As the Orioles offense sputtered over the past month, there’s always been the promise that once the temperature started to rise in Baltimore, the balls might start carrying at Camden Yards and the Orioles could get back to their winning ways buoyed by their power bats.
And in this weekend’s interleague series against the St. Louis Cardinals, sweaty summerlike weather arrived, and so did the Orioles offense.
The teams combined for 22 homers over three games, and the Orioles hit four Sunday off Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn in an 8-5 win that gave the Orioles (34-34) their first three-game series win since taking two against the Boston Red Sox at home in the first days of June.
"Since I've been here, I've never seen the ball carry like it carried today," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
The victory gave the Orioles consecutive wins for the first time since June 6-7 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and put them back at .500 on the season at 34-34.
“Real important,” said right fielder Seth Smith. “Every win’s important. They feel a little more so after a tough stretch. In reality, we need to start winning some games and everybody knows that, so it’s good to win the last two.”
Right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez, inserted back into the struggling starting rotation mostly by circumstance, gave the Orioles their deepest start since June 1, walking off the field to a standing ovation from the announced 34,854 at Camden Yards after completing seven innings of two-run ball.
The only runs off Jiménez were homers by Stephen Piscotty. Otherwise, Jiménez — making his first start since May 22 after four relief appearances since — worked around some early deep counts to become the first Orioles starter to complete seven innings in 16 games. It was Jiménez’s second quality start in nine starts this season and his first since April 19 at Cincinnati.
"We benefited too,” Showalter said of the carry the ball had Sunday. “The one ball that Piscotty hit out to right field, I turned my head, I was talking to [Wade] Miley at the time. I looked back again and Adam [Jones] was still moving. We have days like that here. I agree with [former Orioles catcher and MASN analyst] Rick Dempsey. I don't think there is a tougher place to play in the summer for about a month than this place. We've been pretty lucky the last couple of years where we haven't gotten as much of it. But today, that put a challenge on you."
Loving the long ball
The Orioles claimed the series behind nine combined homers Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday’s fireworks came off Lynn, who entered the afternoon fourth in the National League in ERA (2.69). Lynn was holding right-handed hitters to a .135 batting average — the second lowest mark in the NL — but three of the four homers hit off him Sunday were by right-handed hitters.
Smith took Lynn's eighth pitch of the day over the center-field fence for his third leadoff homer of the season. After Piscotty homered in the top of the second, Trey Mancini led off the bottom of the second with his 12th homer of the season, taking a full-count sinker the opposite way over the right-field scoreboard.
The Orioles piled on with four runs in the fifth, an inning that included a two-run homer by Mark Trumbo and a solo blast from Welington Castillo that chased Lynn from the game. The four homers off Lynn were a career high.
“It was carrying really well, so it’s good for the hitters and not so good for the pitchers,” Smith said. “I’m a hitter, so it was good for me.”
The Orioles hit 10 homers in a three-game series for the first time since Sept. 11-13, 2015.
Orioles double up on triples
The Orioles entered the afternoon tied for last in the American League with three triples, but they hit a pair of three-baggers in a three-batter span in their four-run fifth inning.
With one out in the inning, Jones laced a line drive to center field that sailed over the reach of Dexter Fowler and ricocheted away from him, allowing Jones to easily slide in headfirst with his first triple since 2015.
After Trumbo cleared the bases with his 10th homer of the season — giving the Orioles six players with 10 or more homers this season — Mancini hit a ball that took a wild carom off the left-center-field fence, and a Mancini slid into third headfirst for his first major league triple.
It marked the first time the Orioles hit two triples in the same inning since Aug. 14, 2009, when César Izturis and Felix Pie did it in the third inning of a 16-6 home win against the Los Angeles Angels.
Not your average double play
The Cardinals did their part to help Jiménez get deep into the game, regularly willing to swing at pitches while ahead in the count, but one particular bounce went Jiménez’s way in the fifth inning.
After issuing a one-out walk to Matt Carpenter, Fowler hit a liner that Mancini made a leaping attempt for. The ball fell out of his mitt but bounced right back to him. Mancini scooped the ball, tagged Carpenter off first base before touching first base to complete an unassisted double play.
Needing a bridge
Brad Brach had to pitch the ninth inning in a save situation after two relievers allowed three runs in the eighth inning, marking the second straight day that the Orioles bullpen struggled to bridge a starter to the late-inning arms.
Left-hander Vidal Nuño lasted just two batters, yanked after allowing a two-run homer to Fowler. He was relieved by right-hander Miguel Castro, who allowed a solo homer to Yadier Molina, but managed to get through the eighth. With few save opportunities during the Orioles’ recent slide, Brach pitched on consecutive days for the first time since May 19-20.
“Brad has had a lot of rest, so he's ready to go,” Showalter said. “He only threw 11 pitches [Saturday] and shortened the end of the day. So, he's really been efficient. I don't know where we'd be without Brad. We try to keep everybody in mind that we have 94 games left."
In his first save opportunity since June 2, Brach pitched a perfect ninth to convert his 12th save of the season.
Pitching futility mark
Sunday marked the 15th consecutive game that the Orioles have allowed five or more runs, which ties the American League record set by the St. Louis Browns in 1937 and is second-most since 1913.
The record is held by the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies, who allowed five or more runs in 20 straight games from Sept. 3-24.
”The weather and the way the ball is carrying, if you had told me after the first inning that we were only going to give up five runs, I would have been real happy with that,” Showalter said. “I feel like we would have been in the game.”