Orioles shut out Royals, 5-0, behind Colton Cowser’s fountain homer, Cole Irvin’s gem

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Colton Cowser made two splashes in the fountains at Kauffman Stadium this weekend.

The first was to help fish out the ball Craig Kimbrel used to secure his 422nd career Saturday night after Cowser flung it into the fountain. The second was when he clobbered a 430-foot home run into the well in the Orioles’ 5-0 win over the host Royals on Sunday afternoon.

It was poetic irony for Cowser to homer into the right-center field fountain less than 16 hours after he hilariously “yeeted” Kimbrel’s ball — the last out of his save that tied him with Billy Wagner for seventh on MLB’s all-time list — into the left-center field fountain.

But neither splash was surprising.

Cowser’s free-spirited, goofy personality made him the most likely member of the Orioles to commit such a blunder, which Kimbrel said he found funny once the ball was found. The 24-year-old outfield prospect’s talent and hot start to the season also mean it’s no surprise one of his long balls took a swim.

Cowser’s solo shot in the third was immediately followed by a 433-foot big fly from Jordan Westburg — the club’s first back-to-back homers this season. The early offense was all Baltimore’s pitching staff needed, as Cole Irvin delivered his best start as an Oriole with 6 2/3 scoreless innings and the bullpen bounced back after consecutive rough nights. The shutout win is the Orioles’ first this season after doing so 12 times last year.

After losing the first game of the series to end a four-game winning streak, the Orioles took the final two games against the pesky, up-and-coming Royals (13-9) to win their fifth series out of seven tries this season. Baltimore is 14-7 and only a half-game back of the New York Yankees, who sped out to a scorching-hot start to the season, for first place in the American League East.

After Cowser flung the ball into the fountain Saturday, it was retrieved by a Kauffman Stadium employee. Cowser realized almost immediately that he “messed up,” he said during a comical postgame interview with teammates Jackson Holliday and Gunnar Henderson teasing him.

Kimbrel said Sunday morning he could tell Cowser was “distraught” about the mistake, with the veteran closer telling him not to “lose sleep over it.” The ball was placed in a container of rice in Kimbrel’s locker to help it dry.

“That’s fun, huh?” Kimbrel said with a smile. “We’ll see what the authenticators think when we talk to them.”

Cowser promised to keep every future final out from Kimbrel in his glove, but the 35-year-old closer wasn’t needed to slam the door Sunday.

Irvin, who entered with a 6.75 ERA from his first three starts, was excellent throughout, looking like the pitcher he was for much of last summer and the one the Orioles hoped they were getting when they traded infield prospect Darell Hernaiz to the Oakland Athletics to acquire Irvin in January 2023. He pounded the zone and kept the ball down, allowing just four hits and working around two walks for his longest start since September 2022 with the Athletics.

The 30-year-old left-hander bounced between Triple-A, Baltimore’s bullpen and the rotation last season, but no start was as sharp as Sunday’s gem. The only other scoreless start Irvin twirled as an Oriole came across five innings against the Seattle Mariners in August.

Jacob Webb, Danny Coulombe and Dillon Tate followed Irvin with scoreless outings for much-needed relief after the bullpen allowed 10 runs over the first two games of the series, including six in Friday’s loss.

Around the horn

— The Orioles are altering their rotation for their upcoming series against the Los Angeles Angels. Grayson Rodriguez was pushed back one day to start Tuesday, with Albert Suárez moving up to start Monday’s series opener. The switch will likely mean Rodriguez’s next start after Tuesday will come against the New York Yankees rather than the Oakland Athletics.

— In the second start of his minor league rehabilitation assignment, right-hander Kyle Bradish (sprained ulnar collateral ligament) allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings Sunday for Triple-A Norfolk. He threw 64 pitches as he works to make his way back to Baltimore, likely in the first half of May.