Trey Mancini and Austin Wynns spent Wednesday afternoon meandering Camden Yards, burning sage in hand.
They made their way around the Orioles’ clubhouse, down the hall past manager Brandon Hyde’s office, into the dugout and onto the field, all the while sprinkling what they hoped was a change in mojo around the ballpark. Losers of 19 straight games, the Orioles went ritualistic in hopes of avoiding No. 20.
“He and I just walked around the ballpark and just saged everything we possibly could,” Mancini said. “Just took a good 15 minutes to just walk around, make sure that we took our time and did it right.
“And it worked.”
Nearly seven hours later, the Orioles beat the Angels, 10-6, to end the longest streak in the major leagues since 2005, just two shy of the American League and club record set when the 1988 Orioles lost their first 21 games. They scored the game’s final eight runs, five coming in the bottom of the eighth with a rally that began with Mancini’s leadoff single. Anthony Santander followed with a double before three walks in a four-batter span gave Baltimore the lead, with Austin Hays’ pinch-hit double and Cedric Mullins’ sacrifice fly providing the final margin.
Perhaps, though, the rally started when Wynns suggested burning sage to his teammates. They had tried other attempts to shift their luck amid the skid, largely built around facial hair. Mullins, bearded throughout the season, went clean-shaven. Ryan Mountcastle tried to grow a mustache, and Mancini shaved so that was all he had left — a “form of self-punishment” he promised his teammates would be gone once they won.
But the streak marched on, so Wynns went online, purchased the herbs and had them delivered overnight. By the afternoon, their aromas wafted through Oriole Park.
“I saw Mancini and his mustache and asked him, ‘Are we smoking some different type of cigarettes?’” Hyde said.
After cleansing the dugout, Mancini and Wynns went out to the field, where their teammates were taking batting practice.
“I saw [Mancini] wafting it around the batting cage when I was hitting,” Mullins said. “I looked up and I was like, ‘Smart man.’”
Mullins, the Orioles’ All-Star leadoff man who had scuffled through much of this streak, promptly homered on Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani’s first pitch. Many of the announced 15,867 in attendance at Camden Yards likely came to watch Ohtani start on the mound and bat leadoff, with the Orioles fans among them hoping to see this losing streak end. After Mullins quickly provided hope, Santander added another solo shot. It marked the first time in 31 major league starts Ohtani allowed multiple home runs, the Orioles managing to snap that streak in four batters.
But it took only three in the top of the second for their lead to disappear. Chris Ellis contributed to the Orioles’ 13th straight loss while pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays, but after being claimed on waivers, he was Baltimore’s spot starter in hopes of preventing the 20th. He bounced back from Los Angeles’ two-run second inning with a clean third, only for Jared Walsh to homer on his first pitch of the fourth. Hyde then turned to Marcos Diplán, who faced four batters, retired none and allowed a three-run home run to Brandon Marsh that put Baltimore down 6-2.
The Orioles had been in similar positions frequently during the streak, which even with Wednesday’s victory brought their record to a major league-worst 39-86. All but one of the 19 straight losses came by multiple runs as they were outscored by 108 in that span — more than five runs per game. Many had come in the middle innings against a suspect bullpen, contentious games rapidly falling out of reach.
But beyond Diplán, Baltimore’s relievers held firm, with Conner Greene, Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate and Tanner Scott combining for five scoreless innings as the Orioles cut the deficit to one. DJ Stewart’s two-run homer to the opposite field in the fourth off Ohtani, a front-runner for American League Most Valuable Player and a contender for the league’s Cy Young Award, made the score 6-4. Ohtani finished with four runs allowed, all on home runs, in five innings with seven strikeouts, his ERA rising to 3.00. The major league home run leader (40) was also quiet at the plate, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Another run came in the seventh, with rookie Jahmai Jones, called up from Triple-A on Monday, recording his first hit with Baltimore and coming around to score on a Mullins groundout. Mancini fell behind 0-2 to lead off the eighth, but grounded a single up the middle. A pitch after a deep-but-foul drive to right field, Santander doubled to put two in scoring position with no outs.
“I was really pumped up whenever I got the third base,” Mancini said. “It was a jolt of energy that I haven’t felt in a really long time.”
An intentional walk of Stewart loaded the bases for Ramón Urías, who walked on four pitches to even the score. Jones struck out for the first out, but Kelvin Gutiérrez worked a full-count free pass to give the Orioles a 7-6 lead.
Hyde compared the tension in the dugout to a playoff atmosphere, laughing as he recalled doing the same when the Orioles ended a 20-game road losing streak earlier this year. That skid partly overlapped with an overall winless spell of 14 games; these Orioles are the only team in AL history with two losing streaks that long.
Pinch-hitting for Wynns, Hays smacked a two-run double to left, and although Mullins’ subsequent sacrifice fly provided the Orioles a healthy lead, Hyde said it was not a comfortable one. In his three years as manager, blown late leads have been frequent, so when rookie Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Wells came on for the ninth and got a strikeout and popout before inducing a flyball to right, Hyde didn’t allow himself to relax until gravity brought the ball into Santander’s glove for the final out.
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“There’s a lot of relief, for sure,” Hyde said. “It’s been really, really difficult.”
Both he and Ellis said the sage burn should be a regular part of the team’s pregame routine, but Hyde was disappointed to see a clean-faced Mancini kept his promise as the Orioles celebrated a win more than three weeks in the making.
“We have a winning streak,” Hyde said. “How can you shave the mustache?”
Longest losing streaks in MLB since 1900
Before Wednesday night’s win, the Orioles lost 19 straight games, two shy of the club record. Here are the longest single-season losing streaks in Major League Baseball since 1900:
- 23 games — 1961 Philadelphia Phillies (July 29-Aug. 20)
- 21 games — 1988 Baltimore Orioles (April 4-April 28)
- 20 games — 1969 Montreal Expos (May 13-June 7)
- 20 games — 1916 Philadelphia Athletics (July 21-Aug. 8)
- 20 games — 1943 Philadelphia Athletics (Aug. 7-Aug. 24)
- 20 games — 1906 Boston Americans (May 1-May 24)
- 19 games — 2021 Baltimore Orioles (Aug. 3-Aug. 25)
- 19 games — 2005 Kansas City Royals (July 28-Aug. 19)
- 19 games — 1975 Detroit Tigers (July 29-Aug. 15)
- 19 games — 1914 Cincinnati Reds (Sept. 6-Sept. 23)
- 19 games — 1906 Boston Beaneaters (May 17-June 8)
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