Having spent their entire careers in cavernous Kauffman Stadium and the spacious ballparks of the American League Central, longtime Kansas City Royals players Alex Gordon and Billy Butler always have welcomed trips to the comparatively cozy Camden Yards.
"It's a great park to hit in," Butler said. "[Gordon] had a great night. I helped out, and we were just happy to do it for the team. This is a park you can put up runs, that's just how it is."
Entering the series, the two longest-tenured Royals had enjoyed coming to Baltimore to play the Orioles, who were often as beleaguered as they were. Butler entered Friday as a career .318 hitter with six home runs and 17 RBIs in 26 career games at Camden Yards, while Gordon was batting .294 with eight home runs in the same number of games.
Both swung with confidence Friday, when the pair combined for five hits and five RBIs in the Royals' 8-6 win.
Gordon, the left fielder, opened the 10th inning with a home run off reliever Darren O'Day that gave the Royals a 6-5 lead and cast a pall over the stadium, which only deepened when third baseman Mike Moustakas went deep later that inning.
Butler had the Royals' second hit of the day, a 1-0 single to left field to lead off the second inning, but he was stranded when starter Chris Tillman retired the next three batters, including a perfectly placed fastball on the outside edge to strike Gordon out looking.
When Tillman next faced the longtime Royals duo, they did the kind of damage to which they have become accustomed against the Orioles.
Tillman already had given up a one-out home run to Alcides Escobar, a single to Nori Aoki and walked Lorenzo Cain before Butler connected on a 1-1 pitch. He legged out an infield single after first baseman Steve Pearce bobbled shortstop J.J. Hardy's throw, loading the bases for Gordon.
In the next at-bat, Tillman threw Gordon a 93-mph four-seam fastball in on the hands. The barrel of his bat soared into a photographers' well as the ball floated into the outfield and landed just inside the right-field foul line. All three Royals on base scored to stake Kansas City to a 4-0 lead. Butler, running on contact, scored from first.
Butler drove in the Royals' fifth run an inning later on a sacrifice fly to deep right-center field, and Gordon attempted to start a two-out rally with a single to center field before reliever Tommy Hunter picked him off at first base to end the fifth.
Up until the final inning of the game, the only time neither player had a hit in a turn through the Royals order was in the seventh and eighth innings. Orioles reliever Andrew Miller stole a called third strike with an inside breaking ball to end the seventh, then lost a 1-1 fastball that glanced off Gordon's shoulder and thumped off his ear to lead off the eighth.
Butler, who has twice led the league in double plays and grounded into 21 in the regular season this year, did just that against O'Day to end a bases-loaded threat in the ninth, but revenge was sweet for Gordon in the 10th.
Before the series began, Butler dismissed both his and his teammate's success as "all in the past." Much of that production came in lean years for both franchises, and playoff baseball is nothing like two cellar-dwellers playing a midweek series in June.
Royals manager Ned Yost sees more production at Camden Yards for both his veteran stars and young talents alike.
"You put our club in this ballpark, we would have hit a lot more home runs than we ended up hitting," Yost said. "It showed tonight."