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Chen, Cabrera spark win; team calls up Hosmer

Royals starter Bruce Chen delivers a pitch during his seven-inning effort Thursday against the Orioles in Kansas City.

Royals starter Bruce Chen delivers a pitch during his seven-inning effort Thursday against the Orioles in Kansas City. Photo by The Associated Press.

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Finding themselves competing for the first time in years, the Kansas City Royals have decided to hurry their top prospect to the big leagues ahead of schedule.

Minutes after beating Baltimore 9-1 on Thursday behind Melky Cabrera’s four RBI and Bruce Chen’s strong pitching, the Royals announced Eric Hosmer was being called up from Triple-A Omaha and would start tonight against Oakland. Struggling Kila Ka’aihue goes back to Omaha.

The announcement is certain to boost attendance tonight. The 21-year-old Hosmer is Kansas City’s most heralded prospect since Alex Gordon was the overall No. 2 pick in 2005.

He’s also one of many young players that have made the Royals’ minor-league system the envy of most major-league organizations.

“We wanted to wait and give him about 200 at-bats and let him get his feet on the ground,” manager Ned Yost said. “But we’re playing pretty good baseball and we need some production out of that first-base spot.”

At Omaha, Hosmer was batting .439 with three homers and 15 RBI. He was KC’s first-round pick in 2008 and has overmatched the pitching at every minor-league level.

Yost agreed one reason the Royals are bringing Hosmer up sooner than planned was because the Royals, 17-14 and second in the AL Central behind Cleveland, are contending. They need a boost at first base, where Ka’aihue was hitting .195 with two home runs and six RBI.

“That’s the general consensus, yeah. I don’t want to say we’re playing better than we anticipated because we came into this thing anticipating playing pretty well,” Yost said. “The kid’s producing there. He’s in a league of his own.”

Cabrera homered, doubled and singled while driving in four runs Thursday, and Chen allowed one run in seven innings against Baltimore. Cabrera’s solo shot came in the eighth.

Chen (4-1) gave up his only run in the first and then pitched shutout ball for the next six innings. The left-hander allowed five hits and one run, walking two and striking out five. He has not lost a start in Kauffman Stadium since Aug. 12, 2010, going 6-0 in nine starts at home.

Chris Tillman (1-3) took the loss, getting almost no offensive support. In his last six starts, the Orioles have scored five runs with him in the game.

The Royals also kept their streak intact of not losing a home series. They’re 4-0 this year with two splits. The Orioles are 2-8 when the opponent starts a left-handed pitcher.

With help from Tillman’s balk and a sun that kept playing peek-a-boo behind high, fluffy clouds, the Royals scored four runs in the first inning and another in the second, before breaking it open with three in the fourth to take the series two games to one.

“It is disappointing. It’s more frustration than disappointment,” Tillman said. “The results weren’t there. I made some decent pitches early on, but it came down to making that one pitch in the at-bat. It just wasn’t there.”

Tillman lasted 32⁄3 innings and was charged with eight runs on 10 hits and a wild pitch. Orioles manager Buck Showalter did not seem certain he would remain in the rotation much longer.

“He is going to have to get better,” Showalter said. “Our options are him and a few others. The way he started out, I thought he was going to pitch pretty well stuff-wise. He’s got to be better than that.”

Cabrera’s RBI single got it started in the first inning. Gordon singled in the second run, moved up on Tillman’s balk and then scored on a double by Jeff Francoeur. Wilson Betemit then lifted a popup that fell between third baseman Mark Reynolds and shortstop Robert Andino when they both lost the ball in the sun. It went for an RBI single.

Back-to-back doubles by Alcides Escobar and Chris Getz made it 5-1 in the second.

Cabrera’s two-run double made it 7-1 in the fourth and then, after a wild pitch, Billy Butler hit an RBI double.

Notes: Royals RHP Robinson Tejeda (shoulder inflammation) will have a rehab start today for Triple-A Omaha. ... The victory moved Chen one game over the break-even mark for his career, at 52-51.

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