A few random thoughts on the .500 Orioles

The Orioles are a .500 team (14-14) 28 games into the 2020 season. That is an impressive record for a club that combined to lose 223 games the last two years. We'll see what the final 32 games will hold, but the club did enough the last two days to snap the losing streak, beat Boston twice and get back to the .500 mark.

A few random thoughts on the team:

mullins-swings-triple-white-sidebar.jpgMullins is making an impression: He began last season as the club's starting center fielder and then was sent down to Triple-A and later Double-A, but now Cedric Mullins is back and playing well in the bigs. He began this year 1-for-13 and was sent to the Bowie alternate site on Aug. 8. But the injury to Austin Hays opened the door for him to come back a week later. Now he's running with this latest chance.

Before he was optioned out he was batting .077 (1-for-13). Since his return he is 11-for-29 (.379) with a double, homer and five bunt hits. As of game time Sunday, that was three more than any other player in the major leagues. He dropped a big bunt in the 10th inning Saturday night. And he's been playing strong defense and running down every ball in the outfield.

Does Hays go back to center when he's healthy? Probably, but Mullins is making a case to stay on the roster and continue to get chances to show his stuff.

Mullins' offensive resurgence may have begun late last year somewhat out of the limelight at Bowie. Over the last 10 regular season games he batted .324. Then he hit .353 in the Eastern League playoffs and in eight games hit two homers, stole five bases and scored 10 runs. He didn't get down. He got better. Then over the winter he did some work with hitting coach Rick Strickland, and he also worked on his strength and mobility.

Mullins was the O's Minor League Player of the Year in 2018. And while he had not hit in the majors much until now, he is getting it done lately on both offense and defense.

Mountcastle quickly fits in: Ryan Mountcastle got his first big league hit on Saturday night and his first two extra-base hits on Sunday, doubling twice in the win over Boston. He drove a pitch to left at 101 mph in the second inning, walked and scored in the third and doubled again in the fifth. He went from 1-for-6 to 3-for-9 at bat. With three hits and three walks, he's reached base in six of his first 12 plate appearances in the majors.

He's handled several routine chances in the field just fine. No doubt bigger tests out there are coming. But he's settling in as the everyday left fielder and is a real nice addition. It's exciting for fans to see a homegrown player come up and quickly show some of the talents they have been hearing about. He certainly has the poise and smarts to help him as he gets his big league career underway.

O's executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Mountcastle walked more than he struck out at the Bowie alternate camp, and that is impressive. It seems that while there were no minor league games for him to play in this year, he still got some real solid work in at Bowie.

Former O's GM Andy MacPhail often said it is always better to call up a prospect a month too late rather than too soon. O's fans were anxiously awaiting Mountcastle's arrival. It is clear the time he spent at Bowie was put to good use. Fans should be excited to watch him play the rest of this year.

During Saturday's game, both Mountcastle and infielder Ramón Urías picked up their first major league hits. Believe it or not, that was the ninth time two players did that in the same game in Orioles history. Here is the list:

* Sept. 10, 1954 - Joe Durham and Frank Kellert
* April 19, 1960 - Marv Breeding and Ron Hansen
* April 14, 1965 - Paul Blair and Curt Blefary
* April 22, 1965 - Davey Johnson and Jim Palmer
* Sept. 28, 1975 - Bob Bailor and Larry Harlow
* Sept. 11, 1976 - Rich Dauer and Kiko Garcia
* Sept. 18, 1984 - Vic Rodriguez and Larry Sheets
* June 8, 1998 - Doug Johns and Arthur Rhodes

A few more notes: Anthony Santander's hitting streak was extended to 18 games on Sunday when he doubled in the fourth inning. Santander went 1-for-5 and he has extended his streak with a single hit the last five games. It is the longest streak by an Oriole since Nick Markakis hit in 18 straight from April 21 to May 11, 2014.

Before he drove in four runs Sunday, third baseman Rio Ruiz was just 3-for-27 his past nine games and was batting .050 this year (1-for-20) with runners in scoring position. Then he went 2-for-4 with RISP with a two-run single and two-run double. He had gone seven games without an RBI and then produced a career-best four on Sunday.

Right-hander Thomas Eshelman did a wonderful job in long relief against the Red Sox in Sunday's series finale. He threw 4 1/3 hitless and scoreless innings to get the win. That was his third outing over the past five days. In those games, Eshelman threw 7 1/3 innings, allowing just two hits and one run. For the season he is 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA.

The Orioles begin a seven-game road trip in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday night. They'll play three against Tampa Bay and four in Buffalo versus Toronto. The O's are 8-1 on the road this year with sweeps at Washington and Philadelphia.

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