The Orioles’ first game against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2023 was similar to many the teams have played over the past few years.
Not as much in the fact that Baltimore won the game, as the Orioles haven’t posted a winning record against their American League East foe since 2017. Rather, it was Ryan Mountcastle blasting a home run off Blue Jays pitcher Yusei Kikuchi that evoked familiar feelings.
Mountcastle clobbered a three-run home run off Kikuchi in the third inning Friday to propel the Orioles to a 6-2 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. There are few pitchers, teams or venues the Orioles slugger is more effective against than those three.
The 26-year-old entered the series opener with a 1.014 OPS against Toronto in his four-year career — his best mark off any team he’s tallied at least 50 plate appearances against. But it’s his success versus Kikuchi that is even more profound, as Mountcastle is now 5-for-10 with a double, four home runs — yes, four — and eight RBIs against the Japan native.
“I’ve just had the benefit of getting good pitches to hit against him,” Mountcastle said. “It seems like he’s been doing pretty well this year. To get a good pitch to hit against him today was big.”
Mountcastle’s long ball was all pitcher Kyle Gibson needed, as the veteran right-hander delivered one of his best starts as an Oriole. Gibson pitched seven innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out five, to end his three-game losing streak.
“That was the start we needed. That was awesome,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “To go seven innings against that club in his ballpark, couldn’t ask for anything more. … So happy with Kyle. The sinker was really working, he mixed speeds so well. Just threw an unbelievable game for us.”
Anthony Santander hit a solo shot in the sixth, Adam Frazier added two insurance runs in the ninth with a blast of his own and relievers Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista shut the door behind Gibson.
Cano’s scoreless innings streak came to an end at 21 2/3 innings after he allowed a run in the eighth, but he stranded a runner at third after getting into trouble to hold the lead at 4-2. Frazier’s blast gave the Orioles extra cushion, but Hyde still turned to Bautista to close the game in a nonsave situation.
“I’m not a robot. It was bound to happen,” Cano said while smiling through team interpreter Brandon Quinones.
Baltimore (29-16) is now 7-6 against AL East teams after opening the season 2-4. From 2019 to 2022, the Orioles went 24-43 versus Toronto. They are 1-0 against the Blue Jays this year.
“Any AL East series is gonna be big,” Mountcastle said. “For us to come out here and get a first game ‘W’ is huge. We’ve got a tough matchup tomorrow with [starting pitcher Alex] Manoah, and we’re excited to try and win this series tomorrow.”
Around the horn
- Cedric Mullins was back in the leadoff spot against a left-handed starting pitcher. Mullins, a left-handed hitter, struggled against lefties in 2022 but has crushed them this season. Hyde had been opting for Austin Hays in the leadoff spot for most of the year. Mullins went 1-for-5 with a double.
- Infield prospect Joey Ortiz started at third base Friday, his first time playing the hot corner in his major league career. He briefly played the position in the minor leagues, but Hyde said before the game that the club trusts him to play all three infield spots. Ortiz has started games at shortstop, second base and third in his brief time in Baltimore.
- Reliever Dillon Tate bounced back with a good outing at Triple-A Norfolk during his rehabilitation assignment, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing one hit and striking out one.
- The Bowie Baysox, Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate, pitched a combined no-hitter in their 4-0 win Friday. Chayce McDermott, the Orioles’ sixth-best pitching prospect still in the minors, tossed five scoreless innings, and relievers Nolan Hoffman and Easton Lucas both pitched a pair of hitless innings to complete the no-no, the 12th in franchise history.
This story will be updated.
Orioles at Blue Jays
Saturday, 3:07 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Source: Berkshire mont