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Ranking the Orioles’ 100 gopher balls by how much they hurt


BALTIMORE — On Monday afternoon, New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks walked through the visitors clubhouse at Camden Yards, carrying a shiny black bat. Ken Singleton, the former Orioles slugger and current Yankees broadcaster, stopped him and asked if he could check out the stick. Hicks forked over the lumber and Singleton sized it up in his hands.

“This is a place you can hit some,” Singleton told Hicks, who missed the first six weeks of the season and had just one home run to his credit. “And these guys can give ’em up, too.”

Although Hicks failed to go deep in the first two games of the series, his Yankees teammates hit six homers. The last of those was a laser to dead center off the bat of Clint Frazier. It also was the 100th homer Orioles pitchers have allowed this season.

It took the O’s just 48 games to hit the century mark, which is nine games faster than the previous fastest team (the 2000 Royals). If their current pace holds, they’ll serve up 338 gopher balls this season, which would shatter the current record of 258, held by the 2016 Cincinnati Reds. Sure, dingers are up across the board. Way up. They’re up so much that three teams (Mariners, Twins, Astros) are currently on target to break the record for most homers hit in a season. But the extent to which those clubs are threatening the offensive mark (will they or won’t they?) is nothing compared to what Baltimore’s hurlers are doing (they most certainly will). Or to the pain that they’re causing O’s fans in the process.

In honor of the Birds reaching triple digits, we’ve taken the liberty of ranking each and every one of the 100 home runs their pitching staff has helped launch this season, in order from least to most painful. So grab a couple of ice packs and some ibuprofen, and enjoy the ride. Or don’t.

100. Mookie Betts, May 8 vs. Andrew Cashner

Betts has 14 jacks in 42 career games at Camden Yards. So this one caused absolutely zero pain because O’s fans are completely numb to it by now.

99. Aaron Judge, April 6 vs. Dylan Bundy

It’s Aaron Judge, people. Going deep is what the guy does. No hard feelings. (Really, this one could’ve easily been No. 100, but since Judge wears 99 on his uniform, this feels like the right spot.)

2 Related

98. Judge, April 6 vs. Bundy

See No. 99.

97. Freddy Galvis, April 1 vs. Mike Wright

The shortest of all the homers the Birds have allowed this season (348 feet), it had a 91 percent chance of being an out, according to Statcast. Meh.

96. Jurickson Profar, April 9 vs. Richard Bleier

Bleier’s sinker is among the better ones in baseball and isn’t supposed to result in roundtrippers. So normally, this would hurt. But the fact that Bleier hit the IL with shoulder tendinitis shortly afterward proved he wasn’t quite right and makes this easier to swallow.

95. Gleyber Torres, April 4 vs. Alex Cobb

The first jack O’s pitchers allowed at Camden Yards this year, it happened in the third inning of the home opener. Perhaps a little earlier than fans would’ve liked, but at the time, it didn’t seem all that conspicuous.

94. Andrew Benintendi, April 12 vs. David Hess

Your basic, garden-variety solo shot. Nothing much to see here.

93. Albert Pujols, May 11 vs. Bundy (1 of 2)

This was Pujols’ first at-bat after becoming a member of the ultra-exclusive 2,000-RBI club. Hard to be mad at a guy who has had such a fantastic career. This almost felt like an appreciation gift.

92. J.D. Martinez, May 7 vs. Hess

When pain is expected, it hurts less. A masher like Martinez going deep at Camden Yards is practically a foregone conclusion.

91. Matt Chapman, April 10 vs. Josh Rogers

The O’s were already down 7-3 in the seventh inning (to a non-division rival) when Chapman hit this two-run bomb. So basically it didn’t matter.

90. Jason Kipnis, May 16 vs. Dan Straily (1 of 2)

The Marlins released Straily three days before Opening Day. Yes, those Marlins. The Orioles felt it prudent to sign him, and he has since surrendered 10 homers in 30 innings. This Kipnis shot was the 10th of those. So by the time it happened, O’s fans were quite used to it.

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Mike Trout to 7-year-old superfan Gavin Edelson: “I need to hit a home run tonight.”

89. Mike Trout, May 10 vs. Straily

You might have heard about the recent game where a 7-year old superfan asked Trout to hit a homer, and then the Angels star went out and did just that. This is that homer.

88. Trout, May 12 vs. John Means

You might have heard about the recent game where a 7-year old superfan asked his favorite player to hit a homer, and then the player went out and did just that. This is that player.

87. Marcus Semien, April 9 vs. Means

One of the home runs on this list had to be No. 87. This one seems as good as any.

86. Josh Phegley, April 8 vs. Cashner

Double-digit exit velocity. Relatively low 52 percent hit probability. The Birds were leading 4-0 at the time and cruised to a 12-4 win. This tater practically tickled.

