O's fire up '24 special: 3 HRs power 40th win in style

June 8th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Orioles’ 40th win of the season was highlighted by plenty of what’s becoming a trademark of their 2024 team.

Home runs -- and from a plethora of sources.

, and all went deep Friday night, powering Baltimore to a 6-3 victory over Tampa Bay in the opener of a four-game series at Tropicana Field. Mountcastle’s two-run homer in the fifth broke a 2-2 tie and gave the O’s (40-22) a lead they never relinquished.

“No matter who’s in the lineup, one through nine is potentially dangerous,” Westburg said. “Last year, when I was up, that’s how it kind of felt -- there was a different person every night who contributed. And I think it’s the same this year. I really do.

“No matter what our lineup is, the person in the box with the opportunity, it seems like that guy usually comes through for us. And that guy could be anybody.”

Westburg padded the Orioles’ advantage with a two-run homer in the eighth -- the club’s MLB-high 98th home run of the year -- as he became the fifth player on the team to reach the 10-homer mark this season. No other team in the Majors has more than three players with 10-plus home runs in 2024.

It’s the first time since 2017 that Baltimore has had five players with 10 homers at the 62-game juncture, which signifies 100 more to go. The O’s have hit three-plus homers 18 times, going 15-3 in such contests.

O’s ‘24 home run leaderboard
1. Gunnar Henderson -- 19
2. Anthony Santander -- 13
3. Adley Rutschman -- 12
4. Ryan Mountcastle -- 11
5. Jordan Westburg -- 10

Ryan O’Hearn (eight), Colton Cowser (seven) and Cedric Mullins (six) have the potential to soon join that group.

“We’ve got a lot of pop. A lot of guys can hit homers in this lineup,” said left-hander Cole Irvin, who earned the win by allowing three runs (two earned) in 5 2/3 innings. “It’s not one guy that’s going to carry that lineup, either. Everyone is going to do their part and do enough to get the job done each night.

“We’re going to have our days where we’re not our best. But you saw, anywhere in our lineup, we could do damage, and it’s pretty fun to watch every single night. And you just don’t know when we’re going to explode. It’s pretty cool.”

Santander (who opened the second with a homer) and Mountcastle have been swinging two of the hottest bats in Baltimore’s lineup. Both are belting long balls at a torrid pace.

Since the start of June, Mountcastle has five home runs in seven games, including a pair of two-homer performances (last Saturday vs. Tampa Bay and Tuesday at Toronto). Meanwhile, Santander (who is still hitting only .227 after a slow start) has six homers in 14 games dating back to May 23.

“That’s Tony at his best -- not giving at-bats away, really sticking to his process,” Westburg said. “Even his outs are loud right now. And that’s who he is. That’s the Tony who we know is going to show up.”

Westburg has 10 home runs in 58 games after hitting only three in 68 contests during his 2023 rookie campaign.

“Our lineup is really deep, and we’re really balanced. It’s great to get production from the bottom of the order,” said manager Brandon Hyde, who also cited the second-inning RBI double from No. 9 hitter Ramón Urías (8-for-16 over his past seven games).

It’s only the third time in franchise history the Orioles have hit 98 or more homers over their first 62 games. They had 99 at this point in both 2016 and 1996.

If the power surge continues for Baltimore (the fifth team in MLB to reach 40 wins), it may not be long before the defending American League East champions return to the top of the division standings. The Yankees (45-20) and the O’s (3 1/2 games back) have distanced themselves from the rest of the AL East, with the Red Sox (32-32), Rays (31-32) and Blue Jays (30-32) struggling to build momentum.

The Orioles are 11 games into a run of 14 consecutive divisional contests, having gone 7-4 over that stretch with three more to play against the Rays in St. Petersburg.

“The stress levels are always a little bit higher. There’s a little bit more weight to every pitch,” Westburg said. “These games mean a lot. Not only to us, but to fans, to staff. I mean, this means a lot to everybody, because we know that this division is an absolute dogfight, and it’s going to come down to probably the very end of the season.”