BOSTON -- One of the criticisms of the Orioles this season is that they have trouble scoring consistently when they are not hitting home runs. And that trend may catch up with them in the postseason when they’ll be facing quality pitching every night.
For now, though, this homer-happy bunch continues to embrace who they are: Baseball’s most powerful club and, consequently, the runaway leader in the American League East.
On Tuesday, the Orioles flexed their muscles again, hitting three home runs, including two by newcomer Alejandro De Aza, in a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox in front of an announced 37,008 at Fenway Park. All four of the Orioles’ runs scored via home runs.
“It’s chemistry, and I want to be part of that,” said De Aza, who had five homers all season before hitting two in the first three innings Tuesday. “Honestly, I wasn’t looking for those home runs, but it’s coming, and I’ll take it.”
The Orioles (85-59) are now 23-0 when they hit at least three home runs in a game, a statistic as impressive for the overall amount as the undefeated record. The Orioles have hit at least three homers in 16 percent of their games this year.
“Like all seasons, there’s always some numbers or something that stick out, and that’s why it’s fun,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I don’t know how it ranks. I like anything that dictates we’re 23-0 in it.”
The performance wasn’t particularly smooth -- they left nine runners on base, didn’t score without homering and needed some strong defensive plays to get top pitcher Chris Tillman through five innings -- but the Orioles picked up their 12th win in their last 16 games and their ninth in 15 tries versus the Red Sox (63-81) this year.
The Orioles’ magic number for clinching the AL East crown is down to single digits: nine. And their lead in the division remains at 10 games.
The Toronto Blue Jays (75-69), winners on Tuesday, have moved into second place ahead of the now third-place New York Yankees (73-69), who lost Tuesday. After Wednesday afternoon’s series finale at Fenway Park, the Orioles will return to Camden Yards for a 10-game homestand with the first seven against the Yankees and the Blue Jays.
“You understand what’s going on,” said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones about the continually shrinking magic number. “But [until] it’s at zero and we clinch a spot, we got something to do.”
The Orioles jumped on right-hander Anthony Ranaudo early Tuesday. Nick Markakis walked to lead off the game, and De Aza followed with a two-run homer to right-center field on the Boston rookie’s ninth pitch.
De Aza, whom the Orioles acquired from the Chicago White Sox for two minor league pitchers Aug. 30, hadn’t homered in his previous 16 at-bats with his new club. He hadn’t homered for anyone since June 6. It took De Aza exactly two innings to do it again, smashing a fastball to right-center field for the second time in two at-bats versus Ranaudo (3-2).
“It feels great, especially putting the team ahead. It’s a good feeling,” De Aza said. “They brought me here to try and help the team win. Anyhow, in any way, I just want to help.”
It was the second time in De Aza’s career that he has had a multihomer game -- the first came Opening Day this year, with the White Sox against the Minnesota Twins.
De Aza doubled in the ninth Tuesday, going 3-for-4 with a walk and three RBIs in the game. He had never had three extra-base hits in one game in his career.
“If you look at him a year or so ago, he had 17 [homers]. It’s there, but you don’t expect that, especially in this place that’s so big in right-center field,” Showalter said. “He’s quietly been very steady since he got here.”
Jones followed De Aza’s third-inning homer with his own longball -- put an emphasis on long. Jones’ 25th home run of the season cleared the Green Monster in left field, easily traveling over the AAA billboard and landing onto Lansdowne Street behind the stadium.
With the blast, Jones became the first Orioles outfielder to have four consecutive seasons of 25 or more homers (Frank Robinson had five for the club, but only three were consecutive).
“It’s just a tribute to my teammates for giving me the opportunity and me staying healthy,” Jones said. “As you've seen, I go out there and post up. I feel like if I play, something is bound to happen.”
As a team, the Orioles now lead the major leagues with 191 home runs and are on pace for more than 200 for a third consecutive season, which would be the first time they’ve had that kind of streak in franchise history.