The ball was flying out of Camden Yards again on Wednesday night and — this time — it was the Orioles who were providing most of the meteor shower.
They hit four homers and trounced the Kansas City Royals, 8-1, before an announced crowd of 9,872 to win their first series since taking three of four from the Los Angeles Angels on the road in late July.
Of course, there had to be a flip side during this evening of offensive largess. The Royals only hit one home run, but it was that fourth-inning solo shot by second baseman Whit Merrifield that gave the O’s a share of the dubious major league record for home runs allowed in a season.
No. 258 was given up by right-handed starter Aaron Brooks who, ironically enough, was in the process of delivering his best start since joining the Orioles rotation. Brooks went on to record his first victory since beating the Orioles as a member of the Oakland A’s on April 11.
He said afterward that he wasn’t even aware that the Orioles were approaching the record, which they will temporarily share with the 2016 Cincinnati Reds.
"I had no idea,'' Brooks said. “Obviously, I’m kind of new here, so stuff like that I don’t really know. I think as competitors we go out there and try not to think about that type of thing and try to make good pitches.”
He did just that, pitching five innings and allowing just that one run on seven hits, but left with the game still very much in doubt.
Manager Brandon Hyde enjoyed every minute of it after watching Brooks struggle to a 9.22 ERA in his seven previous starts for the Orioles.
"It was nice, yeah,'' Hyde said. “I thought he battled, too. We scored three there in the bottom of the second, give up that one in the third. But for me, when he gets into trouble is when he starts overthrowing his pitches. Tonight, I thought he was really composed and not overcooking his slider. He threw some really good ones and pitched for five innings and did a great job.”
The Orioles had taken the lead with that three-run second-inning rally which featured a two-run homer by Jonathan Villar, but they didn’t really break out until Brooks had completed the top half of the fifth.
With one out in the bottom of that inning, Anthony Santander and Renato Núñez hit back-to-back home runs off Royals left-hander Mike Montgomery to give the O’s a 5-1 lead. Hanser Alberto delivered the finishing touch to a rare blowout with a three-run homer off left-hander Tim Hill in the sixth.
It was Alberto’s ninth home run of the year and his second three-run Earl Weaver special in as many nights. His big fly on Tuesday night carried rookie Hunter Harvey to his first major league victory. This one extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games.
He ranks fourth in the American League in batting and the only question remaining is this: Will he ever stop hitting?
"I hope not,'' Hyde said. “Hanser, obviously, it’s well-documented, he’s really taking advantage of his opportunity to play and gotten huge hits for us; got some sneaky power that I don’t think anybody knew he had, and is just playing baseball. Obviously, he’s really fun to watch and he comes with great energy and it shows on the field. I’m happy for him.”
Santander’s home run was his 12th and Núñez’s was his 28th, just one behind team leader Trey Mancini. Villar hit No. 17 and — like Núñez, Stevie Wilkerson and RIchie Martin — reached base three times. Wilkerson had three hits and drove in a run with an RBI double.
On a rare night when the Orioles could have gotten by with a less efficient performance by the bullpen, three relievers (Paul Fry, Shawn Armstrong and Richard Bleier) threw hitless outings.
"I think for everyone, especially after the way it went in Boston for all of us in the bullpen — all of our outings got away from us,'' said Bleier, who pitched two perfect innings and struck out three to close it out. “So it’s good to have a bounce-back outing and not only just put up a zero but kind of dominate the rest of the game.”