Austin Hays looked back into the Orioles’ dugout as he passed first base, as if he wanted to see the expressions on his teammates faces. The ball that had just left his bat — a rocket that just cleared the newly remodeled left-field wall — continued a power barrage off Minnesota Twins pitching, and his might’ve been the most impressive blast of the lot.
The 30 extra feet and 13-foot wall that now stands in left field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards has been an imposing figure to beat. The lone player to do so before Thursday was first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. Other balls have launched and hovered and died somewhere short of that fence.
But not Hays’ ball. That long ball was one of five homers from Orioles hitters Thursday, a bombardment that sank the Twins in the series finale, 5-3, to end the four-game set split at two games apiece.
“We’re playing exciting baseball,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Our [10-16] record doesn’t indicate for me our level of how we’re playing.”
At the beginning of this homestand, Hyde predicted the balls would begin flying out of the yard soon. There had been just eight homers between either team at Camden Yards through 11 games. In games 12 and 13, both teams combined to launch nine shots, and Hays became just the second to surpass the challenge of the new left-field fence.
It was the second of two standout plays from Hays. Playing left field earlier, a double from designated hitter Gary Sánchez looked destined to score a runner. But Hays’ dart from the left-field corner beat Max Kepler to the plate, and catcher Robinson Chirinos held on to make the tag.
“Definitely the throw,” Hays said when asked which highlight he preferred. “You hit more home runs than you get assists in the outfield. Any time I get to throw somebody out, especially if it’s a close game and teams are fighting back and forth, that one gets me.”
Between his long hit and that throw to the plate, Hays was a pivotal piece in winning a second consecutive game. The only downside to his night was surrendering the home run chain as quickly as he did; one batter later, Mountcastle hit his second dinger of the evening, and the gold links resting around Hays’ neck were quickly shed to a new owner.
“I turned around and Mounty went oppo, so I put it on him,” Hays said. “It was a short-lived stint with the O’s chain tonight.”
The long ball worked for both teams. Faced with a 3-0 count in the fifth inning, right-hander Spenser Watkins tried to groove a 91-mph fastball over the heart of the plate.
And when Buxton swung, he clubbed that get-me-over pitch deep — so deep — over both bullpens in left-center field for an estimated distance of 452 feet. That blast marked the end of Watkins’ night, following the two-run bomb with a four-pitch walk and a single.
“This is the big leagues,” Watkins said. “You get behind hitters, they’re paid too to come and hit baseballs in their zone. I just gotta get ahead of him and make a better pitch.”
Watkins had kept the damage manageable through much of his 4 2/3 innings, facing the minimum through two before one run scored in the third. It could’ve been more, however, if a replay review hadn’t deemed a throw from Ryan Mountcastle at first beat Jose Miranda to the plate.
But the Orioles roared back in a way they’ve infrequently done this season — with power.
“We’re really talented,” Hyde said. “Some of these guys, they’re gonna start figuring it out this year, and it was fun to watch our at-bats tonight.”
Mountcastle opened the second inning with a blast off right-hander Chris Archer, a welcome sight after he slugged .286 in his previous 21 games entering Thursday. Center fielder Cedric Mullins cranked his second homer in as many games — the sixth time in his career he’s gone deep in consecutive outings. Jorge Mateo went long for the first time this season, leveling the score at three, before later tripling.
Then came the back-to-back shots from Hays and Mountcastle in the eighth, setting the stage for right-hander Jorge Lopez’s save. And when each of those hitters got to the dugout, the newly christened home run chain was placed around their necks.
“It was great,” Mountcastle said. “Great to see the ball finally going over the fence for once.”
Around the horn
- Top prospects Adley Rutschman and DL Hall received call-ups from Double-A Bowie to join Triple-A Norfolk in Nashville on Thursday. Rutschman, a catcher considered the top prospect in baseball, will be in the lineup for the Tides on Friday. The progression for Rutschman will be more rapid than Hall. The left-handed starter is still being built up after suffering a season-ending stress reaction in his elbow in 2021.
- The Orioles claimed left-hander Logan Allen off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday, filling out their 40-man roster in the process. Hyde said Allen will likely join Baltimore on Friday, but his exact role in the bullpen is unclear for the moment. Allen held a 4.50 ERA in six relief innings for Cleveland this season. “It’s a left-hander with a really good arm, was a starter coming up,” Hyde said, “and I think we’re just going to take a look on a guy with a high ceiling, with an exceptional arm.”
- One year ago Thursday, left-hander John Means threw a no-hitter for the Orioles against the Seattle Mariners. Hyde said Means “seemed upbeat” when they texted a few days ago, early in his recovery process from Tommy John surgery. “This team hadn’t had a whole lot to celebrate for a few years,” Hyde said, recalling the no-hitter. “And when that happened, it was like we clinched the pennant. It just was such a cool moment.”
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
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