The Baltimore Orioles came into Toronto on Monday following a satisfying series win over the Yankees at Camden Yards and looking to build on their earlier success north of the border against the Blue Jays. In what wound up being an exciting week for the Orioles, from both a baseball standpoint and player acquisition standpoint, Orioles did just that, taking 3 out of 4 games from the Blue Jays and improving to a stellar 6-1 at Rogers Centre this year.
Baltimore Orioles take three of four games from Toronto Blue Jays
It was a nightmare series for the Blue Jays, who lost star shortstop Bo Bichette indefinitely to a knee injury. They were outhit 46-18 in the four game series and lost even more ground on the first-place Orioles, falling to 7.5 games out of first. While we certainly wish Bo Bichette well and were relieved to see there was no structural damage, the Orioles were not complaining that the Jays' star-studded lineup was without their top shortstop.
But a few particular Orioles truly stole the show this week in Toronto: starting pitchers Kyle Gibson, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and newest Oriole Jack Flaherty. Last but not least, certified Blue Jay masher Ryan Mountcastle, who went an other-wordly 11-13 (11-13!!!) against Toronto pitching. Let's take a closer look.
1. Game 1: Orioles 4, Blue Jays 2
'Twas the night before the trade deadline, and all through the clubhouse, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Except for the Orioles bats, which jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Kyle Gibson, who pitched six outstanding innings of one-run ball, and Felix Bautista, who yet again bailed the Orioles out masterfully to earn his 29th save.
The Orioles scored two runs in the top of the first, when Ryan Mountcastle doubled to right off of Blue Jays' starter Chris Bassitt, scoring two runs and giving Mountcastle his first of 11 hits in the series. Gunnar Henderson would later hit his first of two home runs in the series, and the Orioles held a seemingly-secure 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.
Yennier Cano, who clearly has not been as sharp as he was earlier in the year, allowed a lead-off home run to Whit Merrifield and walked Brandon Belt and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with one out to bring the tying run to the plate. Mountain Time came a little earlier than usual in Toronto, with Felix Bautista coming in to put out the fire, stranding Belt and Guerrero to send the game to the ninth with the Orioles still up 2.
Bautista uncharacteristically struggled in the bottom of the ninth, sandwiching a strikeout between two walks. Whit Merrifield, who had homered in the eighth, came up as the winning run, and laced a ball into the left-centerfield gap. If the ball landed and rolled all the way to the wall, it would have tied the game. All-Star Austin Hays came out of NOWHERE to make arguably the catch of the season, laying out and grabbing Merrifield's liner before it hit the turf, preserving the Orioles' lead. Hays, himself called it "the best catch I've ever made." Hays' heroics helped the Orioles secure Game 1 and improve to 4-0 in Toronto on the season.
Ryan Mountcastle watch: Mountcastle went "only" 2-3 on the night, making one of only two outs he would make in 16 plate appearances the entire series.
2. Game 2: Orioles 13, Blue Jays 3
The Orioles came into Trade Deadline Tuesday looking to bolster their pitching staff and keep winning in Toronto. They did both. Earlier in the day, the Orioles acquired Cardinals' right-hander Jack Flaherty in exchange for minor leaguers Cesar Prieto, Drew Rom, and Jack Flaherty, and smashed the Blue Jays, 13-3. The first half of the game followed a familiar pattern: the Orioles took an early 3-0 lead, and the Phillies rallied to tie the game at 3.
The Orioles then reeled off 10 unanswered runs, including a solo shot from Gunnar Henderson and a grand slam from Anthony Santander to officially put the game out of reach. Bradish wound up throwing seven solid innings, allowing only the three runs, and the Orioles improved to a season-best 25 games over .500. Unfortunately for the Orioles, the Rays won their first two games in the Bronx, and the Orioles AL East lead remained at 1.5 games.
Ryan Mountcastle watch: Mountcastle went 3-4 with three runs, two RBIs, and a walk. Remarkably, Mountcastle's lineout to left field in the top of the second inning would be the FINAL TIME the Blue Jays would retire him (aside from sacrifice flies) for the remainder of the four game series.
3. Game 3: Blue Jays 4, Orioles 1
Emerging ace Grayson Rodriguez followed up an outstanding outing against the Yankees with another strong start in Toronto, holding the Jays to just one run going into the sixth inning. The problem was the Orioles bats outside of Mountcastle were silent, managing just one run on a James McCann double and an Adley Rutschman RBI single where Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi forgot to cover first base.
With two outs and nobody on in the sixth, Rodriguez uncharacteristically walked Brandon Belt and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., bringing an end to his night. That is when the game unraveled, as Shintaro Fujinami entered and proceeded to walk George Springer, drill Matt Chapman with the first pitch and the bases loaded to force in a run, and hit Alejandro Kirk on an 0-2 pitch to force in another run.
To make matters worse, Jorge Mateo kicked a routine ground ball to short, which instead of ending the inning, forced in another run. By the time Paul DeJong lined out to third, the Jays had scored three runs and put the game out of reach for the sleepy Orioles bats. The Orioles would lose, 4-1.
Ryan Mountcastle watch: The Blue Jays failed to retire Mountcastle on Wednesday night, as the Toronto crusher went 2-2 with two walks. With this game, he improved to 7-9 on the series.
4. Game 4: Orioles 6, Blue Jays 1
New starter Jack Flaherty and Ryan Mountcastle personally made sure that the Orioles would leave Toronto with a series win. Flaherty impressed in his Orioles debut, allowing only one run (a sixth-inning soft RBI single to Guerrero) over six solid innings, making it four straight solid starts for the Orioles in Toronto. Mountcastle and Austin Hays had four hits apiece while Adley Rutschman and Adam Frazier knocked out two hits apiece themselves.
The Orioles cruised to a 6-1 matinee victory over Toronto, guaranteed themselves the season series over their rival up north, and perhaps most importantly, secured three days of rest for Felix Bautista heading into this weekend's series against the struggling but always-dangerous Mets. Back to Ryan Mountcastle, he capped his incredible series by going 4-4 with a sacrifice fly, making him 11-13 for the series.
Mountcastle's ownership of the Blue Jays - not just this year but throughout his career - is truly something. By going 11-13 (an .846 batting average), Mountcastle posted the highest batting average for an Oriole over a four-game series in team history. For his career, he is a .333 hitter at Rogers Centre with a 1.046 OPS over 81 at-bats.
Ryan Mountcastle watch: He was historically amazing.
The Orioles return home for a three-game set against Buck Showalter's Mets. I plan to be there Saturday night (with my good friend who is a die-hard Mets fan and driving 18 hours from Wisconsin for this game). For his sake and the Mets' sake in general, maybe Mountcastle can take it a little easier on them.