Fifth starters face off as Royals oppose Orioles

A pair of pitchers looking to solidify their rotation status will face off when the Kansas City Royals visit the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday evening in the middle game of a three-game series.

Kansas City right-hander Alec Marsh will open his second season hoping to start better than he did during his rookie campaign. Marsh, 25, dropped his first eight decisions last season before finishing 3-9 with a 5.69 ERA in 17 games (eight starts).

This spring he was 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA in 17 2/3 innings. Marsh was chosen over 33-year-old Jordan Lyles for the No. 5 spot in the Kansas City rotation.

“It was a competition,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “Marsh exceeded, in the spring, what we could have hoped for and really just made that decision to put Jordan in the bullpen for how we thought we were going to put the best 13 together.”

Marsh did not face the Orioles in 2023.

Left-hander Cole Irvin holds the fifth spot in the Baltimore rotation, at least until injured starters John Means and Kyle Bradish return. Irvin worked as a starter and middle reliever in 2023 and finished 1-4 with a 4.42 ERA.

He is 2-2 with a 2.10 ERA in five career starts against the Royals.

The Orioles led the American League with 48 comeback wins a year ago, tied with the Cincinnati Reds for the most in the majors. On Monday, they did it again, rallying from an early 3-0 deficit for a 6-4 win over the Royals.

Jordan Westburg hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning to end it. Cedric Mullins singled with one out, and Westburg followed with an opposite-field shot just over the scoreboard in right for his first career walk-off homer and his first long ball of the year.

Westburg, 25, hit three home runs as a rookie in 68 games last season. He had 18 in 67 games for Triple-A Norfolk.

“He’s got the ability to hit the ball out the other way, as you saw tonight,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “When he’s going to right-center, driving the ball the other way, he can do things like he just did. He’s got a lot of power that way. Great time to have an awesome swing.”

Ryan Mountcastle homered, singled and drove in three runs for the Orioles. Craig Kimbrel, signed to fill the void created by closer Felix Bautista’s Tommy John surgery, gave up the tying run in the ninth in his Baltimore debut but got the win.

Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez each homered in a second straight game for the Royals. Veteran right-hander Michael Wacha, staked to an early 3-0 lead, surrendered three runs over five innings in his Royals debut.

“Our guys went out and put up a three-spot, and as a pitcher you want to be able to hold that lead,” Wacha said. “It was frustrating giving it right back to them a couple innings later.”

Witt is batting .500 (8-for-16) through four games with two homers and five runs.