BALTIMORE — Cedric Mullins helped Baltimore to another big offensive night — as the Orioles began perhaps their most important week of the regular season.
Mullins hit a grand slam in the fifth inning, and the Orioles beat the St. Louis Cardinals 11-5 to start a crucial homestand Monday night. Baltimore remained three games ahead of Tampa Bay atop the AL East, and the Orioles host the Rays for a four-game series after St. Louis leaves.
No matter what happens in the division, Baltimore is almost certain to be in the postseason.
“I think the excitement kind of crept in, probably a full month ago,” Mullins said.
Baltimore trailed 5-4 when Mullins hit a drive to right off reliever Andre Pallante, who had just replaced starter Dakota Hudson (6-2). The Orioles withstood a shaky outing from Dean Kremer, who allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings. D.L. Hall (1-0) won in relief.
Gunnar Henderson also homered for Baltimore. He and Aaron Hicks each had three hits. The Orioles scored at least 10 runs for the fourth time in five games.
The Cardinals dropped to 63-81, meaning their streak of 15 straight winning seasons is over. The Orioles, meanwhile, have now defeated every other major league team at least once in 2023. Toronto is the only other team that’s done that, according to Sportradar. This is the first season it has been possible because of the more balanced schedule.
Down 5-3, the Orioles began their decisive rally in the fifth thanks to two of their biggest stars: Adley Rutschman and Henderson both singled. One out later, Ryan O’Hearn doubled home a run, and Hudson was pulled after walking Ryan Mountcastle to load the bases.
Mullins’ 14th home run of the year put Baltimore ahead, and Henderson added a solo shot an inning later.
Kremer walked two in the first inning and paid for it when Willson Contreras hit an RBI single, but the Orioles’ aggressive baserunning worked out in the second.
Mullins tried to go from first to third on Hicks’ single to center. He made it when the throw was wide, and when Hicks tried to advance to second, Nolan Arenado threw the ball into right field for an error, allowing Mullins to score.
Ramón Urías added an RBI single for Baltimore in the inning.
Kremer couldn’t hold the lead, yielding RBI singles to Arenado, Contreras and Jordan Walker in the third.
“Just not aggressive enough for me in the strike zone. Four walks, that’s not him,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He did compete, went into the fifth. I thought his stuff was good, just not enough strikes.”
Hicks hustled out a double in the fourth and scored on a single by Adam Frazier, but Alec Burleson’s run-scoring single put St. Louis up 5-3.
Austin Hays made a sensational diving catch in left field in the eighth when the Cardinals had two on and two out. Then he hit a two-run single in the bottom half.
The Orioles have gone 86 consecutive series of at least two decisions without being swept. That’s the longest streak since the Cardinals set the record of 124 from 1942-44, according to information from the Elias Sports Bureau released by the Orioles.
Orioles: GM Mike Elias said before the game that star closer Félix Bautista (right UCL) is able to throw off flat ground, and the team can afford to be patient when determining his status. Elias did confirm the injury is a partial tear.
The Orioles send John Means to the mound Tuesday night for his first appearance since having Tommy John surgery in April 2022. St. Louis starts Adam Wainwright (3-11).
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb