The Baltimore Orioles completed a successful 5-1 homestand by taking two out of three games against the Toronto Blue Jays this week, demonstrating their ability to both outslug (Tuesday) and outpitch (Thursday) their AL East foes. No matter how they win them, they all count the same.
The Orioles continue to stack wins. By taking 6 of their last 7 games, the Orioles improved to 43-25 and, with another series win over the Jays, are 6 games ahead of their AL East rival. While some may say it is still too early to have statement wins in June, this series victory felt an awful lot like a statement. A statement that teams that have tormented the Orioles over the years, like the Toronto Blue Jays, simply do not have that power over them anymore.
Games 1 and 2 could not have been more different: the Orioles scored 11 runs on 17 hits in a game one rout, but were held hitless into the bottom of the seventh in game 2. Game 3 included just enough offense and stellar pitching from ace Tyler Wells to secure the series win. No matter how they earned their wins, the Orioles clinched their fifth straight series win against an American League East foe, their longest streak since the magical run of 2014. Let's take a closer look.
1. Game 1: Orioles 11, Blue Jays 6
The ball was flying out of the ballpark in Tuesday's 11-6 win over the Blue Jays, with Gunnar Henderson, Ryan O'Hearn, Aaron Hicks, and Adam Frazier mashing home runs off Toronto pitching. Although the Orioles seemingly dominated this game, they actually fell behind in the top of the first when George Springer led off the game with a double into the left field corner and scored on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s base hit up the middle. While Dean Kremer settled in after a rocky start, Toronto starter Chris Bassitt's night kept getting worse and worse.
In the bottom of the second inning, Adam Frazier blasted his eighth home run of the season, a two-run shot that gave the Orioles the lead for good. The Orioles' offense truly erupted in the bottom of the third, when new folk hero Ryan O'Hearn lined a two-run home run over the centerfield fence to give the Orioles a 4-1 lead. As Kevin Brown exclaimed, "O'Hearn, O'Yes!" Truer words were never spoken.
Not to be outdone, Gunnar Henderson blasted a two-out grand slam off of Bassitt, growing the Orioles' lead to 8-1. Not a bad way for the reigning AL Player of the Week to begin a new week.
Aaron Hicks clocked a solo blast off of the fair pole in right field later in the game for good measure, giving the Orioles their ninth run and reminding Birdland that this team can power its way to victories. And the Orioles would need the insurance. With an 11-2 lead, Brandon Hyde turned to Austin Voth to pitch the final two innings of the game and save the rest of the bullpen. Voth was unable to complete the assignment.
After allowing a leadoff home run to Cavan Biggio in the eighth, Voth allowed three of the next four batters to reach, forcing Brandon Hyde to bring on Cionel Perez. Perez, however, was not much better, allowing two runs to score in the ninth ining and leaving the game with the bases loaded. Incredibly, despite trailing 11-2 entering the eighth, Toronto brought the tying run to the on-deck circle in the top of the ninth. However, Mike Baumann struck out Danny Jansen looking (on a pitch that was definitely off the plate), and Oriole fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
2. Game 2: Blue Jays 3, Orioles 1
Baseball is a funny game. One day after hitting four home runs, scoring 11 times, and banging out 17 hits, the Orioles were absolutely befuddled by Toronto right-hander Jose Berrios. In my series preview, I noted how Berrios has turned a 180 from a poor 2022, and the Orioles, unfortunately, saw this first hand on Wednesday night.
The Orioles did not get a hit until Adley Rutschman's solid single to centerfield in the seventh, and were shut out until an Aaron Hicks two out RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. There was a little excitement as Adam Frazier stepped to the plate representing the winning run against Jays' closer Jordan Romano. But Romano struck Frazier out, and the Blue Jays evened this key series at 1-1.
The Orioles wasted an outstanding performance from starter Kyle Bradish, who allowed only a solo home run to George Springer over 7 fantastic innings of work.
3. Game 3: Orioles 4, Blue Jays 2
Toronto entered Thursday's matinee against the Orioles hoping to steal the series from the Birds and pull within four games of them for second place. Orioles ace Tyler Wells had other ideas. Wells was terrific on Thursday afternoon, allowing only two runs over 6.2 innings en route to a 4-2 win over the Jays. The Orioles offense awoke from its Wednesday night slumber to bang out 11 hits, including home runs from Adley Rutschman and Austin Hays.
Yennier Cano relieved Wells in the seventh with two outs and nobody on and allowed two base runners before coaxing a line out off the bat of George Springer. Returning for the top of the eighth, Cano allowed two more base runners while recording only two outs.
Then, it was Mountain Time (I like Dave Johnson and Brian Roberts, but am looking forward to Ben McDonald's return after the College World Series), and Felix Bautista came on to strike out Matt Chapman and strand Cano's two runners. Bautista breezed through the ninth for yet another save, and the Orioles, lo and behold, won the series against Toronto.
The Orioles improved to 5-1 this season against the Jays and a season-high-tying 18 games above .500. They boarded a happy flight to Chicago, where three more matinee games against the Chicago Cubs, as well as a reunion with fan favorite Trey Mancini, await them.