Ryan Mountcastle and Kyle Gibson co-star as O's take Toronto series opener (updated)

TORONTO – Ryan Mountcastle likes to hit against Toronto Blue Jays pitching, he likes to hit at Rogers Centre and he likes to hit against Toronto lefty Yusei Kikuchi.

The Orioles turned that trifecta and a huge outing from right-hander Kyle Gibson into another series-opening win tonight as Mountcastle hit a three-run homer to trigger a 6-2 win over Toronto. It was a big victory for the Orioles (29-16) who began a six-game American League East road trip to Toronto and New York.

The Orioles won for the seventh time in 10 games. Over longer stretches, they have won 20 of 29 and 25 of 36 games. They are now 7-6 in AL East games and 13-2 in series-opening games. They are 8-0 when they open a series on the road.

Mountcastle again tormented Kikuchi. He mashed his three-run homer to center in the third inning, scoring Joey Ortiz, who singled, and Adley Rutschman, who walked. Mountcastle drilled a low and in 1-1 fastball that was thrown 96 mph and hit out at 106, and it went 419 feet for his 10th homer. It was a huge swing early in this game for Mountcastle, who now has 15 homers and 36 RBIs in 43 career games versus Toronto.

Last season, Mountcastle went 4-for-6 against Kikuchi with a double and three homers. That blast tonight made him 5-for-10 in his career against the Toronto lefty. It was Mountcastle’s 70th career big league homer and his sixth in 16 career games at Rogers Centre.

Mountcastle’s 15 career homers against Toronto are now five more than against any other team. It was his sixth career homer at Rogers Centre, twice his highest total at any other opposing ballpark, and his fourth career longball against Kikuchi, his most against any pitcher.

He shared the spotlight with Gibson, who entered this outing with a 6.11 ERA in May and an ERA of 5.96 in four career starts at Rogers Centre.

But tonight he pitched seven innings, allowing just five hits and one run. After some loud early contact and falling behind 1-0 in the second inning, he settled in big-time and improved to 5-3 with a 4.27 ERA. He fanned five and walked two, throwing 95 pitches, 59 for strikes.

Brandon Belt doubled with two outs in the Blue Jays second and scored on a 102 mph RBI single by Danny Jansen, and the Jays took the early lead. But the Orioles are 14-13 this year when their opponent scores first, and they won again in that fashion tonight.

Gibson retired the last 10 batters he faced through the seventh. He got Jansen to hit into an inning-ending double play with two aboard in the fourth, and then needed just seven pitches in the sixth and 13 in the seventh. He was a workhorse and staff leader tonight.

The Orioles improved to 4-0 when their starter goes seven or more innings, and to 12-1 when they get a quality start.

Anthony Santander’s solo homer off reliever Trevor Richards in the sixth provided some breathing room and a 4-1 lead. It was eighth home run of the season for Santander, who has hit seven of those over his past 20 games.

The game saw the first instance this year of a team scoring off Baltimore reliever Yennier Cano, who entered this game in the eighth inning with 21 2/3 scoreless this year on just four hits with a WHIP reading of 0.185. But he gave up a single, double and RBI groundout as Toronto pulled within 4-2.

In the O's ninth, they got a huge swing from Adam Frazier, who hit a two-run homer off Erik Swanson, scoring Jorge Mateo. On Frazier's fifth homer Baltimore's lead grew to 6-2. 

While the O’s moved four games ahead of Toronto with this win, the Blue Jays (25-20) lost for the fourth time in five games and 11th in their past 18. They are just 1-8 their past nine AL East games.

The Orioles are now 8-6 the last 14 games, which have come against Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Angels and Toronto to begin a new series tonight.

Baysox no-hitter: Double-A Bowie beat Altoona tonight 4-0 with the fifth nine-inning no-hitter in club history. Chayce McDermott went five innings, while Nolan Hoffman and Easton Lucas went two each. McDermott is now is 3-2 wit a 2.62 ERA. This is the 12th no-no all time for the Baysox.

Postgame quotes

Manager Brandon Hyde's big praise for Gibson: “Let’s start with Kyle Gibson. That was the start we needed. That was awesome. To go seven innings against that club in this ballpark, couldn’t ask for anything more. We had best-case scenario tonight, Gibson for seven and Cano and Bautista, and that is what it ended up to be.

“Gibson definitely pitched like an ace tonight, there’s no doubt. This is such a tough environment to pitch in. A really good hitter’s ballpark against a powerhouse offensive team. For Kyle to go seven innings against them in their home ballpark, that is next level.”

After early loud contact, Gibson settled in: “I thought he started mixing a little better, honestly," Hyde said. "He and Adley worked really well together and did a nice job between innings of kind of setting up the next inning. Such a dangerous lineup."

Cano got tested tonight facing down Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in a key spot: “Not only (was he) the tie run, but (it was) Guerrero," Hyde said. "You know, I thought his stuff, he was throwing 98 (mph) tonight with 93 mph changeups. It was almost like it was flattening out because it was so much harder. But, giving them credit, they had a really good approach off him. … But huge punchout of Guerrero, and he wasn’t going to pitch a scoreless season so ... But yeah, the way he grinded through that inning was outstanding.”

Gibson on setting the tone in the series opener: “Yeah, I think so. On the road, division opponent and they have a really good team. A team that has hopes to go far in the postseason like we do. Yeah, anytime you can go in on the road and win the first game ... We’ve been really good at first games of series ,and anytime we can go do that (it’s big). I think not using as much of the bullpen is good too."

Mountcastle on again hitting well against Toronto: "I don't know (why the success against them). I had a feeling that was coming. I don't know what it is."

Mountcastle gained confidence hitting Kikuchi last year: "Yeah, definitely. Guys you have faced before and had success against, you have a little more confidence. Came in today and my swing felt good and had good results."


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