Sure the Orioles mashed four homers last night in a 9-2 win over Seattle and sure they even crushed a couple of balls over the left-field wall. That seems to make news around here these days.
But maybe the biggest development for the Orioles came on a single and double. Because they came off the bat of center fielder Cedric Mullins. He set a very high bar for himself going 30-30 last season and winning unanimously the Most Valuable Oriole award.
But Mullins was hitting just .169 with an OPS of .410 his previous 16 games, going 11-for-65, when game time on Wednesday rolled around. Then lefty Robbie Ray made Mullins look bad in the last of the first when he chased a slider down and struck out.
His average had dropped to .236 and his OPS to .662.
But when I interviewed Mullins about his offense before the game last night I found a player not stressing or pressing. One still confident and one feeling that a couple of very good swings he had put on balls that were caught on Tuesday night was going to be a good sign for him.
“The balls that I typically do good damage to I’m just missing,” Mullins was honest to admit before the game, in assesing his entire season. “That is just baseball. Do what you can with it. Continue to put the work in, make small tweaks to continue to get better and make adjustments to the pitchers and keep playing hard.”
And he noted the solid exit velocities he put on a few balls in the series opener with Seattle. Then he went out and hit balls even harder last night. A single in the third at 104 mph off the bat and an RBI double in the sixth at 108 mph, the hardest ball hit by either team last night.
Mullins can’t get it all back in a few nights but as he pointed out, he’s about 200 at-bats into a 600 at-bat season and there is plenty of time to get it going. Last night looks like a good start.
On other topics, Mullins told me how much fun the 2022 Orioles have been having. An improved team that plays a ton of close games and has four series wins already over AL East teams. The 2021 Orioles had three such series wins all year.
“It’s been awesome,” Mullins said. “It’s interesting looking at the record. We’ve had a lot of close games that could have went our way and we could be looking at a totally different situation right now. This group is always playing hard and we’ve obviously shown that we are not a quitting team and we don’t falter just because we are behind. That is something the team will need to be a winning club.”
And why are the Birds playing better within the division? They are playing .406 ball (11-16) against the division this year after playing .263 ball (20-56) last year. The Orioles are a combined 7-7 this season versus the Rays and Red Sox. They went 7-31 last year against those two clubs.
“You know for one we do see them a lot,” said Mullins. “It is one of those things where both sides are constantly making adjustments to each other. One of those things where one day we have their number and one they have ours. It is always a battle.”
He added that the Orioles seem more confident playing the AL East now.
“Yes, 100 percent. I feel like we’ve always had that mindset. But now we can match some of these teams. We go out with an intensity to win and this group of guys definitely brings the focus. We have put some pressure on those teams for sure.”
So what is the top end, what is the ceiling for the 2022 Orioles? I asked Mullins if the players wonder that too and talk about how many more games they could win this season?
“We are definitely not trying to limit ourselves," he said. "I was asked early in the year what I expect from this team? My response was we need to see the competitiveness come out. Having close games, regardless of a win or loss and this year we have shown that.
“It is brought up some times around one another (how far this team could go). We say we are a few series away from being around .500. Just have that mentality to continue to do what we’ve been doing. Put the pressure on teams and put our guys in good situations to come through for us."