February 3, 2023

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Mancini conquers 'Walltimore' amid HR barrage

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BALTIMORE — Trey Mancini thought, just for a second, that he had finally done it. A recurring casualty of the newly pushed-back fence in left field, he thought he had finally conquered the wall, stutter-stepping over first base in the fifth inning — before pulling into second as his ball hit the top of the fence. A year ago, he would have been receiving high fives at the plate.

Mancini had been searching for his first home run at Camden Yards this season, already losing at least one potential homer to the newly imposing fence this year. But especially after seeing Ryan Mountcastle and Ramón Urías defeat “Walltimore” an inning later, he just had to be patient.

“[Urías] and Mounty made it look easy there,” Mancini said, smiling.

Mancini would ultimately join the home run party, aiming his ball just a tad more towards center field in the sixth inning. It came amid a three-homer barrage of a frame for the Orioles that helped catapult them to a 9-2 win over the Mariners on Wednesday night — Baltimore’s first three-homer inning since Sept. 14, 2020.

And Mancini had to be especially patient when he returned to the dugout after his homer: Before he received the home run chain from Urías, he was doled out the silent treatment.

“Didn’t even realize it at first,” Mancini said. “And then everybody was just kind of sitting looking straight ahead. … It’s been a while.”

Mancini opted against trekking down the path of wall talk, a topic he’s offered thoughts on in the past, but he did say that his fifth-inning double — which, at a projected at 411 feet, was the longest he’s hit a ball this season — “should have been a homer.” Mountcastle called it “absurd.”

Instead, Mancini wanted to highlight the bounce-back nature of these Orioles. Wednesday’s seven-run win came on the heels of a 10-run shellacking doled out by Seattle on Tuesday. Those two games came fresh off a 10-run loss and a 10-run win in Boston on back-to-back days.

“I think one of the biggest differences with this team is we lose 10-0 last night, really tough game, and then we come back today and washed it,” Mancini said. “I think in the years prior, we let days like that bleed into the next few days too many times, and that hasn’t been the case at all this year. I’m really proud of this team, the way that we respond to the next day after those tough days.”

The manner in which the Orioles seized victory was important as well. The balls Mountcastle and Urías blasted over the left-field wall — in consecutive at-bats — were the encore to Rougned Odor’s three-run homer in the second inning. The long balls after his were icing on the cake; Odor’s proved to be the game-deciding swing. But all told, it was an emotive way to rebound from Tuesday.

“That didn’t go well last night. It left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “Starting off in the beginning of the game, I think that we kind of all just sat in it for a while.”

And such support was more than enough to back Kyle Bradish, the O’s prospect turning in a modest step forward from three consecutive rough outings since he earned his first Major League win in dominant fashion. Bradish was more comfortable than he had been in recent starts, with some “intent” behind his pitches, Hyde said.

Bradish’s fastball velocity averaged 96.1 mph — an uptick of 1.4 mph on his yearly average. He threw 10 pitches over 97 mph, topping out at 98.4 mph — his hardest pitch of the season.

“Definitely [an] improvement from the last one, but there’s always work to be done,” Bradish said. “I gotta find a way to get into the sixth, seventh inning.”

But the night’s attention belonged to Mancini, who had long been searching for the power stroke he’s accustomed to — not just in Baltimore but across venues. He entered Wednesday’s contest with just three homers and a .399 slugging percentage that, over a full season, would be easily the lowest in his career.

Behind those numbers is a striking split that Mancini’s homer may be the first step to equalizing: He entered the evening slugging just .333 with a .707 OPS at home, against a .454 slugging percentage and an .832 OPS on the road. He has eight extra-base hits on the road; his double and homer Wednesday were his third and fourth of the season at home.

“He’s not hitting with the kind of power that he would like to right now,” Hyde said, “but it’s a matter of time. Trey’s obviously got huge power.”

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