Orioles offense finally emerges from its funk

MILWAUKEE – Ramón Urías rounded first base, smacked his hands together and pointed at the sky. On a routine single in the ninth inning of a 10-0 game that felt like much more.

Urías had two hits in 25 at-bats after his activation from the injured list. The hamstring was healed. His offensive stats were hurting.

Manager Brandon Hyde excluded Urías from Wednesday night’s lineup, offering him a reset and a chance to concentrate on his workday. Try to recapture the timing that made him one of the team’s most clutch hitters. Timing apparently lost during an almost three-week absence from the majors.

The ground ball that scooted into left field after he came off the bench could have been a 110-mph line drive and Urías was going to react in the same manner. Joy and relief intertwined at first base.

Urías started at third base yesterday and doubled to right field in his first at-bat, homered in the seventh inning to ruin Milwaukee’s shutout bid, and singled in the ninth. A triple shy of the cycle, and his first three-hit game since May 5.

“A couple adjustments mechanically helped me today," Urías said. "Seeing the ball much better.”

Everyone associated with the Orioles saw a better conclusion than being swept for the first time since May 2022 in Detroit.

Ryan Mountcastle didn’t play Wednesday while mired in a 4-for-26 slump, the second time in five games that he sat at the start. He returned to the lineup yesterday and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

His success story is pending.

Hyde gave Mountcastle the same opportunity to reset, do some extra hitting and huddle with coaches and instructors to unlock his offense.

“Just try to work on some things in the cage and get back to form,” said Mountcastle, who’s batting .227/.264/.421 in 60 games and leads the club with 11 homers and 64 strikeouts. “It happens. Baseball’s tough. And hopefully I can get it going soon and help the team.”

Among the specifics Wednesday was trying to stay through the ball and make solid and consistent contact.

“Getting the right pitch to hit and hitting it good,” he said. “Just sort of missing the ones I need to hit rights now. Hopefully, I can get it going.”

The Orioles needed multiple gentlemen to restart their engines. Urías wasn’t the only one to do it yesterday.

Anthony Santander was 0-for-23 on the road trip and 0-for-25 overall, his last hit a home run off the Guardians’ Shane Bieber on May 31, until he delivered a run-scoring double yesterday in the pivotal eighth inning. Down 0-2 in the count before taking a fastball out of the strike zone and barreling a slider.

His track record kept him third in the order.

His luck didn’t change until his penultimate at-bat of the day.

Santander lined out to second baseman Owen Miller at 98.7 mph to end the first inning, and to right fielder Brian Anderson at 105.6 mph leading off the fourth. The expected batting averages were .640 and .560. His actual average was .000 on the trip until the double.

Gunnar Henderson batted fifth despite carrying a .204 average and .711 OPS in 53 games. He was 4-for-16 with a double and home run in his last five games, a sore lower back forcing him into the trainers’ room Saturday before his return Wednesday.

Henderson made his eighth start at shortstop and hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead, flashing opposite-field power on a first-pitch fastball up and over the plate. He was in the lineup while Jorge Mateo continued to put up similar numbers to last season.

Mateo slashed .221/.267/.379 in 150 games in 2022. He’s batting .230/.271/.379 in 55 games this season, though he has four hits in 16 at-bats this month. He pinch-ran for Urías yesterday and scored.

Adley Rutschman was 4-for-20 with six strikeouts this month before serving as designated hitter yesterday. He went 2-for-5 with singles in the sixth and eighth innings.

One player can carry a team for a stretch. Removing one can pull it down.

Was that happening with leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins, who could miss at least a month with a right groin strain?

Mullins was batting .263/.356/.479 in 53 games with 12 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 39 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. His on-base percentage ranks second on the team behind Rutschman’s .399, his .479 slugging percentage is second to Austin Hays’ .483, and his .835 OPS is first.

Adam Frazier is the new leadoff hitter and he’s slashing .235/.297/.390. But he’s also been clutch, the latest example his two-run double in the ninth that loomed large after the Brewers put a runner on second base against Félix Bautista in the bottom half.

The Orioles scored three runs or fewer in nine of their last 12 games before their late outburst.

“We’ve got to start taking better at-bats,” manager Brandon Hyde said yesterday during his pregame media session. “(Wednesday) night was one of those nights where Corbin Burnes was on the bottom line of the zone, corner to corner, friendly strike zone. Tough night. But for the most part we’re not getting in very good counts to hit. Our pitch selection and decision making on this trip hasn’t been the best, and we’ve got to get back to that. We’ve got to get back to swinging at pitches we can handle, which is going to allow us to drive the ball a little bit more, hit some more homers, hit with some more slug, because we’re in better counts.

“We have some guys right now who are kind of in between on things.”

The typical flow to a baseball season that stretches to 162 games. Part of the six months, as Hyde referred to it.

“I think teams kind of go in and out a little bit offensively,” he said. “You’re not going to be swinging your best all the time.”

Hyde also did the proverbial cap tipping to Burnes and the Giants’ Alex Cobb, who “had his way with us.”

“These are two guys who are having great years, also, and really tough to hit,” Hyde said.

“I just want to see our guys take really good at-bats, be processed based and not worry about results. I think we have a lot of guys trying to get hits right now and that’s never the answer. It’s, try to get into a hitter’s count, put a good swing on balls you can hit, and then whatever happens happens.

“We’re not at our best offensively but we’ll come out of it soon.”

If by “soon” he meant the last three innings of yesterday’s game, he nailed it.

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