Mountcastle leads O's past struggling Blue Jays to tighten wild-card race
TORONTO (AP) — Ryan Mountcastle hit a two-run home run in his return to the lineup, Ryan McKenna had his first three-hit game and an RBI, and the surging Baltimore Orioles improved to 9-4 in August by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 7-3 Monday night.
“Really happy with how we played tonight,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.
Baltimore (60-55) reached 60 wins in a season for the first time since going 75-87 in 2017. The Orioles didn’t win more than 54 games in any of the past three full seasons. Baltimore is fourth in the race for one of three AL wild-card spots.
Mountcastle sat out Sunday’s loss at Tampa Bay after being hit on the left wrist by a pitch Saturday. He reached base three times Monday, walking in the first and fifth innings and homering off Blue Jays left-hander Yusei Kikuchi in the third.
“It was great to see him back in the lineup today,” Hyde said.
Mountcastle left without speaking to reporters.
Five of Mountcastle’s 16 home runs this season have come against the Blue Jays. He has 12 home runs and 25 RBI against Toronto since the start of 2021. He also homered off Kikuchi in his last start, a week ago in Baltimore.
“He’s a great player, a great hitter, especially in Toronto,” Orioles right-hander Kyle Bradish said. “Any time he gets up to bat, he can do damage.”
Bradish allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings and Bryan Baker (4-3) worked 1 1/3 innings for the win.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 24th home run as the struggling Blue Jays (61-53) lost for the eighth time in 11 games.
Toronto outfielder George Springer was activated off the injured list after missing eight games because of a sore right elbow. The Blue Jays went 2-6 without him.
Springer led off and started at designated hitter Monday, going 2 for 4 with a walk and scoring once. Springer’s elbow is still too sore to throw, preventing him from playing defense for now.
Baltimore didn’t have a baserunner until the ninth inning in Sunday’s 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay, when Rays right-hander Drew Rasmussen was perfect through eight. Getting on the board early Monday was a relief to Hyde.
“We had a tough series in Tampa,” Hyde said. “It was a tough last two games there and there was a lot of disappointment. For us to score right away in the first inning, for me, that was big.”
Kikuchi (4-7) allowed a season-high six runs, three earned, and four hits in 3 1/3 innings, losing for the sixth time in 11 starts.
“It’s frustrating for us, but I thought overall his stuff was OK,” interim manager John Schneider said of Kikuchi.
Some in the crowd of 26,769 booed when Kikuchi was removed after McKenna’s RBI double in the fourth.
Anthony Santander hit an RBI single off Kikuchi in the first, and Mountcastle made it 3-0 with his drive into the second deck in left field in the third. Toronto’s Lourdes Gurriel Jr. cut it to 3-2 with a bases-loaded single in the bottom half.
Tyler Nevin’s fielder’s choice made it 4-2 in the fourth and, after McKenna chased Kikuchi, Adley Rutschman greeted right-hander Trevor Richards with a sacrifice fly.
Orioles infielder Terrin Vavra added a sacrifice fly in the fifth, and Guerrero replied in the bottom half.
Santander and left-hander Keegan Akin missed Baltimore’s visit to Toronto in June because they were not vaccinated against COVID-19. The Orioles lost two of three that series, falling to 28-37. They’re 32-18 since.
In late July, the Orioles announced that every player on the 40-man roster was vaccinated. Baltimore has one more series in Toronto, Sept. 16-18.
Blue Jays OF Bradley Zimmer was designated for assignment to open a roster spot for Springer.
Orioles infielder Rougned Odor was booed throughout his pinch-hit appearance in the eighth, a ground out to first. Odor served a seven-game suspension after he punched Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista during a May 2016 game in Texas.
Schneider said the Blue Jays are close to a minor league deal with free agent utilityman Yoshi Tsutsugo. Pittsburgh released Tsutsugo, a left-handed batter, in early August after he hit .171 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 50 games. Tsutsugo previously played for Tampa Bay and the Dodgers.
Orioles RHP Dean Kremer (4-4, 3.69) starts Tuesday against Blue Jays RHP Alek Manoah (12-5, 2.56). Manoah is 2-0 with a 2.96 ERA in five career starts against Baltimore, with 34 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings.
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