Jordan Westburg cracked more than a smile. He positively beamed as he rounded first base, fist in the air, his teammates spilling out of the dugout to meet him at home plate.

For such a quiet character — a put-my-head-down-and-work infielder who is receiving more playing time this season — Westburg showed more emotion in this one moment than usual. For good reason, too. He wasn’t sure if that ball would sneak over the right-field fence, but when Hunter Renfroe ran out of space and came up empty on his leap, Westburg spun toward his teammates, pointed into the dugout and yelled.

“That was the coolest moment in my career so far,” said Westburg later, some excitement still breaking through his even-keeled nature. “I’ve never had a walk-off in all the years I’ve played baseball, so to have my first one here in Baltimore is pretty special.”

Westburg’s opposite-field drive handed the Orioles a 6-4 victory in the series opener against the Kansas City Royals, and it also bailed out Baltimore’s new closer. Craig Kimbrel hugged Westburg on the field, one of many Orioles to do so, but his came from a special place of thanks.

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After all, his first test for Baltimore’s new closer didn’t go as planned, but the long ball saved the day.

Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jordan Westburg celebrates with closer Craig Kimbrel (46) after hitting a two-run homer for a walk-off win over the Kansas City Royals on April 1. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Kimbrel had to wait for this. For three days, the right-hander arrived in the bullpen gearing himself up for a potential save situation only to stay there, unneeded, during the first series of the season.

Then came Monday night, with a damp chill emblematic of October baseball, when these save situations are all the more difficult. It was April, the dawn of a new season, but here was a lead to protect for a new team — even the most seasoned of veterans might feel the stakes of a debut.

A bloop single and two stolen bases spoiled it.

Kimbrel yelled into his glove after he struck out Bobby Witt Jr. to end the inning, but the damage was done. The Royals tied the game by manufacturing a run. Kyle Isbel looped in a base hit before pinch runner Dairon Blanco stole second and third with one out. Blanco scored on a sacrifice fly.

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“I can’t let guys run on the bases like that,” Kimbrel said. “It’s always going to open up opportunities. But even still with that, I had an opportunity to make a pitch and get a strikeout. … Obviously, not that way I would have wanted to go out there and close it down the first time. But for us to be able to come back out and win it the next inning, that’s awesome.”

Kimbrel has made a career of this. He’s saved games for over a decade, and at 35, he’s not slowing down even as he nears the top of the record books. For the moment, however, he will remain at 417 career saves.

As right-hander Félix Bautista recovers from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, Kimbrel is charged with the responsibility of the ninth inning. Even with Kimbrel’s track record, the absence of Bautista is a major storyline for a bullpen and team that held onto narrow leads frequently last year.

Of course, Westburg’s first career walk-off hit solved the problem.

“Not happy with blowing the game,” Kimbrel said, “but to watch us come back and win it in the last half of an inning is great to see.”

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The largest takeaway from Monday might not be anything that occurred on the field. It might’ve happened in the dugout after Ryan Mountcastle’s two-run homer tied the game in the fourth inning.

The first baseman was handed a bike’s handlebar and flicked it with his wrists.

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The celebration provided more support that the Orioles are adopting the engine rev celebration they first exhibited on opening day, when a player rolled his wrists once he reached base as if he was revving the engine of a motorcycle or scooter. Each year, there’s an organic process to determine a new celebration.

“I love it,” Westburg said. “I thought Mounty had some fun with it early in the game. It seemed to catch on and everybody loves it in the dugout, so it’s a good addition by Cole Irvin.”

In 2022, there was the home run chain. Last year, the homer hose took over and even inspired a new section at Camden Yards at which Mr. Splash sprays fans with a hose for runs and extra-base hits.

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It remains to be seen if Mr. Splash swaps water for motor oil.

Anyway, Mountcastle’s two-run homer in the fourth coupled with Anthony Santander’s RBI single earlier in the frame leveled the score against a Royals team that broke through against right-hander Dean Kremer an inning earlier.

Kremer didn’t match the quality start streak his three rotation mates produced in Baltimore’s opening series, during which Corbin Burnes, Grayson Rodriguez and Tyler Wells each completed six innings with seven or more strikeouts. But Kremer wasn’t far behind.

He completed 5 1/3 innings and allowed three runs — off home runs from Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Pérez with two outs in the third inning.

Kremer’s pitch count was elevated because of a two-error first inning. Ramón Urías first juggled a ball at third to allow a runner to reach base. Gunnar Henderson booted a grounder at shortstop next.

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“Give Dean a ton of credit for putting a zero up, getting five outs and putting a zero up there,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “For me, that was huge. Those kind of innings can unravel on you, too, when you make errors that are routine, that you normally make.”

It was an uncharacteristic display that was quickly washed away with a series of web gems.

Catcher Adley Rutschman snagged a foul ball with a slide. Santander in right field went back for a catch in the gap before laying out for a liner in front of him. In the seventh, Mountcastle’s dive at first base kept a run off the board, and Henderson charged a chopper from the next batter to strand the go-ahead runner at third.

Those plays were more emblematic of what Baltimore expects of itself defensively. They maintained a close game that could’ve slipped away.

The tie game was under significant threat in the eighth inning, when Kansas City loaded the bases against right-hander Yennier Cano. But Cano tightroped out of danger, forcing a pop-up before striking out Nick Loftin and issuing his classic straddle-the-mound pose while smacking his glove.

“To escape that jam,” Hyde said, “that was a turning point in the game.”

Kimbrel left the mound in a different mood, having surrendered the lead. But Westburg’s swing allowed all of that to be washed away in a flood of Gatorade, dumped in celebration on a cool April night.