Baltimore Orioles got five home runs on 17 hits off Red Sox pitching for the 12-5 win. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
BOSTON — The only question was, what took so long?
April had been a lean month for the Orioles at the plate, mitigated by their winning record and almost everyone in the heart of their lineup delivering a big hit at one point or another to help them to it.
Until Wednesday, they hadn’t put it all together. In their most complete offensive performance of the season, the Orioles clubbed four mammoth home runs off knuckleballer Steven Wright before Wright could even record five outs and split the two-game series with a 12-5 win.
Mark Trumbo, the team’s premier slugger, felt it all coming.
“We’ve been battling, but we haven’t hit our stride by any means,” Trumbo said before the game. “It’s hard to say exactly when that happens, but I think we’re at the point where things are going to start to get better pretty quickly.”
It’s hard to pack more into one game than the Orioles managed at Fenway Park. Wright, who last year mowed down the Orioles twice, hit Seth Smith with his first pitch and never saw his day improve. MannyMachado blasted a double to the deepest part of the ballpark to score Smith. Trumbo scored Machado with a single.
Then, on back-to-back pitches, left fielder Trey Mancini and second baseman Jonathan Schoop sent identical, towering drives over the Green Monster to make it 6-0 Orioles in the first inning.
Center fielder Adam Jones and first baseman Chris Davis — the only two players who didn't reach base in the first inning — atoned by trotting around all of them in the second inning. Davis' blast chased Wright after eight runs and just 34 pitches.
Mancini added a second home run in the third inning to cap off the barrage with the biggest blast of them all.
Manager Buck Showalter enters games against knuckleballers looking for one specific thing — the quality of contact.
High pops and topped ground balls mean a long night. When your men are leaving vapor trails across the Fenway Park sky, it means a short one for the pitcher in question.
Off Wright, the Orioles were doing the latter. They hit seven balls measured by Statcast as harder than 100 miles per hour, including all four home runs off him. Mancini’s blast, at 116 mph according to Statcast, was one of the five hardest-hit balls in the league this year and the hardest home run of the season, according stats through Tuesday.
The 14 balls they put in play in the first three innings averaged 100.2 mph. When Red Sox manager John Farrell came out for his pitching change in the second inning, he would have been well served warning the fathers on the field to consider their families before stepping in front of a batted ball.
In the seventh inning, the Orioles extended their lead with a two-run double by Castillo and a run-scoring single by Schoop. Their 12 runs and 17 hits were both season-highs.
Showalter, too, believed before the game an offensive outburst was imminent.
"I could tell walking around the locker room today our guys were frustrated about last night," Showalter said. "They were looking forward to getting back out there and getting back to playing the type of baseball we're capable of and have to play."
Davis said they played "such a sloppy game" that they wanted to come out early and erase it.
Mancini, who became the first player in club history with five home runs in his first 10 games, felt a breakout for the team was due.
"I've been watching this team the last few years, ever since I got drafted, and I know if there's a couple of slow offensive games, there's one game where it's just an outpouring of offense, and tonight was the night."
"The first inning and after that, you just kind of had that feeling. It was one of those nights, and hitting is really contagious. It's an old baseball cliche, but for whatever reason; I don't know if it gives everybody confidence or whatever it is. One guy went up, got a hit and the next guy came and did the same thing. It was really awesome to be a part of that."
How all that will carry over against a more traditional pitcher is certainly a question, but a moot one. Entering Wednesday’s game, the Orioles were among the league’s worst collective units at the plate. They’d played a league-low six games and scored a league-low 21 runs while batting .215 (26th in MLB) with a .610 OPS (25th).
With five home runs Wednesday, they doubled their season total to 10.
But with two home run kings, a prodigious third baseman and the rest of the Orioles' powerful lineup, a showing like this is always a possibility.