O's offense gets challenged today by pitcher who threw a no-hitter earlier this year

HOUSTON – Today in Game 2 of this series for the Orioles at Houston a hot offense meets a pitcher having a big year.

Right-hander Ronel Blanco (7-2, 2.43 ERA), who pitched a no-hitter April 1 and who threw seven no-hit innings in his last start pitches for Houston. Righty Corbin Burnes (8-2, 2.14 ERA) starts for Baltimore. 

Blanco will face a Baltimore lineup that has scored 28 runs the last two games, 35 the past three and 51 in the last six. An attack that leads the major leagues in homers, extra-base hits and slugging while scoring 5.35 runs per game.

“Blanco is one of those great major league baseball stories that we are fortunate to have in our game," said O's manager Brandon Hyde. "Guy has come out of nowhere a little bit and threw that no-hitter early in the year. He’s been pitching like an All-Star." 

Blanco has allowed just 44 hits in his 77 2/3 innings for a .164 opponent batting average, which is the best in the American League. He also ranks second in opponent OPS (.544), third in slugging against (.294), and fourth in ERA (minimum of 70 innings pitched).

“He’s got a really good fastball that he can command and he’s got a plus changeup," Hyde said. "Pitching with a ton of confidence right now. We have our hands full today.”

Hyde gave props to Baltimore’s hitting coaches for the club’s recent work on offense against top starters including Zack Wheeler and Luis Gil.

“The coaches do an amazing job of breaking down the starters, back-end relievers and attack plans going in. Our guys are not surprised about anything," he said. 

Chasing O’s homer history: Anthony Santander hit what seems like his nightly homer in the eighth inning last night, a two-run shot for No. 20 on the year in the O's 14-11 loss in the series opener.

Over his past seven games versus the Phillies, Yankees and Astros, Santander has homered a total of six times in five of those games. In that span he is batting .367, slugging .967 with 14 RBIs and amassing an OPS of 1.361.

He has 11 homers this month, making him the first Oriole to hit 11 or more in one month since Manny Machado hit 12 in August 2017. The club record is 15, by Jim Gentile in August 1961.

Santander was asked last night about reaching the 20-homer mark.

“Yeah. It’s a good number, but we have to keep working. Lot of games left and hopefully we continue that to help the team win,” he said.

“Got off to a bit of a slow start. But he flat out made the adjustment back to the league and then got going,” Hyde said. “Now he’s covered up some holes. That makes him hard to pitch to. From both sides of the plate. He’s had a great year from the right side all year, but the left side of the plate he is really on time with the fastball and he’s hitting mistakes really well.

“He has been unbelievable for us in June. He’s got (20) homers. Pretty cool what he is doing right now. Not to mention how hard that guy is playing and the defense he is playing. He is coming into his own as a guy in his late 20s with some years under his belt now. He understands the league really well and is great with our younger players.”

Orioles hitters now rank second and third in the AL in homers. The Yankees' Aaron Judge leads the league with 27, followed by Gunnar Henderson with 24 and Santander now with 20.

Shohei Ohtani leads the National League with 22 homers. Santander is tied for fourth in the majors. 

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