O's game blog: Shooting for a series win against the Seattle Mariners

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With a walk-off win yesterday on Ryan McKenna’s two-run homer to right in the last of the 10th, the Orioles moved a game closer to first place, strengthened their hold on a wild card playoff spot and set themselves up to try to win another series.

The Orioles (46-29) are 4 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay, which lost Saturday. They have won three of their past five games and nine of the last 14. They are now 4-4 in extra innings, 11-8 in June and 23-14 at Oriole Park.

They have split the first two games of this series and are 7-4 in rubber match games.

They came up with their fourth walk-off win of the year, and they have had five such losses. They have walk-off wins on April 13 against Oakland and April 21 and April 23 against Detroit. Adley Rutschman’s homer ended the Oakland game and Adam Frazier was the batter for the other two previous walk-off wins.

McKenna, who drilled a 95 mph fastball 393 feet to right, produced his first career walk-off hit.

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As Cedric Mullins returned to lineup Saturday, Aaron Hicks stayed in it

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Continuing to make the most of his second chance with the Orioles, outfielder Aaron Hicks found himself back in the O’s starting lineup on Saturday afternoon against Seattle. That was big for him because, on the day Cedric Mullins returned to the team, he was both still on the roster and still getting at-bats.

In 28 games this year with the Yankees, Hicks’ OPS was .524. In 20 games with the Orioles through yesterday, it is .984. He had three multi-hit games with New York and has six with Baltimore.

And Hicks came up big again for the Orioles in the last of the sixth, hitting a go-ahead homer 426 feet to center for a 4-3 lead. That lead would not hold up, but on Ryan McKenna's two-run walk-off homer in the 10th the Orioles would beat the Mariners 6-4. 

The Orioles improved to 46-29 and moved to 4 1/2 games back of Tampa Bay, which lost. 

So Mullins was back, but Hicks was still in the starting nine. 

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O's game blog: The homestand begins as O's host Seattle to begin weekend series

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After their second off day of this week, the rested Orioles are home tonight to begin a nine-game homestand. The last time they were home they went 5-1 against Kansas City and Toronto. Tonight they welcome Seattle for the first of three and then also host Cincinnati and Minnesota.

The Orioles (45-28, .616) are 4 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay after the Rays lost last night to Kansas City. The Orioles are 22-13 at home and 23-15 on the road.

Starting May 26, the Orioles have gone 3-4-1 in series, going 1-2 versus both Texas and Cleveland, 2-1 at San Francisco and 1-2 at Milwaukee. They then went 3-0 versus Kansas City, 2-1 against Toronto, 1-2 at the Chicago Cubs and 1-1 against Tampa Bay. That is a 12-11 record in that span.

Seattle was a playoff team last year, going 90-72. In the wild card round they beat Toronto two games to none before losing 3-0 at Houston in the American League Division Series. Now the Mariners are 36-37 and in fourth in the AL West and 9 1/2 games behind Texas.

The Mariners got off to a poor start and were 4-8, and later 11-16 through 27 games. By May 28 they had moved three games over .500 at 28-25, but are 8-12 since that point.

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With AL-leading average and now fifth in OPS, Austin Hays on the All-Star talk

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He might be the American League’s leading hitter for yet another day today with his .323 batting average. And that is six points ahead of Bo Bichette of Toronto, next at .317. But the Orioles' Austin Hays is not even ready to ponder being in contention for a batting title.

“We are not even at the All-Star break yet. So, we have a long way to go before I can say that,” he told reporters today at Oriole Park, echoing comments he made during the recent road trip.

Hays' most recent batting tear – he had five straight multi-hit games, going 12-for-21 – was slowed Wednesday when he took an 0-for-3 at Tampa Bay.

But his 67-game numbers for the year are still pretty special. His batting line shows a .323/.362/.520/.882 to go with 21 doubles, two triples, eight homers and 31 RBIs. A player that hit .256 and .250 the past two years is now well, well above that.

His OPS+ was 107 in 2021 and 104 in 2022, slightly above league average. Now it is 144, or 44 percent above the league.

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Norfolk's Buck Britton on playoff berth and Jordan Westburg's big season

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When the Triple-A Norfolk Tides won 8-3 at Nashville on Wednesday night, they became first-half champions of the 20-team International League. The first half ends this Sunday and by already winning it, Norfolk clinched its first playoff spot since 2015.

