Westburg hits walk-off homer in 6-4 win after Mountcastle beats left field wall (updated)

Jordan Westburg rounded first base tonight, looked back at the dugout, pumped his fist and yelled.

This is what a walk-off home run feels like.

This is what a good, young hitter looks like.

Cedric Mullins singled with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning against Royals right-hander Nick Anderson, Westburg fell behind 0-2 on a pair of curveballs and launched a fastball over the right field fence, and the Orioles won the series opener in dramatic fashion, 6-4, before an announced and chilled crowd of 12,666.

"I was a little antsy that first pitch and chased a curveball down," Westburg said, "and I figured he was going to try to go back to the heater up, so I took that nice curveball right down the middle."

The mental part of the game clicked here, with Westburg vowing to stick to his approach and staying on the heater.

It came. And it went.

"I'm glad I could," he said. "Really wasn't trying to do too much. Just trying to move the ball and get to the next man.

"That was the coolest moment of my career so far. I've never had a walk-off in all the years I've played baseball. To have my first one here in Baltimore is pretty special."

"He's got the ability to hit the ball out the other way, as you saw tonight," said manager Brandon Hyde. "When he's going to right-center, driving the ball the other way, he can do things like he just did. He's got a lot of power that way. Great time to have an awesome swing."

Westburg hit three home runs as a rookie in 68 games after belting 18 in 67 with Triple-A Norfolk.

"My hope isn't necessarily to hit for more power," he said. "I'd like to, but at the end of the day that's not my goal. My goal is just to put together competitive at-bats for the ballclub, and hopefully that comes with a little bit more power.

"I really wasn't trying to do a whole lot. I was trying to move the ball and get the chain passed to the next man, and it just so happened that it went out. I'm going to try to stick to my process, stick to not thinking about the results too much. Hopefully it comes, and if not, I'm OK with it."

"He's adjusting to major league pitching," Hyde said. "You see it in batting practice and he's shown it in the minor leagues, that he can drive the ball out of the ballpark, and to all fields. He doesn't need to be just one-sided and pull-side. He can use the whole field. Hopefully, he continues to get comfortable and you start to see that more often."

* Ryan Mountcastle thought he hit two home runs Saturday night and again felt the pain of rejection, one ball hitting the top of the left field wall for a run-scoring double and another losing steam at the warning track in center for a sacrifice fly.

Mountcastle tilted back his head as he rounded first base, a pose so familiar now that it could be immortalized on a poster. He found solace in his three RBIs and another win, but what’s a guy got to do to reach the seats in this ballpark?

The answer came to Mountcastle tonight in the fourth inning with Anthony Santander on first base, his two-run shot off Royals starter Michael Wacha tying the game.

The wall wouldn’t defeat him. Not on this night.

The Orioles wouldn't be beaten, either.

Mountcastle was reminded in the eighth inning that distance doesn’t always matter. He reached on an infield hit with two outs and the count full to score Gunnar Henderson and give the Orioles a 4-3 lead that wouldn't hold up.

Closer Craig Kimbrel, making his Orioles debut, failed to earn his 418th career save. Kyle Isbel's bloop single to left field, two stolen bases by pinch-runner Dairon Blanco with one out and Maikel Garcia's fly ball to right tied the game.

"It was an unfortunate bloop," Hyde said. "Made a good pitch and the guy just finds the right spot."

Wacha retired nine of the first 10 batters, walking Adley Rutschman in first inning. Rutschman lined a double to left field leading off the fourth and scored on Santander’s single into right-center.

Mountcastle stepped to the plate and took out his frustrations on an innocent changeup.

"What a great swing," Hyde said.

A new dugout celebration was unveiled, with Mountcastle given a set of dirt bike handlebars to rev. Players have mimicked the action after reaching base, which provided a clue to the homer hose’s replacement.

It feels official.

"I love it," Westburg said. "I thought Mounty had some fun with it early in the game. It seems to catch on, everybody loves it in the dugout."

"I saw that," Hyde said. "I don't know the origin of it. That's not really my specialty. I'll leave the creativity to whoever came up with that. I'm not really sure."

