'Ready to hit at all times,' O'Hearn sparks O's 6th straight win

September 9th, 2023

BOSTON -- After he spent four days on the bench and got just one at-bat in the past three games due to matchups, ’s return to the starting lineup was immediately felt in Friday’s series opener at Fenway Park. 

Starting in his first game since Sunday, O’Hearn jump-started Baltimore’s offense in his second at-bat, hammering a 424-foot homer off Boston’s righty starter Tanner Houck to get the Orioles on the board in their 11-2 win over the Red Sox.

  • Games remaining: at BOS (2), vs. STL (3), vs. TB (4), at HOU (3), at CLE (4), vs. WSH (2), vs. BOS (4)
  • Standings update: The Orioles (89-51) are 4 games up in the American League East over the second-place Rays (86-56), who beat the Mariners. Baltimore has the best record in the AL, meaning it would not have to play a Wild Card Series and would head to the AL Division Series as the No. 1 seed.

“[O'Hearn] just continues to get big hits for us,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “What he brings to our team on an everyday, on a consistent basis … unbelievable teammate, wants to win so badly. Will do anything. He’s ready to hit at all times. When he starts, he’s given us good at-bats every time out. And just getting massive hits for us. He’s just having a great year.”

Acquired in the offseason in a trade with Kansas City, O’Hearn has appeared in 91 games in the Majors -- the most he’s played in a season since 2019 when he played 105. After years of inconsistent playing time, O’Hearn decided to take a new mental approach to the game in October 2022, he told the Baltimore Banner.

“It kind of freed me up,” O'Hearn said of his shift in mentality. “Trying to have fun with it, trying to play with a grateful spirit and enjoying every day I get to put on a uniform and go out and play on a Major League field. These guys do a really good job of making it easy to come to the field and have fun and it’s been a blast to show up, just try to win and grind with these guys, and I think that mindset is something I’m going to keep.”

Luckily for the Orioles, one of O'Hearn’s favorite Major League fields to have fun at is Fenway. Besides appreciating the traditions and pieces of history woven throughout the park, O’Hearn feels he sees the ball well in Boston and enjoys hitting there. In 34 plate appearances, he has a career .242/.265/.515 slash line and three homers across nine games at the historic park.

The majority of the Orioles’ lineup saw the ball well on Friday night, with six hitters driving in one or more runs and five players recording multi-hit games. The O’s padded their lead with a four-run sixth inning that included Cedric Mullins' two-run double, an Austin Hays RBI single and a sac fly from Adley Rutschman. Two innings later, Rutschman tucked a 92.4 mph fastball around the Pesky Pole down the right-field line for his 18th homer.

"[The Orioles have] been progressing since 2021 in September,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I’ve been talking about them for a while. The pitching department is really, really good at what they do. They’ve got some athletes now, they grind at-bats, control the strike zone.

"They were swingers before, swinging a lot; now, their chase rate is down. They put the ball in play, they use the whole field, they play good defense. There’s a reason they’re the best team in the American League."

O’Hearn’s solo homer marked the 50th of his career and 12th of the season -- matching the total he hit from 2020-22 combined. The 30-year-old had his 50th home run ball authenticated after the game, something that was only possible thanks to a group of Orioles relievers. Baltimore’s bullpen bartered with the fan who caught O’Hearn’s long ball, offering a “2023 O’s bullpen” signed ball in exchange for the memento.

“Yes and no,” O’Hearn said when asked if hitting his 50th homer meant something to him. “I want to hit more, obviously, but a nice, round number like that -- 50 -- is cool. I’m keeping the ball, just to kind of look back on that one, and like I said, hopefully there’s a lot more to come. But yeah, it means something to me.”