There was no big on-field celebration for a few good reasons. For one, not wanting a host of top prospects to dogpile or jump on top of each other when a clubhouse celebration was already planned.

It was a job well done by the Tides - from the season’s first day through the clincher.

“I think first and foremost, dogpiling at this point in the season, I would hate for someone to get hurt at the bottom of one of those piles,” manager Buck Britton told me in a phone interview yesterday. “And also, I don’t think the guys were interested in dogpiling. They knew we would have a celebration in the clubhouse. So, I was glad it turned out the way it did. All I need is someone getting hurt on the bottom. Not a call I would want to make.”

But a celebration was had, and Norfolk’s players and staff could enjoy a job well done.

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O's game blog: A chance for a two-game sweep against Tampa Bay

Tyler Wells

The Orioles lost the first game they played this season against the Tampa Bay Rays, but have since won three in a row. They won the last two games of a series at Camden Yards from May 8-10 and they won 8-6 last night at Tropicana Field.

So they took the opener of a two-game series, meaning they can sweep this series with a win this afternoon. By winning last night the Orioles ended a couple of streaks. Tampa Bay had been 12-0 this year in opening games of home series. The Rays had won seven straight home series, and the best they can do in this one is tie it.

The loss marked Tampa Bay’s third straight defeat, giving the Rays their first losing streak of more than two games since a five-game skid to conclude the 2022 season.

The Orioles' win last night ended this stat: The Orioles had lost their past 15 series at Tropicana Field dating to July 2017. According to Stats Perform, the 15-series-loss streak tied for the longest in club history. The O's also lost 15 straight road series at Boston between 2005 and 2010. While a loss today would mean they don't win this series, the Tuesday win also means they cannot lose it, so that stat is done now. 

Tampa Bay (51-25) leads the Orioles (45-27) by four games atop the American League East but now leads by just two games in the loss column.

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César Prieto, Justin Armbruester, Jud Fabian among a host of minor league promotions

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CHICAGO – The Orioles minor league rosters are in for some big changes very soon. According to a club source, eight players are about to be promoted and they include five players currently ranked among the O’s top 30 prospects list via Baseball America.

Moving from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk are infielder César Prieto, right-handed pitcher Justin Armbruester and righty reliever Wandisson Charles.

Moving from High-A Aberdeen to Bowie are pitchers Alex Pham, Keagan Gillies and Jean Pinto and outfielder Jud Fabian.

Moving from Low Single-A Delmarva to Aberdeen is right-handed pitcher Juan Nunez.

Fabian is currently ranked as the Orioles’ No. 13 prospect by Baseball America and No. 15 via MLBPipeline.com. In 55 games with the IronBirds, he is batting .281/.392/.490/.882 with 13 doubles, nine homers, 35 runs, 19 steals and 43 RBIs. He was the No. 67 overall draft pick in 2022 out of the University of Florida.

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O's get three in sixth, rally to beat Cubs and avoid a sweep at Wrigley Field (updated)

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CHICAGO – The Orioles showed up for the series finale at Wrigley Field today looking for some runs after scoring just five in the series' first two games, losing both. They knew they would again play without injured regulars Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle.

Shortly before gametime, they added Gunnar Henderson to the list of those they would be without. But at least this was not an injury. Manager Brandon Hyde told the Peacock broadcasters during the game that Henderson was not feeling well. He had recently missed a couple of games with a lower back issue, so that actually came as good news.

The news would get better mid-game on the way to a 6-3 Orioles win.

Trailing 3-2 to the top of the sixth, the Orioles put together their best rally of the weekend, scoring three runs on five hits to take a 5-3 lead. They won by that margin to salvage the final game of this series before Monday’s off-day and a series with first-place Tampa Bay that begins Tuesday.

Ryan O’Hearn started the go-ahead rally with a single off Cubs starter Jameson Taillon. Aaron Hicks doubled to deep right to put men on second and third, and a sac fly by Ramón Urías tied it 3-3. Lefty Anthony Kay came in from the Cubs’ bullpen and was greeted with Adam Frazier’s RBI single to center and an O’s 4-3 lead. That was just their second lead this series. Two batters later, Jorge Mateo’s RBI single made it 5-3 and sent another runner to third. But Mateo was thrown out trying to get to second.