Cole Irvin, one of the masterminds behind the homer hose, ordered the handlebars on Friday and they arrived earlier today. They're legit, too. Not a toy.

"Guys started doing stuff on the field and I just got us a pair of handlebars. That's all it is, that's all my involvement is. Guys were just going X Games mode," Irvin said, with a big grin on his face.

"We put up 24 runs the first two days and they were doing that. I guess we're in X Games mode."

Irvin flipped the logos so they wouldn't be visible.

The Royals loaded the bases against Yennier Cano with one out in the eighth on Bobby Witt Jr.’s leadoff single and stolen base, Vinnie Pasquantino’s infield hit on a ball that Mountcastle couldn’t backhand cleanly and an intentional walk to MJ Melendez. Hunter Renfroe popped up and Nick Loftin struck out.

"To escape that jam, that was the turning point in the game," Hyde said.

James McArthur had his own problems in the bottom of the eighth after consecutive one-out singles by Henderson and Rutschman, the latter on a shot down the first base line that Loftin misplayed and lost. Santander flied to deep left-center, but Mountcastle grounded to Witt’s backhand side, the throw to first bounced, and Loftin couldn’t pick it out of the dirt.

* A fan sitting in the center field bleachers tonight grabbed Salvador Pérez’s home run ball and flung it as far as he could onto the grass. Dean Kremer watched its initial flight off the bat, lowered his head and bent at the waist.

Kremer wanted it back, but before the pitch.

Witt drove a fastball 440 feet to left-center field with two outs in the third inning for the game’s first hit and run. Pasquantino drew a four-pitch walk and Pérez launched a cutter 418 feet.

The Royals condensed their damage against Kremer, who tossed a scoreless first inning, retired the side in order on 10 pitches in the second and on 11 in the fourth, and stranded a runner in an 11-pitch fifth.

Pérez struck out leading off the sixth and Kremer was removed to end the rotation’s streak of quality starts at three. But he allowed only the three runs and three hits, with one walk and five strikeouts.

Orioles starters have walked two and struck out 32. They’ve allowed eight earned runs and 13 hits in 23 1/3 innings for a 3.09 ERA.

"I ran into trouble in one inning, but other than that, pretty solid, so can't really complain," Kremer said. "It's a good starting point."

Witt registered an exit velocity of 110.8 mph while extending his hitting streak against the Orioles to 12 games, his longest versus any opponent. Kremer retired him on a fly ball in the fifth.

* The Orioles take pride in their defense and expect it to perform at a high level in every game, but they flashed good and bad in the top of the first inning.

Garcia led off with a ground ball that third baseman Ramón Urías couldn’t backhand or pick up on his next attempt. Witt reached on a fielder’s choice, beating the relay from Westburg to avoid a double play. Santander made a nice running catch of Pasquantino’s fly ball in right-center field and Henderson whiffed on Pérez’s ground ball for the Orioles’ second error.

Henderson reached into his glove but the ball was behind him.

Kremer didn’t fall behind. He retired Melendez on a fly ball, his 19th pitch of the inning.

"It is what it is," Kremer said. "We're all human. Guys make errors. It's my job to pick them up and they picked me up on the offensive side."

The Orioles committed an error in each game of the Angels series: by Jorge Mateo, Mountcastle and James McCann. Urías and Henderson made it five by five different players.

"Uncharacteristic out of us in the first inning," Hyde said. "Give Dean a ton of credit for getting five outs and putting up a zero there. For me, that was huge, because those kinds of innings can unravel on you."

Santander came up with a diving catch to rob Isbel in the fifth – maybe it’s the glasses he wore in the field – and the defense sparkled in the seventh to keep the score tied.

Mountcastle made a sensational diving stop of Isbel’s sharp grounder near the line, raced to the bag and lunged for it to record the out as Nelson Velázquez advanced to third base. After Cano replaced Keegan Akin, Henderson charged Garcia’s bouncer and played the short hop, fired to first and got the Orioles back in the dugout.

"We're going to play really good defense this year," Hyde said, "and we're going to have to."

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