85. Jose Abreu, April 22 vs. Tanner Scott

Abreu averaged 407 feet on his dingers last year. So the fact that this one traveled only 388 feet almost feels like a win.

84. Mike Zunino, May 3 vs. Straily

Tyler Glasnow, fresh off his April Pitcher of the Month honors, started opposite Straily in this one. So really, the fate of this game was pretty much sealed before it even started. So what if Zunino went yard?

83. Pujols, May 11 vs. Bundy (2 of 2)

According to the rules of etiquette, one gopher ball is considered an acceptable gift for reaching the 2,000-RBI plateau. Two, however, is a bit excessive.

82. Eddie Rosario, April 20 vs. Straily (1 of 2)

Remember this date. Because you’re going to see it in these rankings again. And again. And again and again and again. This was the first of 11 homers — count ’em, 11 — the Twins hit in a doubleheader at Camden Yards.

81. Jordan Luplow, May 18 vs. Means

Luplow, an Indians outfielder, is the great-nephew of Al Luplow, an Indians outfielder. Ol’ Al hit two career home runs against the Orioles, the second of which came in support of Cleveland starter Mudcat Grant.

80. Gary Sanchez, March 31 vs. Means

The Yankees hit only one homer in this game, tied for the fewest they’ve hit in any contest against Baltimore this season. Some day, John Means will brag about that to his grandkids.

79. C.J. Cron, April 20 vs. Cobb

That date again.

78. Abreu, May 1 vs. Cashner

This Abreu shot went 433 feet. That’s 26 feet longer this his average distance from last year, but hey — at least it didn’t go farther!

77. Phegley, April 11 vs. Bundy

Phegley hit as many homers in this series as he did all of last season (two). But, in defense of the O’s staff, you can only hold down Josh Phegley for so long.

76. Clint Frazier, April 7 vs. Hess (1 of 2)

75. Yandy Diaz, April 17 vs. Hess

74. Carlos Santana, May 19 vs. Yefry Ramirez

73. Rosario, April 20 vs. Straily (2 of 2)

Not too many folks outside the Twin Cities are aware of this (yet), but Rosario is a pretty dangerous hitter. In fact, since the start of 2017, no Minnesota player has more homers. So even though Straily served up two bombs to Rosario in this game, nothing to really be ashamed of here.

72. Torres, April 7 vs. Hess

Came on an 0-2 count, which seems like it should hurt … until you realize the league is hitting an unfathomable .248 against Orioles pitchers when the count is no balls, two strikes (that’s three points higher than the MLB average on all counts). In other words, this was just business as usual.

71. Mitch Garver, April 20 vs. Wright

70. Randal Grichuk, April 3 vs. Jimmy Yacabonis

69. Christian Vazquez, April 13 vs. Cashner

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68. Ji-Man Choi, April 17 vs. Hess

Choi’s first dinger of the year. That part smarts a bit.

67. Sanchez, April 4 vs. Cobb

66. Santana, May 18 vs. Miguel Castro

This 426-foot shot was one of the longest home runs Castro has allowed in his career.

65. Willians Astudillo, April 20 vs. Straily

The second of back-to-back jacks, this one would’ve ranked higher on the pain scale, except watching Astudillo do anything is fun.

64. Sanchez, April 7 vs. Hess (1 of 3)

63. Xander Bogaerts, May 7 vs. Hess

This was the seventh dinger of the season for Boston’s shortstop. That’s seven more than Orioles shortstops have hit this year. Somewhere, Cal Ripken is cringing.

62. Kipnis, May 16 vs. Straily (2 of 2)

In his first 104 plate appearances this season, Kipnis failed to homer. Then, in his first game against the O’s, he went yard … twice. Sounds about right.

61. Profar, April 10 vs. Straily

60. Cameron Maybin, May 15 vs. Hess

Maybin’s first of the year (see No. 68).

59. Greg Bird, March 28 vs. Paul Fry

58. Troy Tulowitzki, March 30 vs. Bleier

Tulo’s tater came on a sinker. With an 0-2 count. And is the only homer he has hit in nearly two years.

57. James McCann, April 22 vs. Hess

The three-run homer was Earl Weaver’s jam. The fact that McCann appropriated it — to break open a tie game, no less — is somewhat offensive to the sensibilities of any self-respecting Baltimorean.

56. Mitch Moreland, May 7 vs. Brandon Kline

Another Earl Weaver special, substitute Red Sox for White Sox.

55. Semien, April 11 vs. Mychal Givens

Givens, Baltimore’s closer, came into the game in a non-save situation — with his team trailing 7-5 in the ninth inning — and proceeded to stink up the joint.

54. Nelson Cruz, April 20 vs. Cobb (1 of 2)

Since Baltimore let Cruz walk away via free agency following the 2014 season, he has 170 homers, second most in the majors. Ouch.

