Gomez slam leaves KC out in rain
The two clubs get in an official game in despite weather
BALTIMORE -- It took an unlikely hit from an unlikely source, but the Orioles made it to .500 for the first time Saturday night. Utilityman Chris Gomez got a rare start at first base and punched a game-changing grand slam in the sixth inning of Baltimore's 6-4 win over Kansas City, a game that was played in a steady drizzle from start to finish.
Gomez had only hit one other grand slam in his career, and that was a back-breaking shot against the Red Sox on April 22, 2004. Teammate Kevin Millar was on the other side that day, but Gomez didn't remember much else about the other grand slam. When asked if he expected to hit one Saturday night, he issued a quick quip.
"Of course not. You know the answer to that," he said. "In situations like that, you just try to relax. It's real easy to get too excited in a big at-bat, so you try to tone it down as much as possible. You just try to get a pitch to hit."
The Orioles were in a tough spot in the early innings Saturday night, with starting pitcher Daniel Cabrera struggling to find his footing and opposing starter Odalis Perez in an early groove. Baltimore trailed from the first inning and didn't seize control until the sixth, when Gomez put them ahead for good with his four-run blast to left field.
"I knew I hit it well," he said after the game. "I don't hit it enough to ever think I got it, so either way, going out was great obviously, but if not it was at least a sac fly. That would've been good, too, and maybe everyone would've been able to move up two [bases], so that would've been a good deal."
"Chris is one of the consummate professionals on our ballclub," added Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo. "He works hard every day, and if you watch him pregame, he never lets anything get by. We've talked about it before, and he says the only way you can do it is to do extra work.
"He's just a professional. He's shown that in the past for us, and he came up big tonight."
With Baltimore (6-6) expected to experience heavy rains on Sunday, it became even more crucial to play Saturday night. Otherwise, the two teams may have been looking at two makeup games later in the season. Both teams labored with that knowledge Saturday night, but the Orioles came out with their first three-game winning streak.
Baltimore and Kansas City have five off-days in common, but only two of them are before the All-Star break.
"I'm sure it was tough out on the mound. It may not have been as solid as you'd want it, but both teams were in it," Perlozzo said. "For an inning or two, it was coming down fairly hard. I thought, 'We need to get something done before the fifth.' Because if it got any harder than that, I thought we were going to be in trouble.
"The weather report that I had [said] it was probably going to be like that for the rest of the night. I was a little concerned about it until we got some runs."
Cabrera hit the first batter of the game and wound up loading the bases on two straight singles. Kansas City scored its first run on a double play, but designated hitter Ross Gload lengthened the lead by dumping a hit in front of Millar, who was playing left field and dove to make the play. Cabrera threw 26 pitches in the first inning.
The right-hander settled down in the second but faced another difficult juncture in the third. Cabrera gave up a two-out walk, and Kansas City (3-9) loaded the bases on a single and a hit batsman. The road team's third run scored on a passed ball, and the Royals didn't score again until the fifth. Cabrera, by that point, had thrown 96 pitches.
"I felt great. We won, and that's the important thing," he said. "I [gave up] two runs early in the game, and I tried to keep the game like that, to not let them go too far with more runs. Just keep it tight, and we win."
The Orioles didn't break through against Kansas City's Odalis Perez until the third inning, and it took a two-out hit from Nick Markakis to get the home team on the scoreboard. Baltimore came back for more in the fifth when Melvin Mora laced a run-scoring single, but Perez (0-3) got Markakis to ground into a threat-ending double play.
Perez gave up a single and walked a batter in the sixth before the Royals went to the bullpen. Reliever Joel Perlata got Millar to pop up to short left field, but the ball dropped between shortstop Tony Pena and center fielder David DeJesus. Five pitches later, Gomez cranked a shot that cleared the left-field fence and the O's never trailed again.
"We're getting better, for sure," Perlozzo said of his team's developing offense. "We got down early, but those guys came back and started battling. My biggest concern was that the rain didn't get any harder and that we'd continue playing. I thought we had a shot if we could continue playing.
The last time Baltimore was at the break-even mark was April 28 of the 2006 season. The Orioles also hit a grand slam in Friday night's win, and the last time they'd hit grand slams on consecutive nights was in 2000.
"We started slow in Minnesota," Cabrera said about the team's first two weeks of the season. "We lost three games, but we're a way better team than that. And we know it. We know we're going to win some games. We didn't hit well the last couple games, but we know we're better than that."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.