The retirement of the Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer over the weekend got me thinking about hitters in MLB history who have been constant thorns in the Orioles’ side. Mauer was one such player. During his 15-year career, all with the Twins, he posted a .339 batting average and .500 slugging percentage versus Orioles’ pitching, both of which were his second-best marks against any AL team.
Mauer was far from the only player to excel against the Orioles in their 65-year history. Here’s a look at which major leaguers hold the all-time records against the club in several offensive categories.
Hits: Carl Yastrzemski, 363
Spending 23 years as an Orioles’ opponent with the Boston Red Sox, it comes as no shock that Yastrzemski racked up a prolific hit total against Baltimore. The Hall of Famer had 1,439 plate appearances versus the Orioles, most of any player, and the lifetime .285 hitter burned Baltimore pitching for 244 singles, 83 doubles, three triples and 33 home runs. In all but one year, he had at least seven hits against the Orioles, including 29 during the 1965 season.
Yastrzemski wasn’t picking on just the Orioles. He also holds the MLB record for most hits against the Detroit Tigers (376), the Cleveland Indians (351) and the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers (333).
Yastrzemski’s grandson and fellow outfielder, Mike Yastrzemski, was an Orioles’ 14th-round draft pick in 2013 and has spent six seasons in the club’s minor league system. He split 2018 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.
Home runs: Alex Rodriguez, 69
By the time Rodriguez was 27 years old, he’d already mashed 25 home runs against the Orioles — and that was before he’d even played in the AL East. Once he joined the New York Yankees for the final 12 seasons of his career, the Orioles became even more frequent victims of Rodriguez’s power display. He introduced himself to his division foes by blasting eight homers off the Orioles in 2004, his debut year in pinstripes. All told, Rodriguez had 18 seasons in which he hit two or more homers against Baltimore.
It’s only appropriate that the 696th — and final — home run of Rodriguez’s major league career came at the expense of the Orioles, a solo shot off Kevin Gausman on July 18, 2016. That blast also gave Rodriguez the record for most homers against the Orioles, surpassing Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, who hit 68 during his 22-year career from 1954-1975.
RBIs: Rodriguez, 211
Yep, this guy again. Rodriguez is the only major leaguer to top 200 RBIs against the Orioles. (The second highest mark is 177, held by longtime Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz.) The Orioles are also the only team that Rodriguez had more than 200 RBIs against; his next best total was 178 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The prime of Rodriguez’s career overlapped with the Orioles’ 14-year streak of losing seasons from 1998-2011, and he took full advantage of their often shoddy pitching staffs. More than 10 percent of Rodriguez’s 2,086 career RBIs were collected off Orioles’ hurlers. His best single-season mark was in 2004, when he had 21, but he also torched the Orioles in 1996, his first full year in the bigs. He drove in 20 runs against Baltimore as a 20-year-old Seattle Mariner.
Batting average (min. 200 PAs): Adrian Gonzalez, .371
I’ll admit, this one surprised me. When I think of Adrian Gonzalez at-bats against the Orioles, the most memorable one is when Chris Davis struck him out as part of an epic, 17-inning marathon victory at Fenway Park in 2012.
But that, it seems, is an outlier; Davis’ magic didn’t extend to actual Orioles’ pitchers, who had no luck getting Gonzalez out. In 2011, Gonzalez’s only full season with the Red Sox, he posted an unfathomable .486 average against the Orioles (34-for-70). Even after Gonzalez moved back to the National League, he still remembered how to hit the Orioles. In 2016, during a three-game interleague set between the Orioles and Gonzalez’s Los Angeles Dodgers, he was 5-for-11.
I set 200 plate appearances as a minimum requirement for this category, but that’s a somewhat arbitrary number. If you raise the required PAs to 250, the best batting average against the Orioles belongs to Miguel Cabrera (.366). At 300 PAs, it would be former Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett (.363), even though he was just a lifetime .278 hitter. At 400, the best batting average is Ian Kinsler’s .340. And of opponents with at least 500 PAs, future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki tops the list at .333.
OPS (min. 200 PAs): Miguel Cabrera, 1.147
Cabrera is one of the most talented hitters of this or any generation, but he steps up his game even more against the Orioles. In 68 career games, he has a .366 batting average, .458 OBP and .689 slugging percentage along with 22 homers and 68 RBIs. During a five-year span from 2010-2014, Cabrera destroyed the Orioles for an OPS of 1.100 or better each season. And Cabrera’s numbers don’t even include the 2014 AL Division Series, when he had a 1.144 OPS in his Tigers’ three-game series loss to the Orioles.
Perhaps the Orioles should have known Cabrera would be a lasting nemesis when, in the first series they ever faced him, he hit a game-winning single on an attempted intentional walk.
The runner-up for highest OPS belongs to ill-tempered slugger Albert Belle (1.097), whose hot hitting made such an impression on the Orioles that they controversially signed him to a five-year contract before the 1999 season. Belle played only two years of that deal before retiring due to a degenerative hip.
Stolen bases: Rickey Henderson, 99
You were expecting someone different? Who should have more stolen bases against the Orioles than the guy who holds the major league stolen base record? Henderson fell one steal shy of reaching the century mark against Baltimore, on his way to the all-time best 1,406 swipes that helped propel him into the Hall of Fame.
All told, Henderson was successful in 99 of his 119 attempts (83 percent) against the Orioles. He ran particularly wild in 1985, when he was 17-for-18 in steals, starting a 10-year stretch in which he stole 57 bags while the Orioles caught him only four times.
Games played: Al Kaline, 345
Yastrzemski, as mentioned earlier, has the most plate appearances against the Orioles all-time. But he hasn’t played the most games. That distinction falls to a fellow Hall of Famer, Baltimore native Al Kaline, who played 345 career games against the Orioles to top Yastrzemski by two.
Kaline’s arrival in the major leagues almost exactly coincided with that of the Orioles. The outfielder made his big league debut at age 18 in 1953, one year before the Orioles played their inaugural season in Baltimore following the franchise’s move from St. Louis. Kaline — who played his entire 22-year career with the Tigers — saw plenty of action against his hometown club.”
Kaline also ranks in the top five among Orioles’ opponents in PAs (second, 1,371); runs (third, 186); hits (third, 326) and RBIs (fifth, 158).