News flash: The Royals’ bullpen is only human, after all. And the Orioles actually have pulses. If you don’t believe me, you weren’t in Camden Yards Friday night. For the eighth inning especially.
These were the Orioles who’d dropped sixteen of their previous 22, were six out of the American League wild card race, and started the bottom of the eighth in the hole 6-4. The Orioles whose manager said the team planned to win 23 straight from Friday forward.
That may or may not be fanciful thinking on Buck Showalter’s part. But don’t tell that to the Royals. Not after the Orioles went Angry Birds in the eighth and laid a ten-run overthrow on the Royals’ pigs. And don’t tell Kelvim Herrera, of the fabled H-D-H pen, against whom Jonathan Shoop opened the inning’s proceedings with a long double.
When it was finished, the Orioles had hit two grand slams—the first to do it in the same inning since the 2006 Mets, and the second time the Orioles have done it (Larry Sheets and Jim Dwyer did it in 1986)—while running through three Royals relievers and claiming a 14-6 lead. It only became 14-8 in the ninth when Mike Moustakas swatted a two-run single the Orioles probably thought they could afford to spot, before the final out came on a meek popup.
On the other hand, don’t tell the Orioles that Royals reliever Franklin Morales didn’t throw with malice aforethought in plunking Chris Davis in the back in the middle of the barrage. When Showalter tried to tell plate umpire Mark Carlson that there was no way a pitcher was throwing accidentally in the middle of his staff getting slashed, Carlson told Showalter to disappear for the night.
Which was just about what the Royals’ pen did in the tenth. After Shoop, pinch hitter Steve Clevenger reached on an error at first and, following a strikeout by J.J. Hardy, Gerardo Parra beat out an infield hit to load the pads for Nolan Reimold.
Reimold caught hold of a 2-0 Herrera service and ripped it right off the top of the left field foul pole. Morales relieved Herrera and promptly served Manny Machado a 1-2 pitch that had the left field seats tagged as its destination. After Adam Jones singled to left to follow, up came Davis and into his back went Morales’s 0-1 fastball.
Davis slammed his bat to the ground after the ball ricocheted and inched his way up the line as Carlson handed out warnings to both sides. Not enough for Showalter, who was doubtless aware of this year’s Royals’ penchant for brushbacks, knockdowns, and beanballing for the apparent flimisiest excuses.
All he did was ask why Morales wasn’t being tossed for obvious intent, and all he got was a tossing of his own, upon which he kicked some furious first base line dirt before taking his leave..
“[W]e hit a grand slam, another home run, a couple rockets. It just didn’t look right, regardless of whether it was on purpose or not,” Davis offered after the game. “Your emotions, some guys wear ’em on their sleeves. Most of the time, I conceal mine pretty well. Not tonight obviously.”
You could argue that Carlson would make it up to the Orioles in the ninth, when rookie reliever Mychal Givens drilled Kendrys Morales with two on and two out, setting up the two excuse-me Royals RBIs before the inevitable end. He could have gone after Lorenzo Cain, who’d gone long twice earlier in the evening, but Morales—who’d scored once and had two hits without driving anything in—was probably a safer target, if you choose to see things that way.
Morales left only when lifted following Steve Pearce’s RBI double to center. In came Joba Chamberlain—erstwhile Yankee mishandle, erstwhile Tiger bullpen bull—and, one walk to Shoop later, over the right field fence went Clevenger’s drive for the second salami of the inning. Then Chamberlain managed to stop the carnage with a comebacker to the mound and a ground out to shortstop.
It was enough to make you wonder how the Orioles would stand had they shown that much life and that much firepower earlier. It was only the second time they’d beaten the Royals in five meetings this season, following that sweep out of last year’s postseason.
Perhaps the other miracle was that the two plunks didn’t trigger any brawling. All things considered, maybe the Royals figured there was no point to that. Maybe they’re growing up a little bit.
And maybe they just know the Orioles aren’t going to win 22 straight to follow, their manager’s hyperbolic bid to fire up his players notwithstanding. The problem was, in the eighth on Friday night it must have felt like a 23-game winning streak wasn’t exactly just a wishful thought.