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Baltimore Bombers? Mullins’ walk-off drive was the latest highlight of the Orioles’ power surge

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 17th, 2024 5:40pm EDT

BALTIMORE (AP) — The first Baltimore batter homered, and so did the final one.

The latter was a drive by Cedric Mullins that ended the game — and extended an impressive streak of power by the Orioles.

Mullins hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-2. Gunnar Henderson also went deep leading off the first, and Anthony Santander hit a tying solo shot in the seventh. Baltimore has hit at least three home runs in five straight games.

“I think as a whole, we still have a pretty balanced lineup in terms of being able to steal bags, put pressure on guys,” said Mullins, who was a 30-30 player in 2021. “The home run total’s going up. I think that’s just a matter of how our offseasons were and how we prepared for the season this spring.”

After winning 101 games and the AL East title last year, the Orioles look even better offensively — and their major league-leading total of 30 home runs is a big reason why. Only twice before had Baltimore hit three homers in five straight games — in 1987 and 1996, two of the most homer-happy seasons of the 20th Century for baseball in general.

Last year’s Orioles had an excellent season but only ranked 17th in the majors in home runs. Henderson and Santander led the team with 28.

Now Henderson already has six after his third straight game going deep. Mullins’ game winner was his fifth of the year. Santander, Ryan O’Hearn, Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser have four apiece.

“One through nine, we’ve got a really good lineup each and every day and have the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, too,” said first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, himself a 33-homer player three years ago. “It’s a lot of fun to be a part of and watch.”

Baltimore is averaging 5.78 runs per game, trailing only Atlanta.

The Orioles changed the dimensions at Camden Yards before the 2022 season, moving the wall significantly back in left field. Baltimore’s lineup — full of good athletes and line-drive hitters — seems well suited to the change, but the Orioles have shown lately they can put the ball over the fence as well.

Mullins and Henderson hit their homers Wednesday to spots unaffected by the change. Santander’s drive in the seventh was perfectly placed, clearing the 376-foot marker in left-center field — just barely to the right of where the wall juts back over 20 feet.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb