With the most home runs in the majors, the Baltimore Orioles have their fair share of sluggers capable of hitting the ball out of the park.
None are doing it any better than rookie catcher Caleb Joseph right now, though.Joseph has a chance to tie the franchise record for homers in consecutive games Sunday when the red-hot Orioles seek to complete a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.An interleague matchup with the Cardinals has done nothing to slow down the Orioles (67-49), who have homered nine times in winning the first two games by a combined 22-5 score. Baltimore, which has won seven straight series for the first time since taking eight in a row in 1993, leads the AL East by six games, its largest margin since September 1997.Joseph delivered one of the Orioles' three homers in Saturday's 10-3 victory, going deep for the fifth consecutive game to set the team record for catchers. The club record for homers in successive games is six, set by Reggie Jackson (1976) and matched by Chris Davis (2012)."Maybe seven, eight months ago I was thinking about hanging it up," said Joseph, who was in his eighth minor league season before his major league debut in May. "Every day in the big leagues is such a blessing, and especially to be on this team with this group of guys and to be in first place."Nelson Cruz added his 30th homer and Delmon Young also connected to help Baltimore move a season-best 18 games over .500.The Orioles have 147 home runs, including 18 over the last eight games."This is a team that is swinging the bat well," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "When you have some confidence in the entire lineup, it doesn't matter who is pitching."J.J. Hardy went 2 for 4 after he went deep twice in Friday's 12-2 rout. Baltimore's shortstop is 11 for 23 (.478) with seven RBIs in his last six games.The Cardinals (61-54) likely can't wait to be done with interleague play after Saturday's loss dropped them to 7-12. They've lost six of the last eight against the AL, averaging 2.4 runs while batting .222.They'll try to get their offense going against Kevin Gausman (6-3, 3.77 ERA), who seeks a third straight winning start for the Orioles.Since getting hit hard in a loss at Oakland on July 20, the right-hander has gone 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA in his past three outings. He wasn't at his best Monday at Washington but limited the Nationals to three runs and eight hits over six innings in a 7-3 victory."I definitely had to grind through that one," he said. "I think it was kind of huge to get through six there."Gausman is 4-1 with a 3.30 ERA in his last five home starts, allowing only two homers in 30 innings over that stretch.Lance Lynn (11-8, 2.89) looks to continue an excellent run of pitching for St. Louis. The right-hander has posted a 1.63 ERA and a .204 opponents' batting average in his last six starts but is 3-2 in that span while receiving just 13 runs of support.He limited Boston to one earned run and four hits over seven innings Tuesday before leaving without a decision in a 3-2 victory. That was the sixth straight start in which he lasted at least six innings and allowed two runs or fewer.Lynn is 1-2 despite a 1.32 ERA in four interleague starts this season.
Orioles hitters have slugged .472 this season in at-bats to end in a fastball, the second-best rate in baseball. Lance Lynn has thrown the second-highest percentage of fastballs among qualified pitchers this season (79 percent).