KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Nelson Cruz homered and the first-place Baltimore Orioles beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Thursday night to snap a four-game losing streak.
Cruz homered in the fourth after Chris Davis drew a walk to lead off the inning. It was Cruz’s 12th home run, which is second in the American League to the 15 of Chicago White Sox rookie Jose Abreu. Cruz’s 35 RBIs are tied for second in the AL.
Wei-Yin Chen (5-2) limited the Royals to one run and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings with one walk and one strikeout. Chen, who is 5-1 in his past seven starts, was removed in the sixth after Salvador Perez walked and Alex Gordon singled with one out. Darren O’Day replaced Chen and struck out Danny Valencia and retried Johnny Giavotella on a fly to right.
Royals rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura (2-3) struck out nine and walked one in 6 1-3 innings, allowing two runs and seven hits. After Cruz’s home run, Ventura retired the next 10 batters, striking out seven, including six straight at one stretch.
Valencia’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the fourth scored Eric Hosmer for the only run off Chen.
Left-hander Zack Britton, who had not allowed a run in 7 1-3 innings and eight appearances, worked a perfect ninth for his first major league save. Manager Buck Showalter elected to go to Britton after closer Tommy Hunter blew his past two save chances.
The Royals did not have a baserunner off four Baltimore relievers, who retired 11 straight.
The Orioles, who went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, threatened in the seventh and eighth innings, but came away empty.
Gordon, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, threw out J.J. Hardy at the plate to end the seventh for his fourth outfield assist this season and his 58th since moving to the outfield in 2011. Hardy attempted to score from second on Nick Markakis’ single.
Manny Machado and Adam Jones led off the Orioles eighth with singles off Louis Coleman, the third Kansas City pitcher. Kelvin Herrera replaced Coleman and struck out Davis and Cruz and retired Steve Clevenger on a grounder to strand the runners.
NOTES: The Orioles recalled RHP Evan Meek from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned RHP Kevin Gausman, who lost a Wednesday start to Detroit, to the same club. . Markakis snapped an 0-for-14 skid with three singles. . Royals RHP Wade Davis has a stiff neck and was not available.