Zack Britton did not get out of the first inning unscathed, but the Baltimore Orioles rookie left-hander made it into the sixth inning — a major improvement from recent starts.

Alex Gordon matched his career-high with four hits and Yamaico Navarro drove in three runs to the lead the Kansas City Royals over the Orioles 9-4 on Thursday night.

While Britton took the loss, it was nothing like his previous two starts when he pitched a combined one inning and yielded 13 earned runs in losses to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

The Royals, however, did get to Britton for three runs on three hits in the first, although two runs were unearned after he committed an error.

"I told myself 'It's not going to happen,'" Britton said of another horrific first inning. "Especially after that error I knew I had to make some pitches. It was nice to get out of it after that and then to throw some fairly good innings was nice, too."

Britton took a 4-3 lead into the sixth, but failed to keep it as the Royals scored six runs and sent 11 men to the plate.

"I'm impressed that he came back and kept us in the game," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's kind of hard to remember we were ahead. It's an improvement even though it's not a good comparison to make to the poor outings he had. Hopefully he'll get a little better.

"His breaking ball was not quite as crisp as he's capable of throwing. His sinker wasn't dropping as much. If you take the second through the fifth innings, he threw the ball well. He's a young guy who doesn't have the experience yet. I'm impressed with the way he went out after the first and gave us some good outs. He has not been deep in a game in a while and we're waiting for him to get there for us."

Britton, who allowed six runs and 12 hits in 5 1-3 innings, is 1-8 in his past 14 starts after starting the season 5-1.

"I got through the fifth with a lot of hits and got out of some jams." Britton said. "I got lucky some. Buck showed a lot of confidence in me. I haven't gone five (innings) in about four weeks. I have to take the positives out of this game.

"There was some improvement that needed to be made. I felt a little bit better. The hits for the most part were on pitches I left out over the plate. I don't know why the sink wasn't there. I've always had the sink. I'm asking myself 'Am I tired? Is that why the sink isn't there?' There are a lot of things I'm going to think about."

The Royals had 17 hits with every starter having at least one. Gordon, Cabrera and Butler, the first three Kansas City hitters, combined to go 8 for 14 with six runs, two doubles and three RBIs.

Reliever Blake Wood (5-0) worked two hitless innings, walking two and striking out two, to pick up the victory.

Royals starter Jeff Francis, who pitched eight scoreless innings to beat Cleveland in his previous start, gave up four runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings before Wood replaced him.

Navarro, Butler and Jeff Francoeur, who had three hits, each drove in a run in the first.

J.J. Hardy homered for the Orioles in the fifth inning, his 19th this season and the 100th of his career. Hardy, however, left after six innings with a sore left ankle. He will be examined Friday by Orioles team physician Dr. John Wilckens.

"He can't really pinpoint when it happened," Showalter said. "All of a sudden it showed up in between innings. It doesn't seem be to an ankle turn. He's day to day. We'll see how he feels tomorrow."

Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis drove in the other Baltimore runs. Markakis and Wieters each had two hits and an RBI. Adam Jones doubled and singled for his seventh multi-hit game in his past 12.

Notes: IF Cesar Izturis, who went 3 for 10 with three RBIs, two runs and two walks in three games on a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie, will join the Orioles on Friday. He is on the 60-day DL after having right elbow surgery. "I'm excited," Showalter said. "We haven't had him here in a while. He can do a lot things for us. We'll be able to use him in a lot of ways. We'll probably see a couple of new faces here the next few days." ... Showalter said RHP Jake Arrieta, who is out with an elbow injury, is "likely going" on the DL. He is scheduled to be examined Wednesday in Los Angeles by Dr. Lewis Yocum. ... Baltimore dropped to 0-8-2 in its 10 series. ... RHP Tommy Hunter will make his first Baltimore start Friday against Toronto. He was acquired in a July 30 trade with Texas. RHP Felipe Paulino, who starts Friday for the Royals against Detroit, has struck out 42 and walked nine, two intentionally, in his past six starts.