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O's game blog: Looking to avoid the sweep at Wrigley Field

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CHICAGO – The Orioles have not been swept in a three-game series this season, and they must win today at Wrigley Field to keep that stat intact.

The Chicago Cubs (33-37) have won the first two in this series by scores of 10-3 and 3-2. Both games were one-run games going into the later innings, but Chicago scored six runs in the sixth inning to blow it open Friday and they held on Saturday for the narrow win.

The Orioles are 43-27 (.614) at the 70-game mark. A team playing .614 ball over the full year would win 99.5 games. So we could round up and say they are still playing at a 100-win pace.

The Orioles were shut out into the fifth inning yesterday when Adley Rutschman mashed a game-tying two-run homer off lefty Justin Steele. Rutschman hit a 406-foot blast to left-center for his 10th homer. He and Kansas City’s Salvador Perez are the only catchers in the major leagues with 10 or more homers.

Over his past 18 games since May 26, Rutschman is batting .329 (24-for-73) with three doubles, three homers and six RBIs, and with an .881 OPS.

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Pregame notes from Wrigley Field on today's roster move and more (Henderson a scratch)

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CHICAGO – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is hopeful that backup catcher James McCann, who went on the injured list today, will be back when his 10 days on the IL are up.

“We are hoping it is just going to be the 10 days,” Hyde said today about an hour before game time. “It’s an ankle sprain. He stayed in the game yesterday with that (left) ankle sprain, because he knew that I would have to put (Kyle) Gibson in the pitcher’s spot. Or in his spot to hit. So when his spot came around, that is when I hit for him (in the sixth inning). Went back there and caught a couple of innings with the sprain, so hats off to him. Shows the kind of competitor and teammate he is.”

The Orioles' second catcher today is a player who has only been in the organization a few weeks as they selected the contract of José Godoy, who was already here on the taxi squad. Reliever Reed Garrett was designated for assignment to make 40-man roster room for Godoy. The Orioles purchased Godoy’s contract from the New York Yankees on June 2.

Godoy, 28, from Maracaibo, Venezuela, is a lefty hitter and has played in 26 major league games in 2021 and 2022 with Seattle, Minnesota and Pittsburgh, batting .123/.194/.140/.334 with one double and four RBIs, going 7-for-57. He went a combined 1-for-20 last year for Pittsburgh and Minnesota.

Godoy, who was 6-for-21 this season for Triple-A Norfolk, is wearing No. 77.

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Ryan O'Hearn keeps raking for the Orioles (plus other O's notes)

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CHICAGO – To say the least, since they added him to their roster for the first time this year on April 13, Ryan O’Hearn has had an impact for the Orioles – both on the field and in the clubhouse, where the 29-year-old veteran fits in beautifully.

Few Orioles are swinging a hotter bat right now. Over 28 games, O’Hearn is batting .342/.384/.620/1.004 with seven doubles, five homers and 19 RBIs.

This after he hit .219 with a .683 OPS in 342 games since the 2018 season with Kansas City.

“Total pro. Gamer, loves to play, takes really good at-bats,” manager Brandon Hyde said before Saturday’s game at Wrigley Field. “Great in the clubhouse and dugout. Just doing a little bit of everything for us right now, and just the quality of his at-bats are really good.

“I think the experience he had in Kansas City, good and bad (helps now), and (he is) somebody that has always mashed in Triple-A. Kind of had some weird roles in Kansas City, and now (he's) in more of a defined role where he knows he’s got a good chance to be in there versus right-handed pitching. Or be a pinch-hit option. He’s really loving it here.”

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O's offense falls short in 3-2 loss to Cubs (updated)

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CHICAGO – The Orioles came to Chicago riding a bit of a high. A series win over Toronto at home concluding a 5-1 homestand and they scored 42 runs in winning six of their previous seven games.

But their offense has been slowed by the Chicago Cubs in the first two games of this series at Wrigley Field, and the Orioles lost 3-2 today in front of 40,605 at the Friendly Confines to fall to 43-27.

O’s starter Kyle Gibson, an eight-game winner who was 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA his previous five starts, got his outing today started well. He fanned the first two hitters he faced in a 1-2-3 first inning on 15 pitches. He got two more strikeouts and retired the side in order in the home second.

But then the Cubs scored twice off him in the third to lead 2-0.

