O's conquer Berríos to cap dominant season series vs. Blue Jays

August 25th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- José Berríos had tormented the Orioles long before he arrived in the American League East in July 2021, via a midseason trade from Minnesota to Toronto. Entering Thursday, the right-hander was 10-0 in 13 career starts vs. Baltimore -- all wins for his team, except for his first meeting with the O’s as a rookie on May 10, 2016.

“I didn’t even know that stat,” said center fielder , who has been with the Orioles since 2018.

Of course, he didn’t. Other members of Baltimore’s clubhouse likely didn’t either. They’re more focused on the present season, one in which the Orioles dominated the Blue Jays and finally broke through to end their struggles against Berríos.

On Thursday night, Baltimore tagged Berríos for five runs -- which included a pair of two-run homers by and Mullins -- to back eight strong innings from in a 5-3 win over Toronto at Camden Yards. The victory put a nice bow on the Orioles’ season series against the Blue Jays, which they won, 10-3.

Baltimore’s .769 win percentage over Toronto marked its best in a season since 1994, when the O’s went 7-2 (.778) against the Blue Jays. This year’s mark is tied for the Orioles’ fourth-best single-season winning percentage vs. Toronto since the teams began playing in '77.

“They’re a great team -- and we’re a lot better team than we were in the past,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’re more talented.”

The O's would win any potential tiebreaker with the Blue Jays, although one is becoming less likely to be necessary. Baltimore -- which reached a season-high 31 games above .500 at 79-48 -- has a two-game lead over Tampa Bay in the American League East. Toronto (70-58) is 7 1/2 games behind the Rays and 9 1/2 back of the Orioles.

Berríos was the final Blue Jays-related hurdle to be conquered. He previously had a 2.66 career ERA against Baltimore, and it looked like his success may continue when he retired the first nine batters he faced on Thursday night.

“He came out throwing the ball as good as I’ve seen in a while -- like always,” Hyde said.

But Adley Rutschman opened the fourth with a single, and two batters later, Santander belted his team-high 24th home run of the year (his third in two days). The Statcast-projected 417-foot blast onto Eutaw Street in deep right field knotted the contest at 2.

The Orioles took the lead with a three-run rally the next inning. After Austin Hays began the fifth with a single, Mullins went deep on the 10th pitch of his encounter with Berríos. Gunnar Henderson later added an RBI single to stretch Baltimore’s lead to 5-2.

“Just continuing to stay focused on the plan,” Mullins said of the club’s approach vs. Berríos. “We were able to come through today, put up some really good swings against him.”

Berríos was outdueled by Gibson, who became the first Orioles starter to go more than 7 1/3 innings this season. The veteran right-hander allowed three runs on six hits and one walk while striking out eight, and he retired seven of the final eight batters he faced in the 95-pitch outing.

Gibson got some help from his defense, too. Ramón Urías made a pair of terrific plays at third base, while Mullins threw out Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen trying to stretch a double into a triple in the seventh.

“It’s every night with these guys. They just don’t take a play off,” Gibson said. “They’re there when we need them every single night. Defense was definitely a big part of me getting through the eighth inning.”

Mullins called the victory “just a great team win all around.” That description fits many of Baltimore’s games against Toronto this year -- and just about everybody else, for that matter.

The Orioles, who have either won or split 11 consecutive series against AL East opponents, followed up their 6-3 West Coast road trip by taking two of three from the Blue Jays, having now won eight of their past 11 games. The club is continuing to push toward its first postseason berth since 2016, and it has six contests remaining on the homestand against a pair of sub-.500 teams -- the Rockies (48-79) and the White Sox (50-78).

Baltimore won’t see any more of Toronto, barring a potential meeting in October. And the O’s have to be pleased with how they fared against their tough AL East rival.

“This is a big series for us. Any time you’re playing in-division and you’re playing a team that’s a playoff team, you’re going to want to win two out of three,” Gibson said. “You want to be on these types of streaks right here, where you’re playing well and wins are the product at the end.”