SARASOTA, FLA. — The Orioles will hit their share of home runs this season. They’ve been one of the game’s top homer-hitting teams over the past several years, but one point of emphasis manager Buck Showalter presses every spring is taking more advantage of the long ball.
Of the Orioles’ 232 home runs last season, 64 percent of them (149) were solo shots. And even though it was just an exhibition game on the final day of February, the Orioles showed Wednesday afternoon how quickly they can take control of a game if their power comes with men on base.
Playing against a St. Louis Cardinals team that was one of the biggest trade suitors for him this offseason, shortstop Manny Machado blasted a grand slam in the third inning for the first of four homers the Orioles hit on the day at Ed Smith Stadium.
That power, however, wasn’t enough, as the Orioles lost, 10-9, after blowing a 9-1 lead entering the seventh inning. The Cardinals scored eight runs in the seventh and one more in the eighth.
The game unraveled quickly on left-hander Andrew Faulkner, who let five of the six batters he faced reach base, including a three-run double by Wilfredo Tovar.
Faulkner left the game having allowed four runs, then was charged with a fifth when minor league pitcher Steven Klimek allowed an RBI single to Alex Mejia. Klimek would be charged with three runs of his own, two coming on Yairo Muñoz’s towering blast to left.
The Cardinals scored the winning run in the eighth against Stefan Crichton on Mejia’s RBI single, which scored Adolis Garcia from second.
The Orioles took a 4-0 lead after quickly loading the bases in the third against Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty, who was reportedly one of the pitchers the Orioles were trying to pluck in a potential Machado trade. Caleb Joseph singled, Colby Rasmus walked and Jonathan Schoop singled, before Machado came to the plate.
Machado made Flaherty pay for a 1-1 fastball he left over the plate, hitting a mammoth homer into the left-field picnic area for a grand slam.
Chris Davis, who walked and struck out looking in his previous two at-bats, took a full-count pitch from Daniel Poncedeleon the opposite way in the fifth inning for a three-run homer. Trey Mancini followed Davis’ homer with a solo shot of his own to give the Orioles an 8-1 lead.
Top prospect Ryan Mountcastle hit his first homer of spring training with a solo shot into the left-center gap in the sixth.