Mancini rakes, but O's face tough questions

Santander continues slumping on ailing ankle; Harvey hits early wall

June 20th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- Shortly before the Orioles completed their three-game weekend set against the Blue Jays, third baseman Maikel Franco took to Zoom to express his feelings about the fracas he found himself in the day before, when benches cleared between the two teams after Franco was plunked by Alek Manoah.

Yes, Franco believed Manoah hit him intentionally. No, Franco did not think that was appropriate. But yes, he was willing to move on from the issue. O’s manager Brandon Hyde agreed, publicly pledging to turn the page shortly before first pitch.

To their credit, none of Saturday’s fireworks bled into Sunday’s rubber game, for which the Orioles came out flat in a 7-4 loss to the Blue Jays on Father’s Day at Oriole Park. After hitting a season-high six homers Saturday, the O’s hit three more Sunday -- including two from Trey Mancini -- but it wasn’t enough as Hyun Jin Ryu outpitched Matt Harvey.

“It was a three-game series and I kept thinking to myself today it was a four-game series,” said Mancini, whose second homer marked the 100th of his career. “It seemed like they were here for a long time, and it was really eventful and a lot happened.”

The result was a humdrum end to what, at times, was an electrifying weekend series against the Jays, and that is without even mentioning Relish’s historic win in Sunday’s daily condiment race.

But let's focus on the baseball. Here are a few takeaways from this weekend’s three-game set against Toronto:

M&M … &M?
In the late 1990s, the Astros famously had “The Killer B’s” -- Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Sean Berry, Derek Bell, and eventually, Lance Berkman -- the sluggers connected coincidentally by the first letter of their last name. How long before Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle inspire similar monikers? M&M&M Bros? M-cubed? Quick, submit your suggestions before the trio gets branded for real.

Because with more weekends like this one, it’s bound to happen. Mullins, Mancini and Mountcastle carried the Orioles' offense over the course of the three-game series, with Mullins stealing the show Friday, he and Mountcastle combining for five homers on Saturday and Mancini’s two homers accounting for the bulk of Sunday’s offense. The trio combined to hit .351 (13-for-37) with nine home runs, 13 RBIs and 11 runs scored over the three-game set.

“From an individual standpoint, a lot of guys are trending in the right direction,” Mancini said. “Cedric, you can’t really say much more than what’s been said about him; it’s incredible what he’s doing. And Mounty is swinging the bat like we all know he can, and he’s showing who he is, which is a ridiculously good hitter.”

Santander still isn’t 100%
The flip side is what’s happening with Anthony Santander, who is mired in a slump as he continues to try playing through left ankle soreness. Santander went 1-for-11 over the three-game set, and he is now 5-for-40 with 14 strikeouts and one walk over his last 11 games. Most concerning is Santander’s lack of power; after hitting 31 homers in 130 games over the past two years, he’s hit just four through 44 games this season.

The Orioles have been open about the fact that Santander, who missed a month after spraining his ankle earlier this year, isn’t playing at 100%. But it’s starting to become visibly noticeable, with Hyde subbing him out for Austin Hays late Saturday and Santander clearly favoring the ankle as he ran the bases Sunday. Hays is also dealing with a nagging hamstring issue.

“I think they’re doing the best they can,” Hyde said.

Harvey might benefit from change in role
Four innings through Sunday’s loss, Harvey was pitching as well as he had in months, having blanked the Blue Jays and struck out four. Then, the fifth rolled around and the wheels fell off. Harvey allowed four runs on five hits in the fifth inning, working with fastball velocity 4-5 mph slower than in the first.

“When you throw 30 pitches in one inning [the first] and it’s pretty warm out there, you tend to wear down a little bit quicker,” the 32-year-old Harvey said. “Sometimes, you get a little tired earlier than usual and that seemed to happen today.”

When asked about potentially shifting to a bullpen role after his previous outing, Harvey quickly dismissed the idea. And the Orioles rotation is already razor-thin, with John Means and Bruce Zimmermann on the injured list -- and Means perhaps sidelined through the All-Star break. But if the Orioles are going to squeeze any trade value out of Harvey next month, it’s looking more and more like it’ll have to be as a reliever, due simply to his inability to provide length.

Sunday’s outing was the ninth consecutive start in which Harvey did not complete five innings; his ERA is 7.80 through 15 starts -- which would rank last in the Majors if he had enough innings to qualify. Harvey’s ERA is the club's second-worst through a pitcher’s first 15 starts since the Orioles moved to Baltimore prior to the 1954 season (Dave Johnson, 8.13 ERA in 1991).