Two months after Ryan Mountcastle did his usual damage to the Blue Jays in Toronto, there’s still no one who can offer any sort of explanation for his extreme dominance against them. Why he stays or gets hot. Why slumps disappear like the baseballs that he hits.
Theories aren’t pulled out of thin air, or the heavy stuff that Baltimore is experiencing this month.
Mountcastle laughs about it. He knows the questions are coming at his locker.
Manager Brandon Hyde put him in the cleanup spot Monday night, though Mountcastle posted a .170 average and .435 OPS in his last 26 games. No home runs since July 3. None at Camden Yards since June 5.
Of course, Mountcastle hit a 426-foot homer to left field and delivered an RBI single in a 7-4 victory. Exactly how the script read.
Mountcastle went 8-for-18 with two doubles and three home runs in the four-game series at Rogers Centre. He began last night with a career .356/.411/.720 line in 30 games against the Jays, with four doubles, 13 home runs, 25 RBIs, 23 runs scored and 11 walks.
No opponent hurts them more than Mountcastle.
Does he finally have an explanation?
“I don’t,” he said. “For me to be playing like I have and then come out (Monday) and do that, I don’t know. There’s just something weird about it. I don’t know.
“I was hoping the good juju when we face them would come back and it was a good day, and hopefully I can build from there.”
Cedric Mullins stood a few feet away and tried to distract Mountcastle, who also made solid eye contact and laughed. Mullins congratulated his friend on a terrific interview.
Perhaps Mullins knows why Mountcastle always destroys Jays pitching.
“I have no idea,” he said, smiling and shaking his head.
Hyde isn’t consumed by it. He isn’t staying up nights conducting his own studies. He’s just happy to be on the other side of it for a change.
“We have a few against us, too,” he said.
That’s fair. But let’s keep it positive rather than publish that roll call again.
“I don’t know,” Hyde said. “It might be coincidence, maybe not. He might see the ball well in Toronto. He swung the bat well the first part of the season up there. But hopefully he keeps it going because we need him.”
Mountcastle said he felt “a little bit better” on Monday.
“But nothing too crazy out of the ordinary,” he added. “Finally got into one and was very excited about that.”
Batting cleanup again last night, Mountcastle collected two more extra-base hits and drove in a run. He bounced into a double play in the first inning that scored a run but softened a rally, and he doubled to center field in the third and was denied an RBI when the ball hopped the fence. He popped up in the fifth and doubled off the right field fence in the seventh to score Adley Rutschman in a 6-5 comeback win.
The night ended with Mountcastle 12-for-25 against Toronto in six games this year, including four doubles and four home runs.
Mountcastle slashed .275/.306/.463 in May and .297/.346/.614 in June, but the month of July was a gear-stripping grind, with a .195/.242/.299 line in 23 games and just the one home run.
“He’s a young player going through young player struggles a little bit,” Hyde said. “The swing’s big, and when he’s able to tighten the strike zone and swing at strikes, good things happen. And I think as he struggles a little bit, then there’s more chase. You see him leaving the zone a little bit more often just because he’s a little bit more anxious trying to get out of it, trying to help.
“We’ve been playing good and he wants to contribute.”
The timing would be ideal with the Orioles clawing their way into a pennant race, and with 13 more games against the Jays.
“Anybody in our division, when we play them it’s going to be big games from here on out,” Mountcastle said. “Excited to face them and try to get some wins.”