The Orioles crossed the border reeling after dropping two of three in Tampa Bay. Baltimore dropped the biggest game it had played all season against the Rays on Sunday, which only heightened the stakes this week against Toronto.
The Orioles went eight innings without a base runner on Sunday, but they jumped on the Blue Jays early tonight. Baltimore posted a pair of crooked numbers against Yusei Kikuchi and made a statement with a 7-3 victory in the first of three against the Jays.
Baltimore chased Kikuchi for the second time in as many weeks. The Orioles tagged Kikuchi for five runs in a win at Camden Yards on August 8, and took him for six runs in just 3.1 innings tonight.
Brandon Hyde played the matchup game and started eight righties against the lefty. Ryan McKenna took Cedric Mullins’ spot in the lineup, and he did not waste his opportunity. McKenna doubled twice and posted his first three-hit game in the majors from the leadoff spot. The 25-year-old extended his hit streak to six games and continued his strong performance against left-handed pitching.
McKenna got things started right away with a double that landed behind Vlad Guerrero Jr. down the first base line. McKenna raced around the bases and scored on a single by Anthony Santander. Santander—now eligible to play in Toronto after receiving his COVID vaccine—added a pair of walks and immediately made his presence known north of the border.
Santander worked his first walk in the third inning to put a runner on for Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle has owned Toronto all season, and he lived up to his reputation tonight. He worked a nine-pitch walk in his first at bat, and sent a ball back to Baltimore in the third inning.
MASN’s Kevin Brown had just asked what the country of Canada ever did to Ryan before Mountcastle blasted a 417-foot no doubter over the left field fence. The round-tripper provided Baltimore a three-run lead and prompted Brown to dub Mountcastle “The destroyer of Canadian worlds.”
Mountcastle did not have much of an answer when asked about his strong performance against Toronto this season. He smiled and said “it’s just one of those things, and I’m definitely not upset about it.”
Neither are we, Ryan. Neither are we.
Toronto trimmed the deficit to one with a two-run single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the third, but the Orioles reclaimed the momentum in the fourth. The inning started innocently enough with Jorge Mateo reaching on an errant throw and Terrin Vavra working a walk. Kikuchi sailed a pickoff attempt into center field, and suddenly the Orioles had two runners in scoring position.
Tyler Nevin bounced a hard-hit ground ball to Bo Bichette and Mateo immediately broke for the plate. Bichette made a strong throw home, but Mateo dove in and beat the tag. Not many players score there, but Mateo did.
McKenna laced his second double of the game to score Vavra, and Hyde sent Brett Phillips out to pinch run for Nevin at third. The move immediately paid off with Phillips scoring on a Ryan Mountcastle sacrifice fly. The Orioles led 6-to-2.
Kyle Bradish delivered a strong shutdown inning in the fourth, but failed to complete the fifth inning. Bradish allowed a solo home run to Guerrero and singles by Gurriel and Bichette before Hyde came for the ball. Bryan Baker needed just one pitch to end the inning with a pop out by Matt Chapman.
Hyde managed with a must-win mindset and was rewarded for it. Pinch running in the fourth inning and using a quick hook on Bradish were winning moves.
Baker stayed on and worked a clean sixth that included strikeouts by Raimel Tapia and Danny Jansen. Dillon Tate tossed 1.2 scoreless innings of relief and Cionel Pérez got the only out asked of him in the eighth.
Félix Bautista entered in a non-save situation and allowed a single to Whit Merrifield and a walk to George Springer. Mateo and Adley Rutschman made a mound visit with one out, and Bautista immediately ended the game with a 6-4-3 double play.
The Orioles recorded eight hits and worked six walks in the game. They used a blend of power, speed, and situational hitting. Ramón Urías sandwiched a single between walks by Mountcastle and Mateo before Vavra drove in the seventh run with a sacrifice fly.
The Orioles moved to 60-55 and now sit 1.5 games behind the Blue Jays in the Wild Card standings. Baltimore will have an opportunity to make up ground with Dean Kremer facing Alek Manoah tomorrow night.
Who was the most Birdland on August 15?
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Ryan McKenna (3-for-5, 2 2B, R, RBI)
Ryan Mountcastle (1-for-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB)
Brandon Hyde (started McKenna in leadoff spot, used a pinch-runner in fourth that led to a run, pulled Bradish at the right time)