KANSAS CITY – On a night when an O’s former American League East nemesis, lefty Ryan Yarbrough, rolled through the Orioles to retire nine straight in the first three innings, the ability to foresee an O’s rally, much less an offensive explosion, might have been challenging.
But these are the 2023 Orioles, a club that rolled off 19 wins in the first 28 games and one that had produced nine comeback wins in that span. Also, a club that had not lost a series-opening game all year, going 9-0.
That streak stayed alive tonight.
Down 3-0 going to the fourth inning, the Orioles use a pair of Ryan Mountcastle two-run homers and Cedric Mullins’ huge two-run single to storm back and beat Kansas City 11-7 tonight at Kauffman Stadium.
They are now 20-9 overall and 10-0 in series-opening games. The Orioles have won five of six, 12 of 14 and 16 of their past 20 games. They improved to 11-5 in road games.
Mountcastle produced his eighth career multi-homer game and second this year. The first was during his nine-RBI game on April 11 vs. Oakland.
Despite the rally and win, this game started badly for the Orioles. Right-hander Tyler Wells, beginning the night as the major league leader in WHIP and 12th in the AL in ERA, allowed two homers in the first inning as the Orioles fell behind 3-0.
Wells had allowed four homers all year and had given up just two runs over 12 2/3 innings his past two starts. But Bobby Witt Jr. hit a hanging slider out to left on a 3-2 count leading off the home first. After a one-out walk, MJ Melendez yanked a Wells changeup deep to right-center for a 3-0 lead. It was a 27-pitch first inning for Wells and for the Royals, a team averaging just 3.31 runs per game for the year.
Then Yarbrough, who had a ERA of 2.35 versus the Orioles last year and 3.72 for 16 career games against the club, retired 10 in a row to start and looked to be completely rolling. Until he was not.
Adley Rutschman’s one-out double to left in the fourth was the Orioles’ first hit. But they came quickly and in bunches after that as Baltimore scored five runs in the fourth, two an inning later and three in the inning after that. A 10-run explosion from the fourth through the sixth.
Mountcastle hit a 402-foot homer to left on the next pitch after Rutschman’s double, and it became 3-2 Royals on his seventh homer. He hit a first-pitch changeup 112 mph for his fourth-best career exit velocity. After a walk and single put two on, James McCann’s RBI single tied the game 3-3. Two walks later, the bases were loaded for Mullins, who has been stellar this year batting with runners in scoring position.
He was at it again with a two-run single to left for a 5-3 lead. That gave Mullins 23 RBIs on the year. When batting with runners in scoring position, he improved to 12-for-25 with 22 RBIs.
An inning later Mountcastle hit a two-run homer off former University of Maryland pitcher José Cuas for a 7-3 lead. This one came on an 0-1 slider and went 433 feet into the Kansas City night.
Since his nine-RBI night, in a 17-game span, Mountcastle was hitting .216 with only three RBIs. He would add an RBI double in the sixth tonight for five RBIs on the evening, all between the fourth and sixth innings. Rutschman had an RBI double in the sixth for a three-hit, two-double night to that point, and Jorge Mateo’s fielder’s choice grounder scored their 10th run. Rutschman singled later for a four-hit game.
This game even had some great defense from the Orioles too. Mullins may have made the catch of the year in center, robbing Kyle Isbel leading off the fifth. He made a backhand diving stab of a deep shot to the gap in right-center. The ball had a .450 expected batting average. An inning earlier Mountcastle’s leaping catch of a liner at first ended a rally with two runners on and two outs.
Wells settled down quite nicely after the first. He retired the side in order in three of the next four innings and kept K.C. off the board until allowing a solo homer to Salvador Perez in the sixth. The three homers allowed is a career high for Wells.
But the 10-run explosion helped make him the winning pitcher, and he is now 2-1 with a 3.34 ERA in six appearances. He gave up just three hits over six innings. All were homers. Wells gave up three walks and got four strikeouts on 92 pitches.
Kansas City would not go down easily, however. Perez hit his second homer of the night, a two-run shot following Vinnie Pasquantino's double as the Royals scored three in the seventh to close it to 10-7. Reliever Mike Baumann gave up the three runs until Cionel Pérez got the inning's last out to restore order after Salvador Perez produced his 15th career multi-homer game.
This game, not a model for the new pace-of-play rules, even had a 16-pitch at-bat by Anthony Santander in the eighth. He produced a leadoff single and later scored on a Ramón Urías single for an 11-7 score. He had 12 straight foul balls during the sequence.
Kansas City (7-23) is now 1-13 at home with 10 straight losses. The Royals, who have lost 14 of their past 17, began today with a minus-64 run differential, among the worst in the AL.
If the Orioles win either of the next two games in K.C., they will have seven straight series wins. The club record is nine in a row by the 1968 Birds.
Manager Brandon Hyde on eventually getting to Yarbrough: “We started letting the ball get to us. You know, I thought he was, obviously, really good early and was keeping us big-time off balance with the changeup outside. Freeze us with fastballs in, going back and forth and we just didn’t take a great approach off him early, and all of a sudden we did. Started with Adley’s driving the ball the way he did and Mounty jumping on one, but it was a really good offensive inning there."
Hyde on Wells' night: “The game really didn’t start our way. Tough first inning for Tyler, but he got better as the game went on. Just didn’t have the life to his fastball in that first inning. Thought he improved over the course of the game and put zeros up after that to that last inning in the sixth. Showed a lot, giving up three there in the first and being able to come back."
Wells on his game: “I guess the word to put it in was a grind. Obviously, the three walks, the hit batter, those are not things I want to give up. I can sit there and focus on the negative all day long, but I really want to point out my defense really had my back tonight. With Cedric making an incredible catch. Mounty, the jumping play at first. And the offense picked me up when I needed it most.”
Mountcastle on having a big night: "It was a great win for the team. Anytime you can get some RBIs and drive some runs in, it's always huge. We needed them tonight."