KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Alex Gordon who the Kansas City Royals drafted second overall in 2005 is finally reaching expectations six years later.
Gordon matched his career-high with four hits and Yamaico Navarro drove in three runs to the lead the Royals over the Baltimore Orioles 9-4 on Thursday night.
Gordon hit .215 in 74 games last year and entered 2011 with a .244 average. With the four hits, Gordon hiked his average to .311. After he grounded out in his final at-bat, Billy Butler approached him in the dugout.
"I went down there and told him, 'You couldn't get five?'" Butler said laughing. "He's doing great. I'm happy for him. He's swinging the bat better than I've ever seen him. I hope he can ride it and keep staying consistent like he is. He's really turned the corner. He's made a lot of adjustments and really come into his own."
Gordon leads the Royals with 34 doubles and is tied for the team lead with 14 home runs.
"He's as close as you can get to dominating right now," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's putting great at-bats together. He's hitting the ball hard. He's hitting doubles, home runs. He's driving in runs. He's doing everything. He had four great swings tonight and smoked the ball four times."
The Royals sent 11 men to the plate in a six-run sixth inning to break open the game. The inning included eight hits with Navarro doubling home two runs and Chris Getz stroking a two-run single. Melky Cabrera and Butler added run-producing singles in the inning.
"We started that inning down a run," Butler said. "Then we just broke out and put the game away. We took the momentum. We got some big hits here and big hits there. We put up nine runs and we cruised to an easy victory, which is always fun."
The Royals had 17 hits with every starter having at least one. Gordon, Cabrera and Butler, the first three Kansas City hitters, combined to go 8 for 14 with six runs, two doubles and three RBIs.
Reliever Blake Wood (5-0) worked two hitless innings, walking two and striking out two, to pick up the victory. He pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth.
"Woody holding the fort was big for us," Yost said.
Royals starter Jeff Francis, who pitched eight scoreless innings to beat Cleveland in his previous start, gave up four runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings before Wood replaced him.
Orioles rookie left-hander Zach Britton (6-9) again ran into difficulties in the first inning. Britton, who had allowed 13 runs in a combined one inning in his previous two starts, allowed three runs and three hits in the first. Two of the runs were unearned after his throwing error. Britton, who allowed six runs and 12 hits in 5 1-3 innings, is 1-8 in his past 14 starts after starting the season 5-1.
"I told myself 'It's not going to happen,'" Britton said of the first inning. "Especially after that error I knew I have to make some pitches. It was nice to get out of it after that and then to throw some fairly good innings was nice, too."
Navarro, Butler and Jeff Francoeur, who had three hits, each drove in a run in the first.
J.J. Hardy homered for the Orioles in the fifth inning, his 19th this season and the 100th of his career. Hardy, however, left after six innings with a sore left ankle. He is listed as day-to-day.
Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis drove in the other Baltimore runs. Markakis and Wieters both had two hits and an RBI. Adam Jones doubled and singled for his seventh multi-hit game in his past 12.
Notes: IF Cesar Izturis, who went 3 for 10 with three RBIs, two runs and two walks in three games on a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie, will join the Orioles on Friday. He is on the 60-day DL after having right elbow surgery. "I'm excited," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We haven't had him here in a while. He can do a lot things for us. We'll be able to use him in a lot of ways. We'll probably see a couple of new faces here the next few days." ... Showalter said RHP Jake Arrieta, who is out with an elbow injury, is "likely going" on the DL. He is scheduled to be examined Wednesday in Los Angeles by Dr. Lewis Yocum. ... Baltimore dropped to 0-8-2 in its 10 series. ... In four starts since the All-Star break, Royals RHP Luke Hochevar is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA and holding opponents to a .198 batting average. He was 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA and opponents hitting .271 off him in his first 19 starts. ... RHP Tommy Hunter will make his first Baltimore start Friday against Toronto. He was acquired in a July 30 trade with Texas. ... RHP Felipe Paulino, who starts Friday for the Royals against Detroit, has struck out 42 and walked nine, two intentionally, in his past six starts.
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