With one out, catcher Yan Gomes struck out on a sweeper, but he reached first on what was scored a wild pitch. When Mike Tauchman walked with two outs, second baseman Nico Hoerner came up and drilled an 0-1 two-seamer in the gap in left-center field. It went for a two-run double to break the 0-0 tie on a ball he hit 96.4 mph off the bat. Seiya Suzuki followed with a deep drive to center, but Aaron Hicks ran it down to retire the side.

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O's game blog: Kyle Gibson faces the Cubs in Game 2 of Wrigley Field series

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CHICAGO – In May the Orioles had impressive series wins against the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in which they lost the first game of the series but won the next two. They will try to pull this off now in a series not involving an AL East club. 

They lost 10-3 at Wrigley Field to the Chicago Cubs (32-37) on Friday, and the clubs meet this afternoon in the second game of this series.

The Orioles had won six of their last seven games by a combined 42-20 score before they got thumped here in the series opener, falling to 16-7 in series-opening games and to 9-3 when the series opener is on the road. The Orioles are now 22-12 in road games.

The Cubs are playing better ball lately and have now won four in a row and six of their past seven games. Their four-game win streak ties their season high from April 16-19. The Cubs have scored 38 runs in those wins. It’s the first time they have scored 38 in a four-game span since April 21-24, 2021.

The Cubs had a six-run inning in Friday’s win. They now have an inning scoring four runs or more in four straight games for the first time since June 28-July 1, 2018.

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Chicago pregame notes on Mountcastle, the roster move and minor league promotions

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CHICAGO – The Orioles have played without first baseman Ryan Mountcastle in the lineup since June 8. That was when the Orioles were in Milwaukee. He went on the injured list on June 13, retroactive to June 10, dealing with vertigo.

Mountcastle is here with the team in Chicago, took part in some pregame work yesterday and is doing the same today. On the 10-day IL, he could return as soon as Tuesday, when the Orioles play the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Orioles don’t yet know if Mountcastle will make it back for that series. But manager Brandon Hyde was encouraged by his pregame fielding and hitting work on Friday at Wrigley Field.

“Yep, he’s going to do that again today,” Hyde said earlier. “We’re kind of just re-evaluating every day and see what we’re going to do. But he’s going to hit again today and move around the field a little bit.

“Really just taking it day-to-day with him right now. He swung the bat extremely well yesterday in batting practice, with a bunch of balls onto Waveland. Hopefully he does that again today and feels good, and we’ll reassess every day.”

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While Hyde fondly remembers time with Cubs, Mancini does same about O's

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CHICAGO – Another O’s series at Wrigley Field means another baseball homecoming for Orioles manger Brandon Hyde. He was with the Cubs from 2011 through 2018, first in their minor leagues and later as bench coach and first base coach for the Cubs.

When the Cubs won the 2016 World Series – their first WS win since 1908 – Hyde was manager Joe Maddon’s first base coach.

Now he is in his fifth year as manager of the Orioles, a team that, like those Cubs teams, went from bad to good with a lot of young talent.

“Always fun to come back here,” he said in the visiting dugout before Friday’s series-opening game. “Got to experience it last year. We played two good games here. Come back in a stadium with so many memories, such a special place. Spent ’12 to ’18 here and there are a lot really good memories I have of great teams and the good people I was around. Got to see a few of them today. Lot of them are gone. But this place is always going to be special.”

He learned a lot on the Cubs' watch and uses some of what he learned then now with the Orioles.

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Early homers, big inning lead Cubs to a romp in the series opener (updated)

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CHICAGO – The Orioles had been good this year both on the road and in series-opening games, but that combination did not lead to a win today at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

Playing better baseball after a three-game sweep this week of National League Central-leading Pittsburgh, the Cubs hit three homers this afternoon in one inning off Baltimore lefty Cole Irvin and then had one big inning later versus the O’s bullpen in a 10-3 win over the Orioles.

The Cubs (32-37) won for sixth time in seven games as a big crowd of 37,515 cheered them on in the opener of the weekend series. Chicago is 10-7 the last 17 games.

The Birds had scored 42 runs in winning six of their past seven games, but did not score big today in the opening game of their five-game road trip.

The Orioles fall to 43-26 overall, to 21-13 in road games, to 16-7 in series openers, to 9-3 in road series openers and to 6-11 all-time against the Cubs.

