Anthony Santander couldn’t have picked a better time for his first walk-off homer.
The Orioles had an opportunity to put the game away with two outs in the ninth against the red-hot New York Yankees. Instead, Jorge Lopez gave up a game-tying single to DJ LeMahieu.
Baltimore appeared headed for its seventh consecutive loss, which would have also dropped the Orioles to 10 games below .500.
After Austin Hays reached on a throwing error by third baseman Josh Donaldson and Trey Mancini singled, Santander followed with a sharp drive over the left field wall, giving the Orioles a spirited 9-6 victory.
The Venezuelan outfielder finished the day 3-for-4 with two doubles, a homer, three RBIs and three runs. The only thing that could cool Santander down was the Gatorade bath he received when he reached home plate after the homer.
“It feels incredible to finally have my first walk-off,” Santander said through an interpreter. “I dedicate it to my parents, who have been there supporting me the entire way through when I was a little kid.”
Santander homered from both sides of the plate during the four-game series against the Yankees. At one point in his career, he considered giving up switch-hitting, but the Orioles are happy with his determination to get better.
“We’re here as a switch-hitter,” Santander said. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career.”
With Ryan Mountcastle out of the lineup with a wrist/forearm injury, Santander has to carry the middle of the lineup. He doesn’t get much fanfare, but he has been one of the Orioles’ most productive hitters during the past three seasons.
He makes pitchers pay for their mistakes.
“We talked a little bit about just being on time with the fastball with him,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “They’re elevating fastballs with him, kind of spinning underneath, what they’ve done in the past when he hasn’t [done] as well.”
The former Rule 5 pick is slashing .235/.354/.432 entering play May 20 and leads the team with seven homers, 19 RBIs and 20 walks this year.
“When he can kind of zone down and swing at strikes that he can drive, he’s extremely dangerous,” Hyde said. “His right-handed at-bats have been excellent, that’s great to see. That means his lower half is feeling good. … This year his legs feel better. The bat speed is there.”
Mancini Heating Up
After some hard luck to start the season, Trey Mancini is starting to heat up.
He went 2-for-5 with a run in the series finale against the Yankees and kept the ninth-inning rally going with a single that set Santander’s game-winning homer.
Mancini has reached base in a season-high 13 consecutive games dating back to May 8 against Kansas City and is batting .360 (18-for-50) with two home runs and five RBIs during that span.
Mancini has also been solid defensively at first base with Ryan Mountcastle on the injured list.
“It’s been basically all about staying the course, not panicking, even if the results on the scoreboard aren’t the same as how you’re feeling or how you’re hitting the ball,” he said. “I think it’s taken me a long time to get to the point where you can be happy with the process and the effort you’re putting in, rather than the straight-up results that you’re getting and letting that dictate how you carry yourself, or your mood.”
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