For all the talk of the wall, of how difficult it was to hit a ball over, Anthony Santander proved in the biggest moment Thursday afternoon that it could be done.
With two runners on base in the bottom of the ninth inning, Santander turned on an inside cutter, powering a three-run home run over that left field wall for his first career walk-off, sealing the Orioles’ 9-6 victory that ended a six-game losing streak and avoided a four-game sweep against the New York Yankees.
“Amazing!” Santander yelled, ditching the need for an interpreter when asked how that long ball felt.
Earlier in the inning, a throwing error by Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson allowed Austin Hays to reach first base, and a one-out single from Trey Mancini on the 10th pitch of his at-bat brought Santander to the plate. Santander had already doubled twice and walked once Thursday, and he didn’t need to see more than that first-pitch cutter under the hands. When he reached home plate, the blue Gatorade bath waited for him among a throng of players.
And then Santander raised his fingers to the sky — he had broken a six-game losing skid that began against the Detroit Tigers last Friday.
“It’s been a tough stretch,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We played great in St. Louis. We don’t swing the bat well in Detroit, faced some good pitching there. We lost two one-run games here against the Yankees, and then win the last game of the series. Hopefully we can start taking these sort of at-bats going forward.”
Santander’s blast capped a breakout offensive for Baltimore (15-24), which hadn’t scored six or more runs since May 9. And it covered for a blown save from right-hander Jorge Lopez, one of the few cracks from the bullpen this year.
The three runs in the ninth matched the sixth-inning outburst, which also began with Santander. He opened the sixth with a walk and shortstop Jorge Mateo followed, reaching via a catcher’s interference call. Tyler Nevin’s single scored one and Cedric Mullins’ sacrifice fly scored another. Nevin tagged up on Mullins’ deep fly, moving from first to second, a savvy play that proved valuable.
That bit of base running set up Rougned Odor’s RBI single, bringing in the Orioles’ sixth run.
“We haven’t had a ton of pinch-hit success this year,” Hyde said. “He stayed ready. He’s a pro.”
The three-run sixth built on a two-run homer from Robinson Chirinos over the left field wall, his first of the season and first from an Orioles catcher. And in the third, Mateo’s single drove in Santander, who had reached on a second straight double.
Those efforts backed up a shaky start from left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, who allowed a season-high five runs in five innings, raising his ERA to 3.48.
Bullpen backs up Zimmermann
If the first ball off Giancarlo Stanton’s bat wouldn’t leave the yard — a 114-mph rocket that turned into a two-run single — the second never had a doubt. Amid a series in which the Yankees have complained about the new dimensions of Camden Yards, calling it a “create-a-park,” Stanton became the first visiting player at Camden Yards to scale the mountain.
He clubbed a solo homer in the fourth inning off Zimmermann to level the game at three, finding an ounce of redemption for his earlier blast that cascaded off the wall.
For as rocky as Zimmermann’s first inning was, allowing a walk and a double before Stanton’s long run-scoring single, the left-hander rebounded in the second. His five-pitch frame allowed him to push deeper in the outing, completing five innings while giving up seven hits and five runs.
“The offense really picked us up today,” Zimmermann said. “Everyone knows the streak their on, with how well they’re playing. Just to get the win today is the big thing.”
It wasn’t as efficient an outing as Zimmermann has produced lately, conceding hits to the first two batters he faced in the sixth before Hyde replaced him with right-hander Bryan Baker.
Those two inherited runners scored in the sixth, and then Lopez allowed one more in the ninth to force Santander’s heroics.
“I was in [the clubhouse] with the other relievers,” Zimmermann said, “and we definitely threw ourselves a little party in here. It was exciting. He was the guy. He was hot all day.”
Mountcastle nearing return
First baseman Ryan Mountcastle swung for the first time Wednesday since he landed on the injured list with a forearm strain last weekend, and he took batting practice again Thursday. Both times, Mountcastle said, he felt good, avoiding the shooting pain that stemmed from his thumb and ran up his arm he experienced during the road trip.
Mountcastle still expects to return to the lineup this weekend, when his 10-day injured list designation expires. If he does, he’ll be a welcome addition to an Orioles lineup that was mired in a six-game losing streak before Thursday’s breakout win against the Yankees.
Before his injury, Mountcastle was hitting .268 with a .701 OPS — the third-highest batting average for Baltimore entering Thursday.
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
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