Thoughts and quotes on Orioles' status in league, outfield production and Westburg's mature approach at plate

The reversal of the measuring stick can’t be argued or ignored any longer.

The Orioles don’t use other teams to gauge their chances of making a deep run in the postseason. To confirm how they stack up against the rest of the field.

You sweep the Rays in a four-game series at Tropicana Field and win two of three against the Braves, Phillies and Yankees, and you become the model. They use you.

If you keep flushing the opponents’ aces, you don’t need to look up to anyone.

Yes, it’s safe to say it. Don’t be hesitant. The Orioles are making a rock-solid argument for being the best team in baseball, and last night's loss in Houston doesn't change anything. The pitching fell apart, an example being the nine runs surrendered in the sixth inning. The Astros were intent on measuring themselves against the Orioles, who refused to fold when down 14-3.

They scored eight unanswered runs, with Gunnar Henderson homering twice and Jorge Mateo and Anthony Santander once. Adley Rutschman finished with five hits to tie his career high. They have 37 hits the past two games.

Measure that.

The Orioles have homered in 20 consecutive games to tie the club record set in 1998.

They obviously can’t run the table. Accept that they’re going to lose some games. Heck, they might actually lose a series. But they posted the best record in the American League last season and are rolling again despite the injuries and surgeries.

The rotation and bullpen need to be addressed with Kyle Bradish, John Means and Tyler Wells out for the rest of the season and Danny Coulombe sidelined until maybe September. They weren’t standing pat before and certainly won’t do it now.

There are industry rumblings of interest in a right-handed hitting outfielder and concerns specifically about the lack of production in center. Well, here’s another fear factor for the rest of the league: The three primary outfielders are making noise.

Santander, Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays homered Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Santander began the Houston series batting .230/.304/.502 in 70 games, but he also had 19 homers, including 10 this month that led the majors. His June line was .280/.337/.707 before last night.

At the plate with a runner in scoring position in the third inning, Santander lined a game-tying single into right field. He singled again in the fifth and concluded a nine-pitch at-bat in the eighth with a two-run shot. He's 24-for-80 (.300) with 11 homers this month.

Santander is the first Oriole with double-digit homers in a single calendar month since he did it in September 2022. Manny Machado is the last Oriole with 11 or more, in August 2017 (12). Jim Gentile holds the club record with 15 in August 1961.

Mullins has 14 hits in his last 10 games that he's started and six in the last three after he singled twice last night and stole his 16th base. Hays began the season with three hits in his first 41 at-bats and battled illness and injuries, but he was slashing .368/.429/.711 with four doubles and three homers in 14 games this month before pinch-hitting last night with two outs in the ninth.

He fell behind 0-2 and singled.

“That’s huge, and we knew it was coming,” said Ryan O’Hearn. “Those guys are too talented. You’ve seen what they’ve done over the years. The more guys we can get hot in the lineup at one time, the better off we’ll be.

“We need all of our guys to be locked in and ready to go. And it’s only June, we’ve got a long way to go, but just take it one day at a time and hopefully we’ll end up where we want to end up.”

O’Hearn said on Thursday he didn’t realize that Santander had 19 homers until checking the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium. He could have just looked at a calendar and the temperatures.

“I’m sure Tony will attribute it to the warmer weather. He always does,” co-hitting coach Ryan Fuller said of Santander’s outburst this month.

“He’s doing an awesome job of controlling the strike zone. Those borderline pitches that he was swinging at, trying to put in play before, he’s done a great job of taking those, bringing the pitcher into the zones that he’s doing damage on. He has a really good idea now of where we need to take him. If it’s a strike, being able to do damage on it and where to lock in on. And we’ve seen his walks go up the past couple of weeks and then doing damage, too. So it’s a great thing for Tony when he can get on base via the walk and then have damage, as well.”

Does anyone on the club offer more professional at-bats than infielder Jordan Westburg?

Westburg came out of Tuesday’s game with a bruised left hip after Juan Soto couldn’t decide whether to go through or around him. Soto chose C, which was to dig a knee into Westburg while moving behind him.

The hit-by-pitch tomfoolery came later.

Westburg avoided the injured list, returned Thursday and had a single, double and RBI. He also was drilled by a pitch with the bases loaded to avoid feeling left out.

The single went to center field and the double to left.

Westburg pulled a four-seamer into left field last night in the third inning, the ball leaving his bat at 110.8 mph.

“He’s always had it,” Fuller said of Westburg’s skilled approach at the plate. “He has pop pole-to-pole and he’s just a consistent hitter. And if we had a blueprint for what we want our guys to be able to do – hit balls hard, control the strike zone, if they throw it away hit it to right-center field, if they try to challenge him be able to go pull side …"

Westburg entered the Houston series batting .346/.431/.727 with five doubles, two triples, four home runs and 32 RBIs with runners in scoring position, .310/.412/.690 with two outs and runners in scoring position, and .343/.489/.514 with the count full.

“He’s a complete hitter," Fuller said, "and we’re just really proud of his development.”

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