TORONTO - No one is handing out starting jobs for next year yet for players not fully established at the major league level, but Orioles center fielder Austin Hays is making a strong case for himself since his call-up from Triple-A Norfolk on Sept. 7.
Hays is batting .302/.362/.535 in 15 games with the Orioles. He has a six-game hitting streak during which is he is 8-for-24 (.333) with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs.
“He’s done a great job,” manager Brandon Hyde said this afternoon in the visitors dugout at Rogers Centre. “We’ve talked about that you don’t want to put too much stock in September and spring training. But he’s shown us that he can play center field defense. And really like his at-bats - really competitive every at-bat and hitting the ball from line to line. Like the plate discipline that I didn’t see in spring training. He’s laying off some tough pitches, which is great to see. Making a really strong case that he can play here.”
Hyde sees Hays as someone playing with a lot of confidence, and he really likes that.
“I think Austin plays with an edge, he plays confidently,” Hyde said. “Plays defense very confidently, and you’re seeing that at the plate also. The majority of really good players are very confident with a little bit of insecurity mixed in there also.”
Hays and Trey Mancini got honors from the American League today. Mancini was named AL Player of the Week and Hays got Play of the Week for his home run-robbing catch against Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. last Thursday at Camden Yards.
“Well deserved. They both had great weeks,” said Hyde. “Trey did so much offensively and hit with power. Hopefully, he has one more week like that and Austin with his defense in center field. A few really great plays. Well deserved for both those guys.”
In six games during the week, Mancini hit .462 (12-for-26) with four runs, four doubles, two home runs, 10 RBIs and 22 total bases. Mancini is riding a nine-game hitting streak and this month is batting .354/.404/.620 with 12 runs, 28 hits, six doubles, five home runs and 19 RBIs.
Recently, Hyde said he talked with Mancini about hitting the ball in the air more than he currently does and producing more chances to drive more baseballs. Mancini was recently named Most Valuable Oriole for 2019, but Hyde thinks there is yet another gear he can get to with his offense.
“I wasn’t making that an emphasis here at the end of the year,” Hyde said. “With him, I was talking about the kind of year he’s had and how much better I think he can actually be as a hitter. And some things I feel like can really help him. He was in total agreement. He just happened to have a good week after that. I wouldn’t put any stock into that (his recent conversations with Mancini).
“But going forward into spring training, this is guy that’s a 40-plus home run guy, especially in our ballpark, without problems. If he is just able to lay off the pitchers’ pitches, especially early in the count. That is what he did this past week.”
Mancini continues to lead by example for the young Orioles, said Hyde.
“It’s our team, man,” he said. “We just won two out of three from Seattle. Got swept by these guys in close games. Could have won all four in Detroit. Our guys are continuing to play. We’re competing, and Trey leads the way with that. He’s really hard on himself. But he’s got a great attitude and never takes a pitch off. It’s great for our young guys to see that and continue to put up numbers and help the team win on a team that is out of contention.”
By the way, Hyde somewhat echoes former O’s skipper Buck Showalter in not wanting to get too carried away with stats in either spring or September. But he did clarify that September numbers for him carry more weight.
“I don’t equate them the same,” he said. “Just sometimes it’s a small sample size. But we are playing against major league players. But it’s a small amount of games and small amount of at-bats. But it’s a totally different game in September than it is in spring, for sure.”
Jays lead early: Toronto took a 3-0 lead in the last of the first on Randal Grichuk’s three-run homer to left off Chandler Shepherd. He has seven homers and 15 RBIs in 14 games on the year against Baltimore pitching.
More homers: Shepherd allowed back-to-back homers in the second to Brandon Drury and Jonathan Davis as Toronto opened a 5-0 lead. O’s pitchers have now allowed 297 home runs.
Hays comes through: Hays hit a three-run homer to left in the third to pull the Orioles within 5-3. It was his third of the year and third in the last five games.
O’s get the lead: The O’s hit three homers in a four-run fifth to lead 7-6. Jonathan Villar and Hays went back to back to get the Orioles within a run. This is Hays first career multi-homer game. A two-run homer by Rio Ruiz made it a 7-6 O’s lead.
O’s retake the lead: With two out in the eighth, Stevie Wilkerson tripled to right center off Derek Law. Chance Sisco walked, then Villar dropped a single in front of Teoscar Hernández in left. Hays followed with a ground ball that found a hole between second and short, thus bringing home DJ Stewart, pinch-running for Sisco. Heading to the bottom of the eighth, the Orioles lead 9-7.
O’s surrender the lead: Shawn Armstrong gave those two runs right back in the home ninth, blowing a save opportunity. Armstrong hit Jonathan Davis (the pitch would’ve been ball four even if it hadn’t nicked his elbow pad) to lead off the inning. Davis later scored on Biggio’s sacrifice fly. Pinch-runner Anthony Alford came home on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s single up the middle. The Orioles and Blue Jays are now in extra innings with the score tied 9-9.
Davis goes deep: Chris Davis homered in the 12th to give the Orioles a 10-9 lead.
Not done yet: Guerrero reached on Ruiz’s throwing error and later scored on Jonathan Davis’ sac fly in the 12th. The score is tied again, 10-10.
Now we’re done: Alford put an end to a marathon contest with a two-out solo homer off Ryan Eades in the 15th. It was his first as a major leaguer. It was an 11-10 loss for the Orioles.