Wells keeps dealing and Orioles claim series with 4-2 win (updated)

Anthony Santander didn’t feed the appetites of the launch angle lovers this afternoon while breaking the final tie of the day. The four combined home runs from the Orioles and Blue Jays would have to satisfy those cravings.

Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. raised his mitt in an attempt to knock down Santander’s 103.9 mph one-hopper with two outs in the sixth inning and could only deflect it, allowing Austin Hays score on the third consecutive single against reliever Yimi García.

Four degrees of separation between a tie and lead.

García was saddled with two losses last month in Toronto, and he earned another today. Tyler Wells turned in his third quality start in his last four outings, surviving two home runs from Danny Jansen, and Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista handled the last seven outs in a 4-2 victory before an announced crowd of 22,555 at Camden Yards.

Hays hit a 439-foot home run off Erik Swanson in the eighth, and the 24th comeback win of the season improved the Orioles to 43-25. They secured their 15th series and pushed the Blue Jays six games behind them in the standings.

The day began with Hays leading the majors with a .378 average in the seventh inning or later and a .413 average with two outs.

"Haysy smashed that baseball, and he's having an underrated season and a really, really good year and getting huge hits for us," said manager Brandon Hyde.

"We talk a lot about tack-on runs and hopefully we'll start getting more as the season goes along, but Haysy's playing great baseball and that was a huge hit for us."

Bautista inherited two runners from Cano in the top of the eighth after Whit Merrifield struck out, and he retired his four batters for his 18th save.

Matt Chapman took a called third strike in the eighth, the last four pitches clocked at 100.5 mph, 101.2, 102 and 87.7.

Adley Rutschman led off the fifth inning with his ninth home run of the season, tying the game 2-2 and raising Yusei Kikuchi’s total to 19, the most in the majors. He began the day tied with Jordan Lyles and Lance Lynn.

Kikuchi struck out seven batters in 4 2/3 innings and left after Ramón Urías reached on an error.

Hays and Adley Rutschman singled in the sixth, giving the latter three hits on the day, and Santander reached base for the third time.

Jansen led off the third with a game-tying home run to left field, a 90-mph fastball leaving the bat at 105.3 mph. He went to left-center in the fifth, this time barreling a cutter and driving it 427 feet for a 2-1 lead.

Wells has surrendered 16 homers, and 22 of his 29 runs allowed have come via the long ball.

"I think you look at a lot of my home runs, it's kind of just been mistake pitches, kind of down the middle," Wells said. "Danny got me on two of them today where, the first one was middle but it was kind of up in his wheelhouse and he crushed it, put it right down the line, and the second one I think I threw basically two of the same pitches, one just happened to be a little more right where his barrel was the first swing. Things like that happen, but he definitely got the best of me today."

Hyde wasn’t going to let Wells face Jansen a third time, removing him with two outs in the seventh and the bases empty. Fans stood to cheer Wells, who raised the glove he held in his right hand.

"We have a tough time with Danny Jansen collectively the last couple years," Hyde said.

"I think (Wells) pitches up on the zone a lot. The fastball gets on you and it's a 6-8 guy who gets out in front, and it plays up above 92-93. But it's not a Bautista fastball where it's got a ton of ride to it. But it's a good fastball, and I just think sometimes guys can ambush it a little bit."

Wells allowed two runs and five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts in 6 2/3, and reduced his ERA to 3.20. His 0.86 WHIP is the lowest in the majors.

"Besides the Danny Jansen at-bats, he was absolutely fantastic, doing what he's been doing all year," Hyde said. "He was throwing a ton of strikes, working ahead in the count, locates well, good mix with his fastball, cutter, slider, changeup. Super unpredictable. He can throw all of them for strikes. ... Just great stuff from him. He's been doing this all year.

"If you told me he would be 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA right now, I would have been ecstatic. But he pitched extremely well last year, just in kind of a weird situation with short sprint starts and a leash. ... I'm not real surprised. I think he can really pitch."

Hyde wants Wells to get more recognition.

“I’m on the bandwagon of him trying to make the All-Star team,” Hyde said earlier today.

“He’s had a great first half. He’s been really, really steady for us. Gives us a chance almost every time out and puts up great numbers, so I’d love to see him have a chance to go.”

