Friday, May 16, 2014
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Britton, Orioles Shut Down Royals

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[May 16, 2014]  KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Zach Britton closed out a win Thursday in his first career save opportunity.

The question now is whether the 26-year-old left-hander will settle into the Baltimore Orioles' ninth-inning role.

Manager Buck Showalter was noncommittal on whether Britton would take over as his closer after the Orioles' 2-1 win over the Kansas City Royals.

"Guys graduate," Showalter said. "It was a good start, and it's good to know that if we need him for a given night, he'll be ready. We'll see how it goes from here."

Britton lowered his ERA to 0.81 after retiring the side in order on three groundouts. He got the ball in the ninth after closer Tommy Hunter blew his past two save chances.

"I just make sure I'm prepared," Britton said. "Everyone is prepared to throw that inning, whenever Tommy (Hunter) needs a break. To me, it was three outs, just like any other three outs. I just wanted to get ground balls."

Britton was the last of four Baltimore relievers who backed up left-hander Wei-Yin Chen in shutting down the Kansas City offense to end the Orioles' four-game losing streak.
 


Chen (5-2) limited the Royals to one run on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings before turning over the lead to the bullpen.

Darren O'Day, Troy Patton, Ryan Webb and Britton held the Royals hitless after Chen exited. O'Day prevented two inherited runners from scoring in the sixth.

"The chain works when you don't have anyone blinking, but you still have to execute," Showalter said of his relievers. "I actually think the job Darren did in the sixth was more important (than the ninth), but it's all part of getting the 27th out. Darren was sharp.

"They had some tough matchups coming up against Wei-Yin, so we thought it was the right time to get him out of there. I felt like it was a spot where there was some momentum moving, and we looked at Darren's strengths and their strengths."

Royals right-hander Yordano "Ace" Ventura (2-3) gave up a two-run home run to designated hitter Nelson Cruz in the fourth inning. Ventura retired 10 in a row after Cruz homered, striking out seven in that span. He finished with nine strikeouts in his 6 1/3-inning outing. Ventura allowed seven hits and walked one.

"After the home run, I got a little more aggressive ... in the strike zone," Ventura said with teammate Bruce Chen his interpreter. "I felt like all of my pitches were working real well after that. I pitched liked that until they took me out."

Cruz, who homered Wednesday off Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, hit his 12th home run Thursday. His shot followed a walk by first baseman Chris Davis. Cruz, who ranks second in the American League in home runs, drove Ventura's first pitch out to right-center.

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The Royals got a run back in the bottom of the second. Singles by first baseman Eric Hosmer, catcher Salvador Perez and left fielder Alex Gordon loaded the bases with one out. Third baseman Danny Valencia just missed a grand slam, settling for a sacrifice fly to the left field warning track that David Lough caught, scoring Hosmer. The Royals traded Lough to the Orioles in December for Valencia.

"When Nelson hit the home run and we had the lead, I wanted to not allow any runs to give us a chance to win," Wei-Yin Chen said through a translator. "Valencia hits my fastball pretty good. I think I threw a curve. My heart skipped a beat (when it looked like it was going out)."

The Royals also got a scare on the play when Perez was shaken up sliding head first into third base. Manager Ned Yost and the Kansas City trainers rushed to Perez's side, but the catcher remained in the game.

"He's fine," Yost said. "When he slid into third, he hit (Manny) Machado's knee, and it just stretched his neck a little. It didn't even have anything to do with his head. It was his neck."

Right fielder Nick Markakis collected three of the Orioles' 10 hits. Machado and shortstop J.J. Hardy added two hits apiece.

Gordon paced the Kansas City offense with two hits.

NOTES: Orioles RHP Kevin Gausman, who was called up to start Wednesday and took the loss against the Tigers, was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday. Gausman surrendered five runs in four innings against Detroit. Baltimore recalled RHP Evan Meek from Norfolk, adding an extra arm to an overworked bullpen. ... Royals RHP Wade Davis was unavailable because of a stiff neck. ... Kansas City is 4-1 with a split in its past six series.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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