Mountcastle's 3-HR day doesn't go O's way

June 20th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- It’s already been a weekend of heightened emotion at Oriole Park. After Cedric Mullins stole the show in Friday’s series-opening win over the Blue Jays, O’s manager Brandon Hyde said he’d never seen more energy in the ballpark. A day later, those emotions shifted throughout the Orioles’ 10-7 loss to the Blue Jays, from exuberance to anger to catharsis to anguish.

First: the excitement, provided by ’s first career three-homer game, highlighting a day in which the Orioles were involved in a benches-clearing skirmish and hit a season-high six homers before the bullpen imploded late. Launching two solo homers and a two-run shot in his first three at-bats -- two off Alek Manoah, one off Anthony Kay -- Mountcastle finished 4-for-4 in what was easily the rookie’s finest day in the Majors. Mullins also went deep twice, becoming the first Oriole with consecutive multi-homer games since Pedro Álvarez in 2018.

“What more can you ask for?” said starting pitcher Dean Kremer. “He put on a show. Both him and Cedric, very impressive.”

The offense came in support of Kremer, who settled down after allowing two first-inning homers to become the first Oriole to complete six innings this month, and the first since Jorge López against the Twins on May 31. Kremer was in line to snap a 13-start winless streak dating back to his MLB debut before the Jays stormed back from three runs down in the ninth, scoring six runs off Paul Fry and Tyler Wells.

“This one hurts a little bit,” Hyde said. “Tough inning.”

That spoiled what should’ve been a banner day for the Orioles’ youngsters, particularly compared to the Blue Jays’ precocious righty Manoah. He was ejected by first-base umpire Jerry Meals after plunking Maikel Franco in the fourth, spurring a minor dustup. Mountcastle and DJ Stewart had hit back-to-back homers off Manoah the two batters prior; one pitch later, Franco was hit on the left shoulder, took exception, and both benches and bullpens cleared. Hyde and Jays manager Charlie Montoyo had words during the skirmish, but no punches were thrown and Manoah was the only ejection.

“I was getting our team back, and then there was something said that I didn’t appreciate,” Hyde said. “That’s what happened. Then we calmed down and went back to the dugout."

Asked if he viewed Franco’s plunking as intentional, Hyde said: “Yeah, I did.”

That was the story of the day, until Mountcastle re-wrote it … and then the Blue Jays re-wrote it again. Mountcastle’s three homers were all feats -- 105.5 mph, 417 feet off Manoah in the second, 111.2 mph, 357 feet off Manoah in the fourth, and 108.1 mph, 407 feet off Kay in the sixth -- continuing a torrid three-week stretch for the rookie slugger. After a slow start, Mountcastle is hitting .349 with nine homers and 24 RBIs in his last 22 games, raising his season batting average 54 points over that stretch.

All told, Mountcastle is hitting .266 with 12 homers, 40 RBIs and a .769 OPS in 64 games. He’s also struck out 78 times and walked just eight in his first 250 plate appearances. He ranks second among AL rookies in homers and RBIs, and tied for second in hits.

“He took some really good swings today,” Hyde said. “Really good at-bats. Fun to watch him hit. I thought he was swinging at strikes and getting pitches to drive and was on time with them.”

Mountcastle became the first rookie in the Majors with a three-homer game since one-time Oriole farmhand Mike Yastrzemski on Aug. 16, 2019, and the first Oriole to do it since Pedro Severino on June 4, 2019. He’s the seventh-youngest Oriole ever to do so, and the youngest since Manny Machado on Aug. 7, 2016. Mountcastle is also the second Orioles rookie to accomplish the feat, joining Nick Markakis, who did so on Aug. 22, 2006.

The Orioles’ six homers were their most in a game since Aug. 18, 2016, and they homered for each of their first six hits for the first time in franchise history.

“I’m feeling pretty good this month so far, and I’m going to try doing the same thing,” Mountcastle said. “Today I was seeing the ball well and felt like I was on everything. Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, so we need to keep moving forward.”