53. Byron Buxton, April 28 vs. Bundy

52. Yonder Alonso, April 29 vs. Means

Alonso is Manny Machado’s brother-in-law, and anything that reminds O’s fans of the bygone Manny era is bound to tug at the heartstrings.

51. Jonathan Schoop, April 20 vs. Wright

See No. 52 (Schoop was Manny’s best Bird buddy).

It took Baltimore just 48 games to serve up 100 home runs. If that current pace holds, the O’s will allow a record 338 dingers this season. We rank ’em from least to most painful. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

50. Khris Davis, April 10 vs. Rogers (1 of 2)

This blast by Oakland’s Khris Davis (his sixth in 15 games) somehow seemed to accentuate the struggles of Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who at the time was riding an unimaginable 0-for-49 skid.

49. Davis, April 10 vs. Rogers (2 of 2)

See No. 50.

48. Max Kepler, April 26 vs. Cobb

47. Frazier, April 7 vs. Straily (2 of 2)

Fresh off his release from the Marlins, Straily got absolutely torched in his O’s debut, when he came on in relief and recorded fewer outs (four) than runs allowed (five). Two of those runs came on Frazier’s second jack of the game.

46. Cruz, April 20 vs. Kline (2 of 2)

See No. 54. As if Cruz going yard twice against his former team wasn’t bad enough, this was the Twins’ sixth dinger of the game, and their ninth of the doubleheader.

45. Kepler, April 27 vs. Scott (1 of 2)

44. Cron, April 27 vs. Fry

Whether or not this blast hurt anyone emotionally, there’s a decent chance it hurt someone physically — at 113.6 miles an hour, it’s the second-hardest homer surrendered by Baltimore’s staff this season.

43. Frazier, May 21 vs. Hess (1 of 2)

42. Luke Voit, April 4 vs. Castro

A three-run shot with the Yankees leading 5-4 in the ninth, this was Grade-A, nail-in-the-coffin material.

41. Garver, April 20 vs. Kline

40. Torres, April 4 vs. Wright

Another 0-2 homer. Did you know Baltimore’s OPS allowed on 0-2 counts is about 200 points higher than the next closest team and almost twice as high as the league average? True story.

39. Davis, April 11 vs. Bundy (1 of 2)

By this time, the Chris Davis streak had reached 0-for-51.

38. Davis, April 11 vs. Bundy (2 of 2)

0-for-52.

37. Sanchez, April 7 vs. Wright (2 of 3)

Besides giving Sanchez a multi-homer game, this was a 438-foot monster shot, the longest of seven New York homers that day. Blech.

36. Chad Pinder, April 10 vs. Straily

35. Bogaerts, April 14 vs. Josh Lucas

If you were casting a disaster flick based on the 2019 Orioles pitching staff, you’d no doubt consider Kevin Costner, as he’s on the short list of thespians who can convincingly portray a big leaguer. Unfortunately, Costner’s too old for the role these days. Instead, you’ll just have to make do with his doppelganger, actor Josh Lucas. Not unlike the Orioles are making do with pitcher Josh Lucas.

34. Grichuk, April 3 vs. Matt Wotherspoon

A former 34th-round pick finally makes his debut at age 27 and promptly serves up a gopher ball. That about sums up the Orioles pitching staff this season.

33. Brandon Lowe, April 17 vs. Hess

Lowe (rhymes with thou, not though) is a Delmarva native who attended the University of Maryland. Four years after the Orioles — and 28 other teams — passed on him in the draft, the former third-rounder is a legit Rookie of the Year candidate.

32. Cruz, April 26 vs. Cobb (1 of 2)

Did I mention Cruz was once an Oriole?

31. Cruz, April 26 vs. Gabriel Ynoa (2 of 2)

See No. 32.

30. Frazier, April 6 vs. Castro

After losing their home opener, the Birds were leading the Yankees 4-3 in the eighth. Until they weren’t. Frazier’s three-run jack, which was the eventual game winner and moved both teams to .500 (4-4), signaled the end of the early-season honeymoon for O’s fans.

29. Tim Anderson, April 29 vs. Means

The pain here is strictly because Anderson, for once, decided not to indulge in one of his patented bat-flips. In doing so, he deprived a downtrodden Birds fan base of some much-needed entertainment.

28. Rosario, April 20 vs Cobb

There’s that pesky date again. This was Rosario’s third of the doubleheader, which hurts. What’s more, it’s hard for O’s fans to hear the name “Eddie” and not miss this guy.

27. Marwin Gonzalez, April 27 vs. Yacabonis

435 feet is a lot of feet.

26. Mark Canha, April 8 vs. Cashner

436 feet is even more feet.

