December 3, 2022

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O's rediscover power swing as Mancini, Hays go yard

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ANAHEIM — The best way to describe the Orioles’ offense in the series against the Angels is timely. Though Baltimore wasn’t hitting with overwhelming exit velocity, the hits were sneaking past defenders to cash in runs at the right moments.

However, in the series finale on Sunday at Angel Stadium, the Orioles swung the bats for the fences to match the power the Angels displayed earlier in the afternoon. But the home runs from Trey Mancini and Austin Hays weren’t enough, as Baltimore fell to the Angels, 7-6.

“I’m really happy with the fight in our team today,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I’m really happy with what we did, being down 6-0 and no outs in the first inning, to be able to eventually tie the game in the seventh to give us a chance to win. Our guys were in the dugout the entire way.”

When Mancini stepped up to the plate in the third, with runners on first and second, the fly ball over the left-field wall was a welcome sight after the team’s eight-day homer drought. Mancini’s three-run homer traveled a Statcast-projected 404 feet with an exit velocity of 107.3 mph.

It has been a slow start for the designated hitter, but the pop in his bat is seemingly making its return. During Sunday’s finale, Mancini recorded two hard-hit balls in the game, including a 102.7 mph lineout to left in his first at-bat.

“It took a little bit of time, but I’ve been hitting some balls really, really well,” Mancini said. “Somehow I wasn’t able to get one out [of the park], but it did feel good to finally get one there.”

Mancini’s first homer of the season cut Baltimore’s deficit in half while the bullpen kept the Angels off the board, and it left the door open for the O’s offense to start a rally in the seventh.

Ryan Mountcastle’s RBI single set the stage for Hays’ equalizing two-run homer. His first long ball of the year was smacked 384 feet to left field and had an exit velocity of 106 mph, per Statcast.

“I was able to hit over 20 last year, so I don’t really have a number in mind of what I’m trying to get to [this year],” Hays said. “I just want to put together my at-bats and put some good swings on balls that are in the zone and the numbers will come.”

Since April 16, the O’s have mastered the art of small ball. They have kept the ball inside the park, as walks, singles and doubles resulted in 10 runs and two wins in the first two games against the Angels.

Despite losing the series finale, the upward trends of the offense’s ability to capitalize on the small ball and make hard contact is building the team’s confidence ahead of its trip to Yankee Stadium.

“We’ve definitely picked it up a little bit the last few days,” Mancini said. “Definitely a different feel even in the dugout. I think we’re feeding off each other much better than we were earlier in the season and some balls are just starting to fall a little bit our way, too.”

Hyde stressed the importance of taking advantage of opportunities in the opponent’s pitching and defensive blunders. While the O’s found themselves in situations to overtake the lead — particularly in the fifth, with the bases loaded and one out — Baltimore couldn’t find the big hit to secure its first series sweep since late July 2021.

The O’s had to dig themselves out of a deep hole following Chris Ellis’ abbreviated start. The right-hander was removed in the first inning with right shoulder discomfort after throwing 21 pitches, landing only six for strikes.

“My arm wasn’t feeling great out there,” Ellis said. “Just wanted to go out there and compete. I felt like I wasn’t doing the team or myself any justice being out there and I guess Hyde felt the same way. It’s obviously frustrating, but we’ll see what happens over the next couple days.”

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