KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- 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 the Baltimore Orioles 9-1 on Thursday behind Melky Cabrera's four RBIs and Bruce Chen's strong pitching, the Royals announced Eric Hosmer was being called up from Triple-A Omaha and would start on Friday night against the Oakland Athletics. Struggling Kila Ka'aihue goes back to Omaha.
The announcement is certain to boost attendance on Friday night. 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," said manager Ned Yost. "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 RBIs. He was the Royals' first-round pick in 2008 and has overmatched the pitching at every minor league level.
Yost agreed that one reason Kansas City is bringing Hosmer up sooner than planned was because the Royals, 17-14 and second in the AL Central behind the Cleveland Indians, are contending. They need a boost at first base, where Ka'aihue was hitting .195 with two home runs and six RBIs.
"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, once again getting almost no offensive support. In his last six starts, the Orioles have scored only five runs while he was in the game.
The Royals also kept their streak intact of not losing a home series. They're 4-0 so far 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 3 2/3 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. We all know 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.
Cabrera's two-run double made it 7-1 in the fourth and then, after a wild pitch, Billy Butler hit an RBI double.
The start of the game was delayed 35 minutes by rain. ... Royals right-hander Robinson Tejeda (shoulder inflammation) will have a rehab start Friday for Omaha. ... It was only the second time in the last nine games between the Orioles and Royals that the outcome was not decided by one run. ... The victory moved Chen one game over the break-even mark for his career, at 52-51. ... It took Jeremy Jeffress 14 pitches to get Adam Jones out in the ninth.