O's game blog: Looking for another win in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI – Tonight, in the second game of this series, the Orioles look for their fifth win in six games, and to move three games over the .500 mark as they play at Cincinnati. The Orioles scored four runs in the ninth last night to break a 2-2 tie and beat the Reds 6-2 in the opener of a three-game series and six-game road trip.

Cedric Mullins’ two-run single to center gave the Orioles a 4-2 lead and Trey Mancini’s RBI single that bounced off the second-base bag made it 5-2. Struggling Ryan Mountcastle came through with a sac fly for the 6-2 margin. Jorge López then pitched a 1-2-3 last of the ninth to cap a night of four scoreless innings from the Baltimore bullpen.

The Orioles bullpen has allowed just one earned run in 22 2/3 innings over the past five games. Here are the best bullpen ERAs in the big leagues:

2.72 – Houston
2.89 – New York Yankees
2.99 – Orioles
3.02 – Detroit

The Orioles have had some nice late-inning comebacks and wins this season, and last night was the latest example. With the victory Friday, the Orioles are now at a zero run differential for the season. They have both allowed and scored 421 runs.

But that has come via minus-46 runs over the first five innings of games, with plus-46 runs from the sixth inning on. It’s plus-two in the sixth inning for the Orioles and plus-44 runs from the seventh inning on. They are now a plus-nine in the ninth inning of games.

Trailing 2-0 in the sixth inning Friday, Anthony Santander hit a two-run home to left off Mike Minor for a 2-2 tie. It was his 18th homer and came on a 3-2 changeup. It was part of a 3-for-4 game for Santander that raised his average to .251 and OPS to .783. Santander now has a nine-game hitting streak and is 13-for-35 during this run, batting .371/.450/.714/1.164 with three doubles, three homers and eight RBIs. He is 5-for-8 his past two games.

But a couple of O’s middle-of-the-order hitters have struggled a bit at times lately. Mountcastle is 2-for-31 his past eight games and without a home run his last 19 games. Austin Hays is 7-for-36 over his past 10 games, with just one homer his past 23 games.

The Orioles (51-49) begin play tonight two games behind Tampa Bay for the third American League wild card spot, the sixth and final AL playoff berth. Cleveland is just ahead of the Orioles, 1 ½ back of the Rays.

The Birds have won four of their last five, 16 of 21, 21 of 31 and 27 of their past 41 games. Their win last night gives them a 16-7 record in July. And while they are under .500 on the road for the year at 22-29, they are 5-2 over the last seven road games.

The Reds (38-61) had won 10 of 16 games before Friday’s loss. Cincy is 4-4 in the second half and 22-32 at Great American Ball Park this season.

Right-hander Dean Kremer (3-2, 3.06 ERA) is on the mound tonight for his 10th start for the Orioles. On Sunday versus the Yankees he gave up five hits and four runs over 5 1/3 innings on 83 pitches. The Orioles are 6-3 in his nine starts, and Kremer is 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA in four road starts. He has thrown four scoreless starts for the club.

Right-hander Tyler Mahle (4-7, 4.48 ERA) will start for the home team. In 18 starts he has thrown 98 1/3 innings and allowed 86 hits and 12 homers. He's surrendered 39 walks while recording 107 strikeouts for a walk rate of 3.6 and a 9.8 strikeout rate. The Reds are 7-11 in his games.

Mahle has pitched to a 3.03 ERA over his past six starts, allowing a batting average of .218 and OPS of .686 in that span. In 11 home starts, he is 1-5 with a 4.94 ERA.

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