TORONTO – It was not that long ago, during the 2018 season, that the Orioles went 0-10 at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Things have changed in Birdland and this trip in produced a three-game sweep over 30 innings of baseball by a 20-10 score.
The Blue Jays (25-22) are now six games behind the Orioles in the standings, look very beatable and are suddenly a last-place team. But the Orioles did some things to make them look that way and Toronto is now 1-10 in its last 11 AL East games.
The Orioles are heading in a different direction. Since they lost two of three at Atlanta, the Birds are 9-4 with four straight series wins. Counting the Atlanta series they are 10-6 (.625) in this stretch against winning clubs that continues tomorrow in the Bronx. A team playing .625 ball over the full year would win 101 games.
No longer can anyone say the O’s have built their record against a weak schedule. The questions about “are the Orioles for real” are beginning to be replaced by “how good can these guys be?”
To build a roster that can win like this the Orioles have plenty of strengths and this weekend their bench looked like it qualifies as one. Ryan O’Hearn produced the massive three-run homer Saturday and Terrin Vavra’s pinch-hit two-run single helped key their five-run 11th inning on Sunday.
Mullins was the headliner in this win with a huge day, but he said the entire roster had a hand in the sweep.
“Yeah I think that is what makes this team special, just continuing to be prepared when that opportunity arrives. Even Gunnar (Henderson) with those struggles came up with a huge hit today for us to keep the momentum going. Just need to continue to stay focused.”
Added Vavra: “It takes everybody in the clubhouse to get a win and today was a prime example of that.”
Vavra was asked about staying ready when you don’t play every day.
“You never know when your number is going to get called,” he said. “Happy to be in a situation where you can help the team win. I was just trying to get a pitch up in the zone, get that ball to the outfield and get that runner from third in. Fortunately found some grass, or turf and got two in.”
It can be difficult to sit for long stretches and then get such a clutch hit.
“You know it is something that I have been challenged with in my career. Been something that I’ve had to get used to and learn to appreciate and learn how to be successful with it. It is tough but ultimately it is tough to do anything at this level. So. you hope to do what you can to stay ready and make the most of every opportunity,” said Vavra.
And maybe the “are the O’s for real” questions are finally going away
“I think this team is capable of so much and I think that, it’s only a matter of time when people are talking about us if they are not already. And you know it’s fun to be a part of and hope to keep it rolling," said Vavra.
Speaking of rolling: Mullins drove in a run in the tenth inning yesterday and added a two-run double in the 11th. He went 5-for-6 for his third career five-hit game. Mullins is now batting .283/.367/.509/.876 with seven homers, 23 runs, 13 steals and 38 RBIs.
With runners in scoring position, he is now 19-for-40, batting .475 with an OPS of 1.463. If the Most Valuable Oriole voting took place today he’d have a great chance to win that. Mullins set a high standard for his game with the 30-30 season in 2021, but he might be playing some of the best ball of his career right now.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “The adjustments that I made, especially left-on-left (producing an .883 OPS) that was a main focus during the offseason. I am seeing a lot of positive results from it. Just sticking with what I’ve been doing and continuing to shoot for those results.”
Said Hyde: “He is just playing an unbelievable brand of baseball right now on both sides. Defense, incredible, Gold Glove defender and just hitting rockets all over the field and getting huge hits for us. He’s doing everything.”
For the Orioles, the weekend produced:
* Their first sweep of an AL East opponent since taking two games against Toronto at Oriole Park from Aug. 8-9, 2022.
* Their first three-game sweep against the division since sweeping the Red Sox at Fenway Park from April 2-4, 2021.
* Their first sweep of at least three games against Toronto since Aug. 27-29, 2018 at Oriole Park.
* Their first road sweep of the Blue Jays since sweeping a three-game set at Rogers Centre from April 22-24, 2005.
Final notes: The Orioles have scored 40 runs their last seven games.
Baltimore pitching held Toronto to just 10 runs in 30 innings on the weekend for a 2.70 ERA. The starting rotation had an ERA of 2.08 in the three games, allowing four earned runs over 17 1/3. Toronto hitters went 6-for-38 with runners in scoring position in the series while the Orioles went 7-for-18 yesterday. Vlad Guerrero Jr. was 1-for-13 with no RBIs and six strikeouts.
With Tampa Bay’s loss Sunday, the Orioles moved within 2.5 games of first in the AL East, the closest they have been since April 4.
The pitching matchups beginning tomorrow at Yankee Stadium:
Tuesday: Kyle Bradish (2-1, 3.90 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (5-0, 2.01 ERA)
Wednesday: Tyler Wells (3-1, 2.94 ERA) vs. Nestor Cortes (4-2, 5.21 ERA)
Thursday: Kyle Gibson (5-3, 4.27 ERA) vs. Clarke Schmidt (2-4, 6.00 ERA)
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