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25. Sanchez, April 7 vs. Straily (3 of 3)

Based purely on distance (or lack thereof), a 374-foot dinger by Sanchez is practically a win. But the fact that it came on an 0-2 count and was his third homer of the game turns it into a loss. A really bad loss.

24. Torres, May 15 vs. Hess (1 of 2)

This was Torres’ fourth jack of the season against the O’s. It seemed like a lot at the time.

23. Torres, May 15 vs. Hess (2 of 2)

Make that his fifth.

22. Tommy Pham, April 18 vs. Cashner

421 feet is a lot of feet — especially when those feet are in the direction of the opposite field.

21. Kendrys Morales, April 11 vs. Bundy

Not too long after, the Athletics designated Morales for assignment.

20. Rosario, April 26 vs. Cobb

Rosario’s fourth entry on this list. He’s one of six players with at least four homers against LongBalltimore this season. Three of them play for Minnesota (Rosario, Cruz, Kepler), which is absurd considering the O’s and Twins have faced each other only six times.

19. Cron, April 26 vs. Cobb

Back-to-back-to-back. That never doesn’t hurt.

18. Grichuk, April 1 vs. Pedro Araujo

A former Rule 5 pick, Araujo was bad last year (7.71 ERA). Still, he found his way into a game this year, served up this dinger, then was DFA’ed right afterward. Another poster moment for the 2019 Orioles pitching staff.

17. Avisail Garcia, April 16 vs. Bundy

At 428 feet, it’s the longest long ball Bundy has allowed this year, which is really saying something.

16. Austin Romine, April 7 vs. Hanser Alberto

It was Romine’s only homer of the season, and it came against a position player. Need I say more?

15. Jason Castro, April 27 vs. Yacabonis

The second of three gopher balls in the same inning for Yacabonis, this one went 443 feet.

14. Kepler, April 27 vs. Yacabonis (2 of 2)

The third of three taters in the inning, this one traveled only 433 feet. The three jacks averaged 437 feet. In related news, Yacabonis was sent down to the minors the next day.

13. Sanchez, May 15 vs. Hess

With an exit velocity of 114.9 mph, it’s the most violent homer the Orioles have surrendered this season. It also was the Sanchize’s sixth jack of the season against the O’s.

12. Torres, May 15 vs. Cashner

Torres’ sixth jack against Baltimore. At times, it seems like he and Sanchez are engaged in their own little game of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better (Against The Orioles).” And by “at times,” I mean “every single game in which the Birds and Yanks face each other.”

11. Kepler, April 28 vs. Bundy

Even though the Twins are having a fantastic season and their future is bright, don’t be surprised if Kepler demands to be traded to the Yankees at the deadline. Ya know, just so he can get in on the “Anything You Can Do” action.

10. Torres, May 20 vs. Cashner (1 of 2)

Seven.

9. Torres, May 20 vs. Givens (2 of 2)

Eight.

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Gary Sanchez opens the scoring with a three-run home run in the first.

8. Sanchez, May 21 vs. Hess

Generally speaking, each successive homer hit by a particular player seems to inflict more pain than the previous one. There are, however, exceptions. Like …

7. Sanchez, May 20 vs. Givens

His seventh homer against the O’s was undoubtedly more hurtful than his eighth because of the circumstances. Baltimore was leading 7-3 late in the game. After New York rallied it to tie it in the ninth, Voit hit a foul pop that should’ve ended the top half of the inning. But Orioles catcher Pedro Severino inexplicably lost it, Voit walked and Sanchez hit a three-run shot. So yeah, this one stung.

6. Rowdy Tellez, April 2 vs. Castro

At 449 feet, the longest homer allowed by any Orioles pitcher this year. (What did you expect from a dude who’s 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, and goes by the name of Rowdy?)

5. Garcia, April 18 vs. Givens

Not quite as long as the Tellez tater (447 feet), but this one was a dramatic ninth-inning blast that resulted in a blown save, and sent the game into extras. (Baltimore ended up winning, but that’s beside the point.)

4. Frazier, May 21 vs. Hess (2 of 2)

The actual 100th homer. Frazier’s second of the night, it was New York’s 29th jack in 10 whiffle ball baseball games against the Orioles this season. It also marked the 18th time this season the O’s have allowed a player to hit multiple homers in a contest. No other team has done it more than seven times.

3. Schoop, April 20 vs. Chris Davis

The last of Minnesota’s 11 homers on that fateful day, it (A) was hit by a former Oriole, (B) went really far (435 feet), and (C) came against a position player. That’s pretty much a trauma trifecta right there.

2. Benintendi, May 8 vs. Ramirez

When Trey Mancini laid into one in the bottom of the 11th, the Orioles thought they had the game won — until Jackie Bradley Jr. did this. Moments later, in the top of the 12th, Benintendi went full gut-punch mode.

1. Voit, March 28 vs. Cashner

Opening Day. First inning. ‘Nuff said.





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