SEATTLE - After the Cedric Mullins heroics - the incredible catch to rob a homer in the ninth and the go-ahead two-run homer in the tenth - there was still work to do.
There was the matter of getting three more big outs in the bottom of the tenth to produce perhaps the O's best series win of the year. Félix Bautista was unavailable, the O's had already used four other relievers and the Orioles called on Japanese right-hander Shintaro Fujinami.
His brief O's career has produced both lights out outings and a few with command meltdowns as well.
This was not going to be boring.
Fuji, with a placed runner at second and the O's leading 5-3, fell behind Dylan Moore 3-0, before he came back to strike him out and then get the next two outs. He came up big. It was his first career save - Japan or MLB.
After the count went to 3-0, catcher James McCann went to the mound. What he said worked. Of the next nine pitches, six were strikes as Fuji closed it out.
“I thought he threw the ball extremely well," said McCann. "Fell behind the first hitter and I made the visit. I just reminded him, he’s got nasty stuff. Fill it up. I said these hitters don’t want to face you. You throw strikes and we’ll get out of this inning."
Added manager Brandon Hyde: “Great for him, great for us. If we can get him over the plate, it’s a huge weapon for us. He had a few days off. He’s got unbelievable stuff and we’ve seen that. Everybody talks about me giving him soft landings all the time, we haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities. Today was definitely not one and he came through."
Mullins did not start the game but entered in the sixth. He made an amazing catch to rob Ty France of a game-tying homer in the ninth. After that catch, the O's were an out away from winning but Dominic Canzone's homer tied the game and on to the tenth the clubs went for a second day in a row.
The tenth would be a good inning once again for the Orioles, who improved to 73-45 for the year, 19-10 in the second half, 37-22 on the road and 8-5 in extra innings.
In a 3-3 tie, Mullins hammered a ball down the right-field line that had the distance but was just foul. His second blast in that direction was fair and gone for a go-ahead home run.
It was his second career go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later, something he first did July 4, 2021, at the Los Angeles Angels.
“Pretty unbelievable," said McCann of Mullins. "You see guys make incredible defensive plays and you see guys come up with big hits. But not many times do you see someone make that play, hit a homer foul and then hit a homer. Especially for a guy that didn’t start the game. Words don’t really describe how big he was for us today. One of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen."
“I knew I had a good jump on it," Mullins said. "Just a matter of the timing. To come up with a catch in that big moment was huge.
“I would say for sure it ranks in the top three (all time for me). It might be No. 1. I’d have to go back through the archive. Just a fun game all around for us."
Mullins stayed focused in the tenth, to be able to homer after hitting a foul ball that looked like it would be a homer.
“You know in that moment I knew I had taken a good swing, it was just a matter of being able to repeat it," he said. "It was a battle. We had a man in scoring position obviously with the extra inning rule, Tony (Santander) set it up for me to do something and was able to come through."
The Orioles are now 37-18 (.673) in games decided by one and two runs - the best mark in MLB.
Mullins said the team believes someone will come through in the clutch in those big, late-game moments.
“That’s really what it is. And I think the attitude for each of us is we’re going to be the one to do it. If not us, we know we are passing it on to the next guy. Have faith in each other and trust each other that we will get it done," he said.
So, in facing the team with the best AL ERA at 3.69, the Orioles scored just eight runs this series, but still won two of three.
Saturday night they snapped Seattle's eight-game win streak and Sunday they ended their six-series win streak.
The Orioles got beat big Friday, but then won two in a row in the tenth in Seattle in front of a combined two-day attendance of 90,641.
“After the way they kind of had their way with us Friday night, to come back and battle a 0-0 game in the tenth and find a way to win that game. And then today. Two really good teams throwing punches left and right. This team found a way to come through multiple times. We needed one through 26 this series," said McCann.
The Orioles keep meeting every challenge and keep holding their own with good teams. This weekend in a matchup of the two hottest clubs in the American League, the Orioles prevailed.
Now on to San Diego.