MINNEAPOLIS – A day that started out with the Orioles striking out often, ended with them pounding the Minnesota Twins 15-2 today behind a barrage of six homers, a few blasted well over 400 feet.
It was a nice way to say goodbye to the first half by saying goodbye to a few baseballs against the pitching staff that began today with the second-best ERA in the majors at 3.56 to Atlanta at 3.55.
The Orioles hit the break at 54-35 with a five-game win streak and they tie a season-high at moving to 19 games above the .500 mark.
The Orioles' .607 win percentage at the break is the eighth-best in team history at this point of the year.
The Orioles scored seven runs in the fifth inning to lead 8-1 and six in the sixth to make it a 14-1 blowout. The six homers are a season-high, doubling up any game this year save for one when they hit a previous season-high four on June 13 versus Toronto.
Last weekend they scored three runs off this pitching staff. This weekend they got 24.
Austin Hays hit a 434-foot homer, the third-longest of his career. Adley Rutschman hit a 461-foot blast, his career best and the second longest by any Oriole this year, behind Gunnar Henderson’s 462-foot shot at the Yard. Anthony Santander homered twice while Aaron Hicks and Ramon Urias also connected.
The Orioles completed their first three-game sweep of the Twins since April 4-7, 2016 at Oriole Park. It is their first of three or more games in Minnesota since a four-game sweep Aug. 22-25, 2011. Their last sweep at Minnesota of exactly three games was from Sept. 7-9, 1999.
They have their fifth series sweep of the first half and fourth of three games. They swept two at Washington in April and swept three at Detroit, three at Toronto and three at home against Kansas City.
With the game tied 1-1, the Orioles plated seven runs in the fifth. It is their fourth inning of five runs or more since Thursday, a span of just four games.
Jordan Westburg blooped a single to left off right-hander Joe Ryan who had fanned six in the first two innings and 10 through four. But Urias hit a two-run shot for a 3-1 lead and pounding was on. Following an out and two walks, Ryan Mountcastle, reactivated today off the injured list, pinch hit and singled and so did Hays and it was 5-1. One out later Hicks blasted a three-run homer to open an 8-1 lead and knock Ryan from the game.
The Birds poured it on with six more in the sixth in an inning that featured Rutschman’s massive two-run blast and the first Santander homer. He would hit his second in the very next inning.
The runs were coming almost too fast to keep up with as the Orioles, who scored 14 on Thursday at Yankee Stadium, added 15 more today. Three days after they set a season high for runs, they set another.
The 13 runs in back-to-back innings was the O's most since getting 13 on April 11, 2002 versus Tampa when they got one and 12.
The offense produced five innings of five or more five times since Thursday and in a 32-inning stretch from the third inning Thursday through the sixth today.
Seven Orioles had at least two hits and five drove in two or more runs. They went 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position making them 23-for-52 during the win streak. They have scored 44 runs during the streak.
Right-hander Kyle Gibson, after a shaky start where he allowed a run with a leadoff walk followed by a double, settled in quite nicely to throw seven strong innings and give the Orioles their fifth straight quality start and seventh in the last nine games.
Gibson allowed three hits and two runs in seven with one walk and 11 strikeouts, which tied his season and career high. He is now 9-6 with an ERA of 4.60 after a 94-pitch game.
Twins starters allowed just one run last weekend in Baltimore over three games. But Ryan took the loss today allowing five runs over 4 1/3 innings.
Tampa Bay ended its losing streak today, so the O's hit the break two games out of first place in the AL East and tied with the Rays with 35 losses.
There was also big minor league news today as MASNSports.com first reported that Jackson Holliday is moving to Double-A while Coby Mayo and Chayce McDermott are moving to Triple-A. Click here for more on that.
Manager Brandon Hyde on all the strikeouts and then all the runs: “I could be really sarcastic and say we were setting him up and getting his pitch count up, but that was not really the case. He’s good. He was punching us out left and right but we got a couple of big homers. And just a great rally in that inning. Just an awesome offensive display. What a way to end the first half."
Hyde on winning five in a row: “After that second game in New York, we were not playing good baseball and it was disappointing. I felt like that third game really turned the corner for us, got us some momentum and we’ve played these last five games extremely well and our starting pitching has been the key. We showed our power today. Felt like we were in a power drought for a little while, but these guys showed how much power they have.
“This Minnesota rotation, for me, is one of the best if not the best in baseball and to come out of here with three wins against three good starters is impressive.
“Now Cano and Bautista can go rest and enjoy the All-Star experience with Haysie and Rutch. Going to be fun watching those guys in Seattle."
Santander on win streak and entire first half: “Awesome. Really good, especially before the break. Great first half for everybody as a team. I think there is good momentum for the second half. Playoffs, that is what we want, that’s our mentality. Being here a long time and having the success we are having right now is really fun.
Gibson on the offense: “This team, they don’t take at-bats off. And when we are rolling like that it’s a pretty hard lineup because you don’t ever end up against a guy who is taking an at-bat for granted. Through the last pitch those guys played really, really well. Was a fun game to be a part of."
Gibson, can O's catch Tampa Bay?: “I think it’s always in play. Yeah, we were down seven or eight, whatever it was early on. We know we still have games to play against Tampa. We know they have played extremely good baseball and you saw the 10-game stretch that we went through. They are kind of going through that now. No one is immune to that. No team is immune to a five, six-game stretch where you lose and 10-game stretch where you are just not playing your best. They’ve kind of gone through stretch. They’ll end up turning it around. It’s going to be a tight one down the stretch. Thankfully we timed this little five-game turnaround at the same time and we were able to make up some ground going into the break.
Meanwhile for Triple-A Norfolk today, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez pitched three scoreless against Durham. Was a planned shortened outing going into the All-Star break.