BOSTON – The division standings plastered on the left field wall at Fenway Park don’t offer much information beyond the basics. The records and number of games out of first place. That’s it. Nothing about the wild card chase that consumes the Orioles and often torments them.
They’re ahead of the Red Sox. They’re the better team. Play like it.
Cedric Mullins had a home run, triple and three RBIs after two innings tonight, Anthony Santander hit his 30th and 31st home runs, Gunnar Henderson homered to break an 0-for-16 spell, and the Orioles waited out a 1 hour and 40 minute rain delay to post a 14-8 victory.
The Mariners are idle, leaving the Orioles 3 1/3 games behind the last wild card. They need one more win to guarantee a .500 season.
"Those are two tough losses we had against Houston, but we fought hard the entire time and we feel good about our chances," Santander said. "If we maintain that energy, I think we'll be fine."
Austin Hays hit the Orioles’ fifth home run of the night in the eighth inning, his solo shot to left coming against Eduard Bazardo.
"We swung the bats extremely well tonight and we needed it," said manager Brandon Hyde.
Kaleb Ort entered in the sixth and his second pitch to Santander sailed into the right field seats for a 9-5 lead. Franklin German retired the first two batters in the sixth before Adley Rutschman walked and Santander found the seats down the right field line for his second multi-homer outburst in three games.
Santander joined Eddie Murray and Ken Singleton as the only Orioles switch-hitters to total 30 in a season. Singleton holds the record with 35 in 1979.
"It means a lot, honestly," Santander said via interpreter Brandon Quinones. "I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to be healthy all throughout this season, and I think that's been the biggest key for me in being able to reach that mark this year."
Ryan Mountcastle walked in the sixth and Henderson hit his fourth major league home run, a fastball traveling 428 feet to center field with an exit velocity of 111.1 mph that’s the highest of his brief career. The power was turned on inside Fenway.
"The one he hit to center field, that was as loud as we've had all year," Hyde said. "He drove the ball tonight really well."
With Santander’s second blast, the Orioles had responded with seven runs in three innings after the Red Sox pulled within one in the fourth. Santander has nine career multi-homer games and four this season.
Jordan Lyles followed his second career complete game by stranding a runner in the first inning and allowing two runs and four hits in the second. He also walked a batter, and his four-seam fastball was registering at 89-90 mph after averaging 91.8 mph this season, per multiple data sites.
J.D. Martinez led off with a 420-foot shot over the Green Monster. Kiké Hernández had the third single of the inning to score Triston Casas with the bases loaded, but Rougned Odor started a 4-6-3 double play by fielding Rafael Devers’ blistering ground ball from the seat of his pants.
Hyde visited the mound before Devers batted, had a brief chat with Lyles, patted him on the shoulder and went back to the dugout. A five-run lead was punctured but not lost.
"After a nine-inning complete game and on regular rest, I just wanted to make sure he was OK, and he assured me he was," Hyde said. "Got out of that inning, fortunately, and then unfortunately the rain came and that ended his night. I was just making sure. He hasn't done that in 10 years, going nine innings on regular rest."
Lyles allowed two runs and five hits with one walk and no strikeouts. He threw 21 of 37 pitches for strikes.
"I felt all right," Lyles said. "It was a little colder and we haven't experienced as much of this climate, but I felt fine. Giving up the homer to J.D., I've been attacking him all year with sinkers in. He just beat me to a spot. After that, a few singles. ... Overall, I felt pretty good. It just kind of stinks coming out after two innings because of the rain. That's a little stinky, but the O's got a win, so we're good."
Lyles didn't check his velocity, saying he usually watches the game a day later and noting that he threw more sinkers than four-seamers.
"I was only out there for two innings," he said. "I would love to say I can ramp it up after the first couple innings."
Spenser Watkins replaced Lyles after the delay, threw 82 pitches in 4 1/3 innings and was charged with four runs and eight hits. He’s no longer a candidate to start Thursday afternoon.
"We had so many guys down in the 'pen today," Hyde said. "I was going to have to pitch a couple guys maybe three days in a row if it got to that. And fortunately, Spenser Watkins really picked us up by being able to throw strikes."
Rob Refsnyder hit a three-run homer off Logan Gillaspie in the seventh. One run was charged to Watkins. Odor, whose play fluctuates wildly, committed a throwing error after Gillaspie entered.
The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning and scored three runs. Hernández’s sharp grounder got past Henderson for a two-run single. Abraham Almonte ran into an out at third base, but Devers dumped an RBI single into left field to cut the lead to 6-5.
Watkins allowed five hits in the inning and walked a batter.
Mullins hit his 16th career leadoff home run and fifth this season, driving a second-pitch slider from Connor Seabold an estimated 402 feet over the bullpen in right field. He had a two-run standup triple to center field in the second and scored on catcher Reese McGuire’s errant pickoff throw to move the Orioles ahead 5-0.
The first four batters reached in the second on Odor’s automatic double, Kyle Stowers’ single, Jorge Mateo’s run-scoring double and Mullins’ fourth triple of the season.
Tyler Danish entered from the bullpen in the third and issued a four-pitch walk to Henderson. Baseball was back.
Hays grounded into a force and scored with two outs on Stowers’ first career triple, the ball slamming off the Green Monster.
Henderson walked in his first three plate appearances before the home run.
"I felt pretty comfortable up there and was able to get the job done," said Henderson, the youngest Oriole to reach base four times and hit a home run in a game since Boog Powell on Aug. 24, 1962.
"I felt like even whenever I was going through some of it, I had some hard-hit balls that went right to them, so you go through that and got to realize that."
Mountcastle and Henderson began the fifth with walks and the Orioles went station-to-station, loading the bases on Hays’ infield hit and scoring twice on singles by Odor and Stowers.
Zack Kelly, who entered after Hays’ hit, got three outs without anyone else crossing the plate. But the Orioles were just catching their breath.
Do the Orioles still think they can catch the Mariners?
"We do," Santander said. "The mentality hasn't changed. We still show up every day, we're ready to work hard and compete and give everything we have. So, that hasn't changed at all. We're still here and we're still trying to win."
"We've got three more here," Lyles said. "We have the Yankees and then another tough East team (the Blue Jays) to finish the season, but we're confident. We didn't love the way that the Houston series finished up, but we know how talented we are and how good we are. We can get on a run. I strongly believe that. A lot of guys in there believe that, also. It's up to us. If we go on a run, we go on a run."
Note: Grayson Rodriguez was stretched out to 89 pitches in five innings tonight at Triple-A Norfolk. He allowed one run and three hits with three walks and six strikeouts. Jacksonville’s Bryson Brigman hit a home run.
Third baseman Jordan Westburg had a three-run double, outfielder Colton Cowser went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and catcher Anthony Bemboom hit his third home run.