CLEVELAND—Before Sunday’s game, manager Buck Showalter joked that Hyun Soo Kim’s average would have to fall below .350 for him to consider benching him.
Kim, who started his fifth straight game in left field, hit his first major league home run to power the Orioles to a 6-4 win over the Cleveland Indians before 18,565 at Progressive Field on Sunday.
With the score tied at four, Kim lined a 2-2 pitch off Jeff Manship (0-1) to right field, and the Orioles (28-20) had a 5-4 lead.
Kim, who began the season as a virtual outcast because he refused to accept the club’s request that he hone his game in Norfolk.
Instead, Kim mostly watched for the season’s first several weeks, but produced in his occasional appearances.
During the road trip with the Orioles striking out at a record pace, Showalter inserted the contact hitting Kim into the lineup, and he’s produced.
While he did strike out twice on Sunday, Kim walked and hit the home run.
On their road trip, the Orioles lost five of nine, but won two of three against Los Angeles to start the trip and Cleveland (26-22). They lost three straight to Houston, fanning a major league record 52 times.
In South Korea, Kim showed power. Last year, he hit 28 home runs there, but on his first one in the U.S., he trotted around the bases and ran into the dugout while his teammates ignored him.
A moment later, they rushed to congratulate him.
The Orioles quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead off Mike Clevinger.
Adam Jones walked, and with one out, Manny Machado singled and Chris Davis walked to load the bases. Mark Trumbo slammed a ball off the left field wall scoring all three runners.
Jonathan Schoop doubled to start the fourth, moved to third on a fly ball by Nolan Reimold and scored on Ryan Flaherty’s first RBI of the season, a sacrifice fly to center.
Chris Tillman (7-1) didn’t allow a hit in the first three innings, but Carlos Santana led off the fourth with a home run, his ninth of the season, and with one out, Francisco Lindor walked and Mike Napoli homered, his 10th of the season, and the lead was cut to 4-3.
Jason Kipnis tied the score at four with his seventh home run in the bottom of the sixth.
Tillman gave up three home runs in his first 10 starts, and equaled that total in six innings. He allowed four runs on four hits.
Brad Brach pitched a scoreless seventh, but Kipnis singled to start the eighth, and Lindor doubled. Darren O’Day came on to face Napoli, and retired him on a ground ball to third. Jose Ramirez was walked intentionally to load the bases.
Lonnie Chisenhall fouled off six straight pitches, and was finally called out on strikes for the second out, and Yan Gomes struck out to end the inning.
Reimold hit his fourth home run of the year off Tommy Hunter in the ninth to give the Orioles some breathing room.
Zach Britton pitched the ninth for his 14th save, but it wasn’t easy. Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis started the inning with singles. Santana hit into a force play, and Britton ended it by striking out Kipnis and Lindor.
NOTE: The Orioles open a four-game homestand on Monday with Boston. Steven Wright (4-4, 2.52) faces Tyler Wilson (2-3, 3.80).