"It's not really up to me," Wells said, smiling, "but I think that I've had a good first half and I'm just hoping to continue that throughout the year."

Two more strikeouts were notched in the fourth, on a fastball and slider, and Merrifield broke early for second base after walking and was thrown out. Kevin Kiermaier led off the fifth by striking out on a cutter, but the same pitch didn’t get past Jansen.

Guerrero singled with two outs in the sixth and Merrifield struck out on a cutter.

The walk aside, Wells kept pounding the zone. He threw eight of nine pitches for strikes in the first, was 18 out of 22 through the second, 34 of 44 after the third, 45 of 61 after the fourth, and 55 of 75 through the fifth. He finished with 65 strikes among 90 pitches.

"I'm pretty happy about it," Wells said. "Danny Jansen, he kind of got me on those two pitches, but other than that, pretty happy about it. I think I'd take one pitch back and that was the 117 off the bat from Guerrero, and I told him to hit it a little softer next time. Other than that, I felt like I was commanding the ball really well today. I felt like I had pretty much all my pitches going and it worked out well."

Gunnar Henderson is producing anywhere that he’s batting.

Moved into the cleanup spot today, the only left-handed hitter against Kikuchi, Henderson lined a two-out single into left field in the first inning to score Santander for a 1-0 lead.

Santander walked, advanced on a wild pitch and came home on Henderson’s seven-pitch at-bat – the last a 96.8 mph fastball that Henderson casually redirected the opposite way for his 15th RBI in his last 12 games.

Jorge Mateo, batting .148 with two extra-base hits in his last 28 games before today, singled in the second inning and stole his 19th and 20th bases. Ryan McKenna, now 1-for-22 in his last 11 games, drew a two-out walk. But Hays popped up.

Rutschman and Santander had back-to-back singles to begin the third, but they were stranded.

Santander’s day also included a diving catch to rob George Springer in the top of the third. Bo Bichette followed with a double that would have broke the tie.

The Orioles haven’t lost a division series since dropping two of three to the Yankees on April 7-9. Toronto hasn’t won a division series since April 21-23 in the Bronx.

Today's outcome gave the Orioles five straight series wins in the division for the first time since 2014. The Jays have been pests in the past but are 1-5 against the Orioles.

"We have better pitching than we've had in the past," Hyde said. "We're pitching extremely well, and we have a chance every night out with five starters who give us a chance. Our bullpen has been one of the best in baseball. ... I think on the mound we can compete with them a little bit better than we've been able to in the past."

"Anytime we can get a series win in the AL East, it's a tough feat, so to be able to do that again was big for us," said Hays, whose homer was the second-longest of his career.

"I think we've done a decent job of hitting against them over the years, but they have just a really powerful lineup that there's not really a whole lot of holes in it and they've been able to outscore us quite a bit. Our pitching staff has been the difference. The starters and our bullpen, they've just been doing a really good job of keeping the game close and then letting our offense find a way to score runs late in the game. They've kept us in every game."

"I think the big difference honestly is the confidence," Wells said. "I think that if you look at the Blue Jays, you are seeing those guys grow as young stars. You have Bichette and Vladdy come up, you had Biggio come up. And as those guys have gotten older they've gotten better. And I think that you're kind of starting to see that same transition with us right now with Adley, Gunnar, Grayson (Rodriguez). You've seen a lot of what our minor league system has, and they're coming up to the big leagues now, the same way as the Blue Jays.

"We're turning the corner here. You're starting to see a lot of us young guys kind of step into those roles and we're excited about it. We're excited to go out there and face the very best. They've been a great team this year, they've got a really good lineup, and I think they're going to be good for a long time, but I think we're going to be just as good if not better for a long time."

* Aaron Hicks went 0-for-2 off the bench to end his streak of reaching base at 12 games.

* Rodriguez started today at Triple-A Norfolk and allowed two runs and two hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts in six innings. The 11 strikeouts tied his Triple-A career high.

Rodriguez threw 96 pitches, 65 for strikes. Dillon Tate followed with 1 1/3 scoreless and hitless innings, with two walks and two strikeouts. He threw 25 pitches, 11 for strikes.

Heston Kjerstad hit his second home run. Robbie Glendinning hit his fourth.

Wells' WHIP is good, Garrett gets back to majors, ...
O's game blog: Looking for a victory in the series...

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