Orioles hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in 5-3 win

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Orioles responded to the Twins hitting back-to-back home runs today by launching three in a row to begin the third inning.

Muscle flexed in Fort Myers as if an exhibition game had turned into a pose down.

Jordan Westburg cleared the center field fence with a 419-footer off Tyler Mahle. Daz Cameron tied the game with a shot to left that traveled a mere 386 feet. And Colton Cowser topped them all by depositing an 82.4 mph cutter over the batter’s eye in center.

His estimated distance: 476 feet. The crowd’s reaction: An audible gasp.

Cowser also produced an exit velocity of 106 mph with a 27-degree launch angle, per the Statcast data. The naked eye didn’t need any numbers. It was a “wowzer” moment.

The Orioles last hit three consecutive home runs in the regular season on Aug. 6, 2017 with Jonathan Schoop, Chris Davis and Trey Mancini. No research was done to find the last time it happened in the Grapefruit League.

Mahle tried just about everything today. Westburg hit a 91.4 mph fastball and Cameron barreled an 80.6 mph slider. The cutter was absolutely destroyed.

Cowser confirmed that he didn’t eat Wheaties for breakfast. The usual French toast, avocado and bacon, but he added a hard-boiled egg.

“That was new, so gonna have to mix that in,” said Cowser, who also had a run-scoring single in the fourth to give the Orioles a 4-2 lead.

The last time he cleared the batter’s eye?

“I hit one last year in Somerset, but we didn’t have a distance on it,” Cowser said. “I feel like I hit that one pretty good, too.”

Cowser was 4-for-22 this spring with two home runs, 11 walks, nine strikeouts and 10 runs scored. He was slashing .182/.455/.455. And then today happened.

“I’m getting more comfortable every day,” he said. “Strikeouts have cut down a little bit. It seemed like it was every at-bat. But I just think that comes with more ABs. You’re going to continue to get more comfortable and see the ball better. I think the big thing has just been honing in on the approach and looking for a good pitch to hit and putting a good swing on it.”

Cowser wasn’t thinking home run in the third inning, despite what happened ahead of him.

“Especially being my first at-bat,” he said. “I know he’s a big fastball-in guy, and changeup off that. The more ABs you get in spring, the more comfortable you’re going to get. I just got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it.”

Manager Brandon Hyde was asked after the 5-3 victory whether he knew that Cowser had 476-foot power.

“Is that what it was?” he asked, his eyes widening. “No. He put a great swing on that. I think he showed you a little bit what he can do with the base hit the other way, and the power to dead center. Getting more comfortable with some regular at-bats, but that was an impressive home run.”

* No one appreciated the barrage more than Dean Kremer, who returned from the World Baseball Classic to make his third exhibition appearance.

Kremer retired the first five Twins before back-to-back home runs by Kyle Farmer and Michael A. Taylor. The combined distance was 819 feet, with Farmer’s blast measured at 418 to straightaway center field.

As Taylor rounded the bases, Kremer calmly turned toward the plate and held out his glove. Maybe the third time would be the charm.

Ryan Jeffers flied to right field, and Adley Rutschman met Kremer along the first base line for a quick exchange.

Kremer allowed two runs and three hits in four innings, with no walks and three strikeouts. Thirty-eight of 58 pitches were strikes.

“It’s been kind of a weird few days with him not knowing if he was pitching again in the Classic, but great to have him back,” Hyde said. “Just kept him on turn.”

Kremer responded to his stumble in the second by breezing through the third on 11 pitches and retiring the first two batters in the fourth before Nick Gordon doubled. Also an 11-pitch frame.

Seven of the last eight batters that Kremer faced were retired.

“For the most part, it was pretty good. Just made two mistakes and they got hit hard,” Kremer said. “But still got to, I don’t want to say ‘tune up,’ but still building volume and making sure that I can extend myself.”

Kremer tossed four scoreless innings in Israel’s only win in the WBC. The atmosphere was a bit more subdued today.

“I enjoyed my time immensely at the WBC, but now it’s time to kind of win a job, I guess, or compete for a job,” he said.

“It was a lot of fun. It felt like every game was a road game because all the Latin countries were very present. They brought the crowd every night, all four countries. They all traveled really well, so it was an awesome atmosphere. We were a little outnumbered, but it is what it is.

“I was a little nervous but got through four innings. … It’s very rare that you get to be in a clubhouse with a lot of guys similar to yourself, and that’s what Team Israel, both in the last WBC and this one … it’s a lot of fun being around guys just like you.”

Carlos Correa took up eight of Kremer’s 15 pitches in today's first inning, when the Twins were retired in order. Correa fell behind 0-2, fouled off five consecutive pitches and swung through a cutter.

Kremer’s first nine pitches were strikes. He fell behind 3-0 to Max Kepler, worked the count full and induced a ground ball.

* Gunnar Henderson snapped an 0-for-15 streak with a one-out triple in the fifth inning. The ball appeared to hit the top of the fence in right-center field.

Josh Lester struck out for the second time and Ryan McKenna grounded out to strand Henderson.

Henderson entered the game 2-for-21 with nine strikeouts and in no danger of losing his roster spot. His two hits were singles.

* Félix Bautista made his second spring appearance, replacing Kremer in the fifth and striking out two of his three batters. Cowser made a sliding catch in left field to deny Jeffers.

Both strikeouts came on the splitter. Bautista’s last fastball was clocked at 100.1 mph.

Sounds ready for Opening Day, but he’ll get a few more games under his belt. He threw nine pitches today and has totaled 24 while striking out four of six batters.

“Some defensive swings against him,” Hyde said, “so when you see that you know he’s getting there.”

Rule 5 pick Andrew Politi retired the Twins in order in the sixth, with Westburg making a nice sliding stop and throw at third base, but Farmer hit a two-out home run off Bryan Baker in the seventh. Baker has surrendered nine runs and 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Hudson Haskin contributed a run-scoring single in the ninth and Yennier Canó picked up the save with a flawless bottom half of the inning.

* The Orioles return to Fort Myers Saturday morning, this time to play the Red Sox, and Ryan O’Hearn could have a seat on the bus.

O’Hearn engaged in full activities this morning in Sarasota, including batting practice on the field, to test the right knee he injured Saturday in Dunedin.

“Hopefully, possibly in the game tomorrow,” Hyde said.

Lewin Díaz isn’t on the same timetable after the Orioles removed him from Tuesday’s lineup due to some shoulder discomfort.

“Díaz is still a little bit sore, so it still might be a few days with him,” Hyde said.

“They did some testing on him this morning and he’s still a little bit sore, so he’s going to be behind.”

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