"It hasn't been easy for us," manager Ned Yost said. "We're still grinding out wins like we did today."
Kansas City evened the series at one game apiece and beat Baltimore for the first time in four meetings this season. The Royals have a chance to win the series with right-hander Luke Hochevar on the mound for Sunday's rubber game.
With the bases loaded and the game tied at 3 in the eighth, Hosmer flared a fly ball down the third-base line that dropped in front of Xavier Avery for a single, scoring Mike Moustakas from third. Moustakas led off the frame with a single, Alex Gordon followed with a walk and Johnny Giavotella singled to right, setting up Hosmer's knock off O's reliever Pedro Strop.
The hit capped a 3-for-4 day for Hosmer, who raised his average to .206, putting him above the Mendoza Line for the first time since April 26.
"We're not going back under that," Hosmer said.
"He just needs to get some hits and get himself feeling good," Yost said. "I don't think he smoked the ball in his last couple of days, but he's got six or seven hits, and that's good. They need to even out for him a little bit because he has scalded 15, 18 balls right at people where he doesn't have anything to show for it. It's good that he's getting a little payback."
Baltimore nearly answered in the bottom of the eighth, as Nick Johnson hammered a line drive just a few feet right of the first-base foul pole with a man on first. Instead, Johnson was retired on a fly ball to left.
After a season filled with close losses and missed opportunities, that play signaled to Yost that things were finally breaking his team's way.
"I kind of figured that was the case when Johnson's ball curved foul," Yost said. "Hey, maybe this is our day."
Of all the soft hits and fortunate rolls that favored the Royals on Saturday, none topped Hosmer's infield double in the seventh. With one out, Hosmer dribbled a soft grounder down the third-base line. The ball appeared to change directions a few times, as if bouncing back and forth between the base line and the lip of the infield grass, before it eventually came to rest on top of the chalk.
"I crushed that thing," Hosmer joked. "It's one of those things where you hit it and you're just running out of the box hoping it stays fair."
"I'd say a high percentage of time that ball rolls foul," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "But that was another example where things just didn't go our way."
While O's third baseman Wilson Betemit stood watching the ball trickle along the line, Hosmer sprinted to second base.
Hosmer hesitated slightly rounding first, but knew he could make the move to second when he saw that Betemit had his back turned.
"That's the greatest double I've ever seen in my life," Yost said.
Humberto Quintero promptly drove Hosmer in with a double into the left-field corner to knot the game at 3.
Before Kansas City scored the tying run off right-hander Darren O'Day in the seventh, Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen had stifled the Royals for much of the afternoon. Chen allowed two runs on six hits and one walk in six innings, using mostly his barely 90-mph fastball and pinpoint location.
After the Orioles jumped out to a 3-0 lead, the Royals scored a run in the fifth, sixth and seventh to draw even. Giavotella doubled in the fifth before Hosmer got the green light on a 3-0 pitch and singled to center to plate Giavotella.
Billy Butler drew the Royals within one run with a solo home run in the sixth -- his 10th blast in 45 games, putting him on pace to shatter his career-best total of 21.
After compiling a 1.42 ERA in his first four starts, Royals starter Felipe Paulino allowed three runs on five hits while tying a season-low with 5 2/3 innings. Paulino said he didn't feel like he had his best stuff on Saturday, adding that both his command and location were a little bit off.
"He battled command a little bit more than he has his last couple of starts, but had a really sharp, breaking curveball," Yost said. "He was after it and just grinding through it."
Paulino yielded his first two home runs of the season, as Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy both hit solo shots in the second and third innings, respectively.
Paulino's stuff was good enough to record five strikeouts, but the righty struggled with control. He threw 59 of 109 pitches for strikes and walked five batters, the first time this year that Paulino has walked more than two.
Greg Holland picked up the win in relief, while closer Jonathan Broxton worked a scoreless ninth for his ninth save.