. Second is how opponents are hitting a combined .241 in their first two times facing him, and that number jumps to .325 a third time and beyond.
So when Jorge Soler doubled to open the sixth inning, the alarm bells for each started to sound. Cashner got a strikeout and a pop fly to put him one batter away from a trip back into the dugout, but Duda scooped a single to left field to score Soler, and then Whit Merrifield doubled to right field to put two in scoring position. The Royals had three hits their first two times through the lineup, and matched it in the sixth inning alone. But Cashner kept both that count and the score tied after an intentional walk to load the bases set him up to get Alcides Escobar to ground out.
He took a no-decision because of it, ceding the seventh inning to Bleier and ending his day having allowed three runs on six hits in six innings with a pair of walks and three strikeouts.
The winning rally materialized quickly. With two outs in the eighth, Manny Machado hit an infield single that he beat out by a half-step. Schoop doubled to left field on the next pitch, and Trumbo, who at his best has a knack for the big moment but saw that elude him last year, hit a 107-mph single past the head of reliever Kevin McCarthy to score the deciding runs.
A four-pitch walk for Brach, followed by a dropped-catch error by Schoop at second base on a possible double-play ball, made for a tense ninth. Brach struck out the final two batters he faced to leave two in scoring position for his fourth save of the season.
“I think for us right now, it's just win each day,” Cashner said. “It's just all we can do right now, and hopefully, that'll lead into some things. A big swing today by Chris. A big swing by Mark, and I think that, you know, the timely hitting is starting to come. We've just got to keep pitching and let the timely hitting work.”