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BAL@KC: Feldman stymies the Royals to earn ninth win

KANSAS CITY -- Since the All-Star break, the Orioles are unbeatable.

A red-hot Baltimore club -- fresh off sweeping Texas -- showed no sign of slowing down Monday night, collecting its third consecutive double-digit-hit affair in a well-rounded, 9-2 series-opening win over Kansas City. The third-place Orioles have a season-high five consecutive wins and are a season-high 14 games over .500, a mark they did not hit until Aug. 28 last year.

More importantly, the club's latest win puts it within 2 1/2 games of the American League East-leading Boston Red Sox, who lost to Tampa Bay, as the Orioles (57-43) picked up their eighth "W" in nine games.

"We played game No. 100 tonight, and we are going to start dwindling here before you know it," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, whose club is trying to reach the postseason for the second consecutive year. "There's always been a sense of urgency. Our guys brought that the first week in April. After last year, you know how important those games are the first week in April when it's raining, it's 11 o'clock and there's no one there. Everything counts. So they don't want to look back and say, 'I wish.' They are going to seize every moment, and we will see how it works out."

It has worked out pretty well lately, with the Orioles a perfect 4-0 on their road trip, outscoring opponents by 23-9 and pitching to a 1.86 ERA among the starters, who have accounted for 29 of the team's last 36 innings.

"We're hitting on all cylinders: playing great defense, running the bases well, taking advantage of opportunities and cutting the other team down," said Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who picked up three RBIs to take over the Major League lead with 97 on the season. "It's little things like that that we pride ourselves on all year. We're rolling right now, and hopefully we can keep it going."

The Orioles kept up their recent trend of early offense Monday night as seven of the starting nine recorded multiple hits. The O's, who have outscored opponents by 16-1 in the first three innings in the four games since the break, chased Royals starter Wade Davis from the game after a season-low eight outs.

The scoring started with Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas' two-base error, and Davis drove in a second run with a sacrifice fly. Leadoff man Nate McLouth reached base five times, and the Royals' starter exited after McLouth's third-inning walk, with Baltimore scoring four runs (two earned) on 11 baserunners over that span.

"Nate's been solid since Day 1, good defender, great teammate; we are lucky to have him," said Showalter, who called the O's leadoff man a catalyst for the offense. "[He is] a great addition to us last year and this year. No ego, he just wants to win."

Orioles starter Scott Feldman was the latest beneficiary of the surging lineup, and the right-hander cruised through eight innings to turn in the team's eighth quality start in nine games. Feldman held Kansas City without an extra-base hit, scattering five singles and picking up his second win in four starts since being traded to Baltimore.

"I like playing behind him; I think we all do," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who backed Feldman's effort with a three-RBI night that included a two-run homer in the sixth. "He mixes up his pitches, he's throwing strikes and he's keeping the ball down."

Feldman allowed a sacrifice fly in the third inning and David Lough's RBI single in the fourth, retiring the final 10 batters he faced.

"He located pitches; he kept his pitch count down really well," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Feldman. "Mixed in his off-speed stuff well but, for the most part, threw strikes and was ahead in the count."

The O's added to the lead against Davis' replacement, Luis Mendoza, who surrendered five earned runs over 3 1/3 innings, including Hardy's homer. After Nick Markakis' single and doubles from Adam Jones and Davis, Hardy let loose on a one-out, 1-0 offering for his 17th homer of the year to complete a four-run sixth inning. It also marked the 150th homer of Hardy's career.

Orioles rookie Henry Urrutia went 3-for-5 with an RBI in his second career Major League game, while Jones, robbed of an extra-base hit with Lorenzo Cain's second-inning diving grab in center field, had two hits and a run scored.

"It takes the pressure off our pitcher, puts the pressure on them," Hardy said of the club's early offense changing the momentum. "We are scoring runs and pitching. So, it's a good start for us in the second half."

Feldman's gem marked the first time this season the Orioles have had back-to-back eight-inning starts, with Chris Tillman going eight-plus on Sunday. Feldman's 107-pitch outing, which included three strikeouts and two walks, was his second-longest start of the season.

"It was nice to go eight innings, but I think the big thing was the offense coming out and putting up nine runs on the board," Feldman said. "[They] put up 17-18 hits, and they played some great defense for me, so they were putting the ball in play a lot and being pretty aggressive. The defense was the key."

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