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O's game blog: The road trip begins in the series opener at Wrigley Field

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CHICAGO – The Orioles enjoyed a successful homestand, going 5-1 against Kansas City and Toronto. They swept the Royals and took two of three from Toronto, winning a fifth straight American League East series.

The Orioles lost their first two AL East series of this year, but have now gone 11-4 in winning their last five. They beat Toronto 4-2 Thursday to win the rubber-match game and improve to 43-25.

The Orioles are 5-1 this season versus Toronto by a combined 36-21 score. They are 14-11 against the Blue Jays since the start of the 2022 season.

The Orioles are now 8-4 in June and they are 9-5 in 14 games since Cedric Mullins got injured.

In winning six of their past seven games overall, the Orioles have scored 42 runs, producing hits in double digits five times in that span.

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Chicago pregame notes and Trey Mancini's appreciation for O's winning ways

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CHICAGO - As the Orioles play the Chicago Cubs today to start a three-game series at Wrigley Field, manager Brandon Hyde expects to see a good number of Orioles fans in the stands.

That was the case last July 12-13 when the O's swept a two-game series at Wrigley.

"We are traveling well," Hyde said pregame in the visitors' dugout. "I'm loving the way our fans are traveling. It's been a lot of fun on the road to see and to hear during the anthem. That's when you notice it the most, honestly, during the anthem. I've been pleasantly surprised. The way they are showing up for us on the road has been awesome."

Hyde provided a brief update on first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, who went on the 10-day injured list Tuesday due to vertigo.

"He is starting to feel a little bit better," Hyde said. "But he's still a little bit under the weather."

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Taking a look at a few pitchers excelling for Aberdeen (Gunnar Henderson honored)

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None of the trio pitched for a big-time SEC school or were a high draft pick. One reaches the backend of a top 30 O's prospects list. But in an organization without a lot of touted, high-draft pick pitching, they are trying to make their way to Baltimore.

And with the starts that right-handers Alex Pham, Jean Pinto and Ryan Long have gotten off to for High-A Aberdeen (28-28), they might have that chance.

Pham, 23, selected in round 19 in 2021 out of the University of San Francisco, was recently named the Pitcher of the Month for May in the South Atlantic League. He went 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA over five starts allowing just 10 hits in 23 1/3 innings with 12 walks, 34 strikeouts, a .128 average against and 0.94 WHIP for the month.

“Everything has been working for him,” said Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado of a pitcher with a fastball in the 92, 93 mph range that has touched 95.8 this season. “The velocity is up a little bit. His cutter has been excellent and so has his curveball. He’s really been getting ahead of hitters and letting his stuff play in the zone. Done a tremendous job for us and big props to our pitching coach Austin Meine who has done a great job creating pitching plans for each pitcher and working on goals that each pitcher has here.”

Pham over 11 games and nine starts for the year overall, is 3-2 with a 2.58 ERA that ranks fifth-best in the league. Over 45 1/3 innings he has allowed 28 hits with 23 walks, 67 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP. He’s just been solid and in his most recent outing pitched five hitless and scoreless with 11 strikeouts. 

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A few notes and quotes on the winning Orioles weekend

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Every year it seems like some of the biggest winning clubs in baseball have players succeed throughout their roster. Not only the roster of 26 players but many more that contribute in a myriad ways over the long season of 162 games.

The Orioles are getting that right now and it was on display in Sunday’s 11-3 victory that completed a three-game sweep of Kansas City by a 20-6 score. The Orioles earlier had three game sweeps at home April 21-23 versus Detroit and May 19-21 at Toronto. This was their first three-game sweep of Kansas City since the 2017 season.

At 41-24, the Orioles are playing .631 ball which translates to 102 wins for a full year. They are 17 games over the .500 mark for the first time since June 26, 2016.

But on a day Gunnar Henderson grabbed some headlines with his long home run in the eighth, Ryan O’Hearn reached base five times for the first time in his career. And he did it versus a Kansas City team he has played 342 games with. O’Hearn went 3-for-3 with two walks, four runs and he hit a changeup with a 107.9 mph exit velocity in the home eighth for his fourth O’s home run.

In 24 games with Baltimore, O’Hearn is batting .328 with a .989 OPS. Among all Orioles this year, that OPS is second on the team to outfielder Aaron Hicks, who is batting .345 with a 1.058 OPS, going 10-for-29 with eight runs and seven walks in 10 games.

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