When the Cleveland Baseball Team visits Baltimore, good things tend to happen for the Orioles.
Two years ago, in the midst of an atrocious 108-loss season, the Orioles battered Cleveland for back-to-back 13-0 victories at Camden Yards, becoming the first team in MLB history to record consecutive 13-run shutout wins.
This afternoon, the O’s kicked it up another notch.
The Birds destroyed Cleveland pitching with an 18-run explosion, their most prolific run total since Aug. 16, 2015, an 18-2 blowout of the Athletics in Baltimore. Today’s victory earned the Orioles their second consecutive home series win, and it all started with their All-Star worthy leadoff man.
If you thought Cedric Mullins might take a breather after going 5-for-5 and reclaiming the AL lead in hits on Saturday, guess again! He took no time at all in setting the tone for the Orioles’ afternoon offensive firepower, bashing a leadoff homer over the out-of-town scoreboard in right against Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill. It was his seventh hit in his last seven at-bats, and his third homer. But Cedric was just getting started.
In the second, the rout really got underway. The O’s not only blistered the ball all over the park, but Cleveland handed the Orioles a bunch of runs with the kind of defense that made it look like they’ve never played baseball before. The rally began with consecutive singles by Ryan Mountcastle and DJ Stewart, and with one out, Ramon Urias was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Austin Wynns picked a good time for his first hit of the season, looping an RBI single to right that moved everyone up a station. And that brought up the red-hot Mullins, who — guess what? — got yet another hit. Frankly, it should have been an out, as it was a fairly lazy fly ball to center that hung in the air for a while, but Harold Ramirez got a terrible jump, broke the wrong way, and ultimately let the ball fall in front of him. Whatever, it’s a line drive in the box score! And Mullins’ eighth straight hit. Stewart scored to make it 3-0 Birds.
Quantrill could have limited the damage there, but had nobody but his own sloppy glovework to blame for what happened next. Trey Mancini tapped a comebacker to Quantrill that should have been a home-to-first, inning-ending double play, but the pitcher one-hopped the throw to the plate (which catcher Rene Rivera bizarrely tried to barehand) and it skipped back to the screen, allowing two runners to score.
Manager Terry Francona had seen enough of a pitcher who could neither pitch nor field, and yanked Quantrill for reliever Nick Sandlin. The submarining righty added two more runs to Quantrill’s ledger by serving up a double to Anthony Santander, extending the Birds’ run total for the inning to six.
Two innings later, the Orioles nearly matched that total, scoring five runs after there were two outs and nobody on. Mullins started the inning with his ninth straight hit, a gapper to right-center, but got greedy and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple (replays seemed to show he avoided the tag, but an Orioles challenge failed to overturn the call). No matter. With two down against tall lefty Sam Hentges, Santander and Freddy Galvis each singled.
Mountcastle then took a huge swing on a fastball and shattered his bat, with the fat part of the lumber sailing toward shortstop Amed Rosario just as the ball did. Rosario, retreating from the stick of death, took an extra beat before fielding the ball and was too late to throw out Mountcastle at first. Alertly, Santander hustled all the way around to score on the play, bad ankle and all.
Next, Stewart pulled a grounder into the shift on the right side past diving first baseman Bobby Bradley. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez speared it with a dive and tossed to Hentges, but the pitcher was late in covering the bag and couldn’t find it with his foot as Stewart crossed safely. Lost in thought for a moment, Hentges failed to notice Galvis streaming around third and digging safely for the plate. So yes, on two consecutive plays, the Orioles scored a runner from second on an infield single. It was that kind of day for Cleveland.
With 12 runs of support, you’d think Jorge Lopez could comfortably cruise, but frankly the afternoon was a struggle for the Orioles right-hander. Lopez had trouble finding the strike zone, throwing 33 balls to his 41 strikes, and Cleveland batters stung a lot of scorching line drives that just happened to find fielders’ gloves. He gave up a run in the third on back-to-back doubles, avoiding further damage on a Mullins sliding catch to end the inning. In the fourth, he walked two batters and plunked another, but again wriggled free on a bases-loaded double-play that quashed the threat.
Lopez stayed out there just long enough to qualify for the win, slogging through the fifth and giving up a two-run homer to Rosario. His final line: five innings, three runs, four hits, three walks, two strikeouts. It’s the kind of performance that’s good enough when your team scores 12 runs, but not the kind that will earn you a spot in the Most Birdland Player poll. Sorry, Jorge.
The Orioles had one more huge inning left in their bats, tallying another five-spot in the seventh. Again, all the runs scored with two outs. Lefty Kyle Nelson retired two of the first four batters, but had a devil of a time getting the final out, surrendering four straight RBI hits — a Santander single, Galvis single, Mountcastle double, and Ryan McKenna two-run single — to extend the Orioles’ lead to the football-like score of 17-3. Urias tacked on the capper with a solo homer in the eighth.
What an incredible day for the Orioles’ offense, up and down the lineup. Eight batters had multi-hit games this afternoon, including three apiece from Mullins, Santander, Mountcastle, and Stewart. Every batter in the lineup had at least one hit except Mancini (who appeared to have a bloop single in the seventh, only for a late-breaking Mullins to be forced out at second for a fielder’s choice). Every hitter scored at least one run — seven of them scored at least twice — and everybody but Mancini had an RBI, including six who had multiple ribbies.
As for Mullins, he was on the verge of tying Ken Singleton’s club record with hits in 10 consecutive at-bats. But after walking twice, he flied out to left in his final at-bat, snapping his streak at nine. Oh well. Nothing to do but start a new one.
Hunter Harvey, Tyler Wells, and newly recalled Zac Lowther combined to work the final four innings of the game, with a Bradley two-run homer in the ninth off Lowther the only damage as the O’s cruised to an 18-5 victory.
It’s always nice to head into an off day on a high note, and they don’t get much higher than this. The Birds return for one final series on this homestand, a two-game interleague set against the Mets, starting Tuesday. Hopefully the O’s haven’t used up all their runs.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Sunday, June 6?
This poll is closed
Ryan Mountcastle (3-for-5, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI)
Cedric Mullins (3-for-4, HR, 2B, 2 BB, 2 R, 2 RBI)
Anthony Santander (3-for-5, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI)
Ramon Urias (2-for-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI)