The Orioles know exactly what’s at stake. The importance of the remaining games for each opponent that’s in a pennant race. Vying for a division title or the distinction of a wild card.
A team buried in last place can wield plenty of influence. And the Orioles are going to take their biggest swings at it. Don’t strive to be a spoiler but hope to succeed at it.
Cedric Mullins and Ryan McKenna homered in the first inning tonight and rookie Chris Ellis grinded through the fifth before the Blue Jays tied the game in the sixth, aided by two Orioles errors on the same play.
Anthony Santander, who began the game on the bench, hit a three-run homer off Julian Merryweather with two outs in the seventh to break a tie, and the Orioles cooled the Blue Jays with a 6-3 victory before an announced crowd of 11,751 at Camden Yards.
Toronto had won eight in a row and 11 of 12, the most recent damage a four-game sweep of the Yankees. But the Orioles jumped Cy Young candidate Robbie Ray immediately out of the gate, scoring three runs and offering the kind of power that he normally repels.
“Honestly, I just tried to go out there and do my best and overlook all that stuff,” Ellis said. “To be honest with you, I know they’re on an eight-, nine-game heater, so it felt kind of nice for the team to end that.”
Ray went 4 1/3 innings to match his shortest outing on June 18 in Baltimore, his night including a verbal exchange with manager Brandon Hyde, and the Orioles improved to 46-94 overall and 5-8 against the Jays. The five wins this month exceed their August total of four.
Fernando Abad replaced Ellis in the sixth with the Orioles leading 3-1 and allowed a leadoff double to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Second baseman Jahmai Jones fielded pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk’s grounder with one out, tried for the out at third base and fired the ball past Kelvin Gutiérrez, who committed his own throwing error. Gurriel scored after colliding with Abad, who knocked him down with a stiff forearm.
Conner Greene replaced Abad and Marcus Semien doubled with two outs to tie the game. Greene had 1 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and received his first major league win.
Mullins led off the seventh by laying down a bunt and reaching on reliever Merryweather’s error. He made it to third base with two outs on a wild pitch, Trey Mancini walked and Santander delivered his 15th home run on a 94 mph fastball that traveled 423 feet with an exit velocity of 109.7 mph per Statcast.
“It feels great, I’m very excited about it,” Santander said via interpreter Ramón Alarcón. “Thank God I was able to come through with a very important hit.”
Ellis, making his fourth start after the Orioles claimed him off waivers, allowed one run and five hits with four walks and four strikeouts. He left the bases loaded in the fourth by retiring Jake Lamb on a popup, but Bo Bichette’s single in the fifth scored Semien, who walked with two outs and advanced on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s single.
Teoscar Hernández walked to again load the bases as Marcos Diplán warmed, but Alejandro Kirk grounded out on Ellis’ 91st pitch.
The four walks were packed into Ellis’ final two innings. He retired 10 of the first 12 batters.
Mullins inched closer to the first 30/30 season in franchise history with his 11th career leadoff home run and eighth this season. He has 28 homers and picked up his 27th and 28th stolen bases in the eighth inning - the last throw hitting him on the helmet as he dived into the bag.
Ray’s 95 mph fastball traveled 408 feet to center field, according to Statcast, and left Mullins four leadoff homers behind Brady Anderson (1996) for the club’s single-season record.
“He showcased it all tonight, what kind of player he is,” Hyde said. “Making things happen on the bases, nice running catches and going left-on-left off Robbie Ray, who’s got a good chance to win the Cy Young. Taking him deep there in the first inning, extremely impressive.”
Austin Hays tripled with one out to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, Mancini struck out and Ryan McKenna hit his second home run of the season, the other on July 25.
Santander pinch-hit for McKenna in the fifth inning and upheld the lofty standards of the fifth spot in the order, though he bounced out in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and two outs.
“It’s been a tough year for Anthony in a lot of ways and to see him come through like that off a good arm out of their bullpen and give us a lead,” Hyde said. “We kind of gave them a couple runs there for them to tie it and for him to pop one like he did was enormous. Hopefully, that can get him going here for the last few weeks because that was a beautiful swing.”
Ray had allowed only two homers in his last eight starts, covering 53 2/3 innings. He threw 29 pitches in the first inning, which included Jones reaching on Bichette’s throwing error, his first major league stolen base and an out at third base after he tried to advance when the ball sailed into center field.
Gutiérrez just missed a leadoff home run in the second and settled for a triple, the ball hitting the top of the center field fence. Austin Wynns walked and later stole his first career base, but Ray struck out two batters and got both a fly ball and an earful from Hyde.
Ray glared at the Orioles dugout while facing and striking out Richie Martin, and Hyde yelled at him to get on the mound and pitch - among other things. Ray appeared to gesture at Hyde to come onto the field and the third-year manager maintained their dialogue with a few more choice words.
At one point, Hyde can be heard on the Blue Jays broadcast yelling, “We can’t say anything? Pitch the (expletive) ball. We ain’t saying (expletive). Just (expletive) throw.”
Hyde told Ray to get back on a mound that the left-hander began to circle after striking out Martin. That’s when Ray motioned and said, “Let’s go.”
“I understand that some of my language was picked up on a mic by our dugout and I just wanted to apologize to all the fans out there, the Blue Jays, Robbie Ray, Charlie Montoyo,” Hyde said. “It was a little bit heat of the moment and I felt like our team was being accused of something that wasn’t happening. We had a lively dugout tonight, but my language, there’s no excuse for that, so I just wanted to apologize and recognize that that was unprofessional on my part.”
Ray’s reaction was unexpected and triggered Hyde.
“I was surprised and that’s why it caught me off guard, to be honest with you, and that’s why I reacted the way I did,” Hyde said. “Just kind of sticking up for our guys. We do things the right way here. We play the game the right way and we do things the right way in the dugout. I felt like our guys were being targeted a little bit and I wish I would have handled it a little differently than I did.
“I don’t want to get into what made us react the way that we did, but I could have reacted differently and I could have used different language, and for the mic to pick that up, I’m embarrassed by that.”
“It’s upsetting to me that we’re talking about this instead of talking about a lot of good things we did tonight, starting with Chris Ellis pitching five really good innings and giving up one run,” Hyde said. “I thought our bullpen did a great job once again. Conner Greene was really good, Cole Sulser going six outs with a lot of guys unavailable tonight and a doubleheader tomorrow was huge for us. And then Santander coming off the bench in his second at-bat and hitting the three-run homer there that has escaped us a lot this year to give us the lead.”
There’s already tension between these teams after Alek Manoah surrendered back-to-back home runs on June 19 and drilled Maikel Franco, which led to the benches and bullpens emptying at Camden Yards and a suspension for the rookie pitcher.
“It was definitely a hot moment,” Santander said about tonight’s controversy. “We’re just trying to help our teammates, be sort of like a cheerleader for our teammates and holler at them. I think there was some confusion there, but we were just cheering for our teammates. ... Thankful nothing happened. It was just something in the heat of the moment.”
Martin singled in the fourth, broke too soon for second base and was caught stealing. In the previous inning, Mancini doubled with one out and Jones drew a two-out walk before Gutiérrez grounded out.
Ray came out of the game after Ryan Mountcastle and Hays singled to begin the fifth inning and Mancini struck out. Adam Cimber stranded the runners.
The three runs were the most surrendered by Ray since July 21, a span of eight starts. His eight hits were a season high, and his streak of double-digit strikeouts ended at four games.
“I’m not going to waste my time with someone that doesn’t get in the box,” Ray said when asked about his exchange with Hyde. “I don’t have the time of day.”
The Orioles have three more games against the Jays this weekend, including Saturday’s doubleheader. An off-day is followed by three home games against the Yankees, three in Boston and three in Philadelphia.
“We’ve got to match the intensity because they’re going to be bringing the intensity,” Hyde said earlier in the day before he brought his own.
“These teams that we’re going to be playing, they’re scoreboard watching and they know what’s going on around them and they need to win. So it’s up to our guys to match it and hopefully we can play some competitive games against some good clubs.”
They were more than just competitive tonight. A bit combative and ultimately victorious after Sulser stranded two runners in the eighth by retiring Guerrero on a fly ball and survived a two-out walk in the ninth for his seventh save.
“I think for the last two weeks we’ve been playing better baseball, being aggressive, being competitive,” Santander said. “And I think we’re aiming to finish the season strong.”
“I feel like we’re playing great baseball right now,” Ellis said. “Everyone in the clubhouse has been good, everyone has high spirits, comes out ready to play. You saw it tonight. I don’t think we’re letting the record or anything like that get in our head. Everyone just comes to the ballfield, new day, new game, and just does the best they can.”
Notes: Adley Rutschman hit his third home run tonight for Triple-A Norfolk. Cody Sedlock held Durham to two runs and four hits with one walk and eight strikeouts in six innings, but Thomas Eshelman allowed four runs in one inning and Paul Fry was charged with four in two-thirds of an inning.
Dean Kremer didn’t pitch and is a candidate to join the Orioles Saturday as the 29th man for the doubleheader.
Double-A Bowie’s Drew Rom tossed five scoreless innings with three hits, no walks and seven strikeouts. Andrew Daschbach hit his seventh home run and Jordan Westburg had three hits, including two doubles.
The Baysox scored five runs in the top of the 10th.
TT Bowens hit his third home run for Single-A Aberdeen. Jake Prizina allowed two runs and three hits in five innings, with one walk and five strikeouts. Noah Denoyer tossed three scoreless and hitless innings.
Single-A Delmarva’s Carlos Tavera tossed three scoreless innings with one hit and a walk.