Mountcastle ties Ripken's rookie HR record

September 12th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- Cal Ripken Jr. has company. Orioles slugger matched Ripken’s club rookie home run record Sunday, hitting his 28th of the season in Baltimore’s 22-7 loss to Toronto at Oriole Park. Mountcastle has 19 games remaining to break Ripken’s record, which has stood since his American League Rookie of the Year season in 1982.

Emerging as Baltimore’s most reliable run producer in the second half, Mountcastle is swinging like he wants to join Ripken, Eddie Murray, Gregg Olson and two others in Orioles history to win that award. His third-inning solo shot off Steven Matz pulled Mountcastle within one of Rangers outfielder Adolis García for the AL rookie lead; Mountcastle ranks among the top three AL rookies in hits, homers, doubles, RBIs, total bases, slugging and OPS. The last Oriole to win the AL ROY was Olson in 1989.

“What a great accomplishment, your rookie year to be on a list with some of the greatest players of all time,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s really, really cool.”

This year, Mountcastle’s main competition in what’s still a wide-open field seems to be García and Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena, with Astros righty Luis Garcia, Rays infielder Wander Franco and Tigers righty Casey Mize still in the mix as well. Mountcastle joins them on the heels of a torrid stretch run; he’s hit .309 with 17 extra-base hits and 11 homers since Aug. 1, playing first base most days.

The Orioles are pleased with his defensive progress at first after Mountcastle, a converted shortstop, washed out in left field early this season. His struggles followed him to the plate, with Mountcastle hitting .198 with one homer in April after raking (.333/.386/.492) in a 35-game cameo late last year. He retained his rookie eligibility by four at-bats in 2020, turned things around this May and caught fire in June, homering nine times in the month.

All told, Mountcastle is hitting .264 with 28 homers, 79 RBIs, an.813 OPS and 230 total bases in 125 games. His .498 slugging percentage would also be an Orioles rookie record.

“Since May, he’s had an outstanding season. Take away April and it’s a great year,” Hyde said. “He put a lot of work in. I’m really happy with how he dealt with adversity after that first month. [He] made adjustments and is putting together an outstanding Rookie of the Year campaign.”

Meanwhile, on the mound
Mountcastle provided an offensive highlight on Sunday in what was a historically poor day for the Orioles' pitching staff. Bearing the brunt of the damage were rookies Zac Lowther and Spenser Watkins, who each allowed seven earned runs over the first three innings. Lowther and Watkins became the second pair of O’s teammates to allow at least seven earned runs in the same game this season, joining Jorge López and Adam Plutko on Aug. 14 in Boston. The Orioles are the only team with two such games in ‘21.

Here are some more wild facts and figures from their 22-7 defeat to the Blue Jays:

• Baltimore dropped three straight to Toronto after winning Friday’s series opener, allowing 47 runs over the four-game weekend set. That’s one off the club record for a four-game series, set from Aug. 9-12, 1993, against the Tigers. Of those 47 runs, 44 came on Saturday and Sunday, marking the first time since Aug. 22-23, 2007, the Orioles have allowed at least 44 runs over a three-game span.

• The Orioles allowed 11 runs in each game of Saturday’s doubleheader, and 22 in Sunday’s series finale to Toronto. It marked the first time they’ve allowed 11 or more runs in three straight games since May 25-27, 2004, to the Yankees.

• The 22 runs allowed by Baltimore on Sunday were its fifth most allowed in a single game since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954, and the most since the O's 23-2 loss to the Astros on Aug. 10, 2019. The Orioles became the third team to cough up at least 22 runs in a game this season, joining the D-backs and the Nationals.

When the Blue Jays scored 10 runs in the third inning on Sunday, the Orioles became only the third team ever to allow double-digit runs in an inning in back-to-back games. The last club to do so was the D-backs, on June 15-17, 2005, to the White Sox and Indians.

• Orioles pitchers have now allowed four or more home runs in three straight games, tying the franchise record. Two of Sunday’s homers were grand slams, from Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., marking the first time since Aug. 22, 2002, against Texas that Baltimore has surrendered multiple grand slams in a single game (third time ever).

• Logging 1 2/3 innings in middle relief Sunday, right-hander Eric Hanhold became the 59th player used by the Orioles this season, a new club record. The previous record was 58, set in 2019. The all-time record is 67, set by the Mariners in 2019.