On a night of big offense, defense was also a difference-maker in win at K.C.

KANSAS CITY – On the night when the Orioles won another series-opening game, scored 11 runs and got 10 of them in the middle three innings and Ryan Mountcastle produced his eighth career multi-homer game, a few defensive gems loomed large for the Orioles.

When center fielder Cedric Mullins sprinted deep into the right-center gap to run down a ball in the last of the fifth, it might have been the O’s top web gem of the 2023 season. Mullins made a diving catch on the warning track. A ball that Kyle Isbel hit 100 mph and 387 feet with an expected batting average of .450 was no match for Mullins' speed and glove.

The Orioles had scored seven runs the previous two innings to gain the lead and Mullins made sure the momentum stayed on their side.

“Cedric made the play of the year for me,” manager Brandon Hyde marveled after the game. “How about that play? What was the Statcast on that play? He outran that baseball and then the dive with the wall right in front. Super tough play. We played great defense tonight.

“We’re a better defensive club than we showed early. Still kind of finding our way a little and still making some mistakes here and there, but, you know we have to play well defensively and tonight we did.”

An inning earlier, Mountcastle’s leaping catch at first base of a liner hit 104 mph by Maikel Garcia with two men on, ended a rally. That ball had an expected batting average of .760. That same inning, third baseball Gunnar Henderson made a diving stop to his left to get an out.

While the O’s offense came to life in the middle innings of an 11-7 victory that improved the O’s record to 20-9, the defense was not outdone.

“I sit there and say to Ced all the time, ‘If you don’t get a gold glove, I’m going to go hunt those people down.’ He truly is incredible,” said winning pitcher Tyler Wells. “He gives you a lot of confidence. I told him, ‘This isn’t the first one and it won’t be the last.’ Whenever you have great defense on the infield too, Gunnar with a sliding play, you’ve got guys that give their bodies (up) day in and day out. As a starting pitcher you cannot appreciate those guys more. I really can’t say enough about the effort those guys give every single night. Thankful to be with such a great group of guys.”

Said Mountcastle of the Mullins’ catch: “That play was insane. I didn’t think anyone could catch that one. Hopefully, it’s No. 1 on the top ten and deservedly so.”

Mounty goes deep twice: Mountcastle hit two-run homers in the fourth and fifth innings and had a five-RBI night. In the previous 17 games, since his nine-RBI game against Oakland, he had batted .216 with just three RBIs. But on this night he not only hit the ball hard, but they fell in or went over the wall as he hit 835 feet worth of homers.

“He is a huge part of our lineup,” said Hyde. “He’s a run producer for us. He’s got a ton of power. Great to see him deliver tonight.”

Of Mountcastle’s team-leading eight home runs this season, five have come against left-handed pitchers, matching his homer total versus lefties all of last season when he hit 22.

What an at-bat: O’s right fielder Anthony Santander singled to right against right-hander Taylor Clarke, a one-time Towson University pitcher, in the eighth inning. What made the single notable was it came after 12 foul balls and on the 16th pitch.

That marks the most pitches seen in an at-bat that ended with a hit by an Orioles batter since pitch count data is available, dating to 1988.

“Shows you the competitor he is,” said Hyde. “He is grinding right now big time, trying to find it. Just to see him spoil pitches off a good reliever too, spoiled a ton of pitches. And great to see him get rewarded with a single there.”

Santander, batting .222/.292/.364/.656, went 2-for-5 with a walk and scored twice.

“Tired,” he said with a laugh of how he felt about that at-bat. “But don’t give away the AB. Focus to get on base. Use the same approach (as the at-bat was going on). He was throwing really good pitches. I missed some I should have hit, but it’s part of the game. But it ended with a base hit.”

It did and maybe it begins to get his season pointed in a better direction.

The Orioles are now 10-0 in series opening games. Overall they have won five of six, 12 of 14 and 16 of 20. They are 4-1 on this 10-game trip and 11-5 on the road this season.

At 20-9 overall, the Orioles matched their second-best 29-game start in team history, previously done in 2005, 1997 and 1969, and trailing only a 21-8 start in 1970, when they went on to win 108 games and the World Series.

The O's recorded their 10th comeback win of the year and second on this road trip (also last Thursday at Detroit) and that is two behind Boston for the most in the majors.

The Orioles went 8-for-18 with runners in scoring position to mark their most such hits in a game since Aug. 26, 2021 versus the Angels, when they went 9-for-16.

They won despite allowing at least four home runs in a game for the first time in five years, since July 24, 2018 against Boston, in a 7-6 victory.

Via the Orioles twitter feed we can see how the club got it done last night on defense, offense and also on the bases.






Orioles and Royals lineups in Game 2 of series
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