It's becoming a familiar trend this year for the Royals: score early and hold serve throughout. Friday night was no exception, as Kansas City rode an early barrage of offense to grab all of the runs it needed. After yet another strong performance by the pitching staff, the end result was a 4-2 win for the Royals.
For the third time in their last seven games, the Royals plated a run before committing an out. Alcides Escobar, who had been 0-for-9 on first pitches this year, ambushed Orioles starter Yiovani Gallardo and shot a liner back up the middle, reaching on an infield single. On the next pitch, Mike Moustakas boomed a two-run homer over the center field wall. It was his second straight night with a line drive blast to dead center.
Moustakas already has six home runs this year, which is tied for the American League lead at this point. He didn't hit his sixth home run of the season last year until June 16.
The Royals didn't stop there. On Gallardo's third pitch of the game, Lorenzo Cain lined a single into left field to keep the line moving. How often do you see a team smack base hits on the first three pitches of the game? That's exactly what the Royals did. Gallardo was laboring, and Kansas City punished him further when Kendrys Morales shot a double to deep center to plate Cain.
The trouble continued for Gallardo in the second frame. With none on and two out, it appeared that he was starting to settle into a groove. But Escobar walked on five pitches, and Moustakas shot an opposite-field double into the left field corner to score him. Through two innings, Kansas City led, 4-0.
Gallardo didn't return for the third inning. His final line: 2.0 innings, five hits, zero strikeouts, and four runs allowed. Out of 247 total starts, Gallardo failed to strike out a single hitter for just the second time in his career.
While the Orioles' free agent acquisition was unable to make it past the second inning, Chris Young, who was re-signed by the Royals in the offseason, finally came through with a quality start in 2016. Young was exceptional on Friday night, working through six innings and allowing just two runs. He struck out a whopping 10 hitters, which is the most he's posted in a Royals uniform. The last time Young posted double-digit strikeouts? April 24, 2008.
Young's final line: 6.0 innings, four hits, and two earned runs. He walked just one to go along with his 10 whiffs. He threw 95 pitches.
Young (1-3) earned the win. Gallardo (1-1) took the loss.
The Orioles got a run in the fourth on a two-out singly by J.J. Hardy. Baltimore's second score came courtesy of a Manny Machado home run, which, like Moustakas', was blasted to the deepest part of the ballpark. It was Machado's sixth homer of the year, tying him with Moustakas and Josh Donaldson for the American League lead.
With a 4-2 lead heading into the late innings, it should surprise nobody that a dominant Kansas City bullpen nailed down the victory. Joakim Soria got the night off, so it was Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, and Wade Davis that collected the final nine outs.
Hochevar worked around a leadoff single to get through a scoreless seventh. Herrera made quick work of the eighth inning, getting the Orioles 1-2-3. And in the ninth, Wade Davis copied Herrera with a perfect frame of his own, earning his seventh save of the year. He is tied with Oakland's Ryan Madson for the most saves in the American League.
Kansas City has won 11 of its last 14 meetings with Baltimore. That can't make biscuit-chinned NFL analyst Jason LaCanfora particularly happy.
Up next: the series continues on Saturday when Kris Medlen (1-0, 2.38 ERA) opposes Tyler Wilson, who is making his first start of the season.