James McCann wasn’t expected to provide these moments, the ones that have a packed Camden Yards rocking on a Friday night.
He was brought to Baltimore simply to be a quality defensive backup to catcher Adley Rutschman, the team wanting a veteran to balance out a young roster. The Orioles hoped, of course, that McCann could also provide some offense even though he hit just .232 in two seasons in New York.
The Orioles have seen glimpses, including a few timely bunts. But on Friday, in his first game against his former team, McCann had one of his best games in years. He had three hits, five RBIs and, yes, even a stolen base as the Orioles beat the Mets 10-3 to open the three-game series.
“He’s had such tough luck this year, I feel like,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s never easy when you are not playing every day and getting two to three starts a week and try to produce. That’s a tough role, but he gives us good at-bats. Tonight, it was nice to see him get some results.”
The Orioles already had an advantage with McCann on their staff because he provides expertise from his eight years of service time. On Friday, he took it a step further by providing even more analysis of the opposing pitchers in their pregame hitters meeting.
“He does wonders behind the dish,” starting pitcher Dean Kremer said. “Even when he’s not playing, he’s involved with Adley and the pitching staff and the analytics guys and giving a game plan for us as a pitching staff.”
Baltimore — facing a weakened Mets rotation after the trades of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander this week — had a chance to make an early impact. David Peterson, in his return to the rotation, allowed two walks and a single in the first but escaped without giving up a run.
The Orioles finally got through once Peterson was removed for the fourth. Austin Hays drew a leadoff walk, followed by a single from Jordan Westburg, whose steady play has him positioned fifth in the lineup now. McCann then provided his first burst of the day, hitting a sharp line drive to center field. Two runs came in.
The Mets tied it in the top of the sixth, but this Orioles team, including McCann, hasn’t shied away from a comeback. McCann gave them their momentum back in the top of the sixth, driving in two more runs with a double. He then stole third, his third swipe of the season, and scored on a sac fly from Rutschman.
The Orioles, 51-4 when leading after four, continued to pile it on from there, with Westburg hitting the second home run of his career.
The game was tied 2-2 when the bottom of the sixth started. The Orioles led 10-2 by the time the seventh was over.
“I’d be lying if I said no,” McCann said when asked if he had extra motivation going against his former team. “At the end of the day, you have to take it day by day and pitch by pitch. That’s something this team has been really good at.”
Kremer wasn’t his best, but he escaped with just giving up two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. In the sixth, he walked three in a row, then gave up a single, but Mike Baumann got out of the jam. Baumann wound up with the win to go to 9-0.
“For me, he got the two biggest outs of the game,” Hyde said of Baumann. “That was the turning point of the game.”