Mullins contributes at the plate and in the field in Orioles' 7-4 win over Twins (updated)

Cole Irvin had his back to home plate and a huge smile on his face. Both arms raised. Eyes wide. A combination of pure joy and utter disbelief.

Cedric Mullins saved him from allowing a run in the top of the first inning, and did it in remarkable fashion. Now it was Irvin’s duty to show his appreciation in the proper fashion.

Accept the lead that came quickly to him and don’t lose it. Care for it until handing it over to the bullpen.

Relievers became responsible for it by the fifth, sooner than manager Brandon Hyde desired but a group effort that got the series started on a winning note. And Mullins wasn’t done contributing.

Jordan Westburg delivered a two-run double in the first inning, Ryan O’Hearn led off the third with a homer, Mullins finished with a sacrifice fly and two-run homer, and the Orioles never trailed in a 7-4 victory over the Twins before an announced crowd of 14,611 at Camden Yards.

Gunnar Henderson led off the sixth with a missile to right, 108 mph off the bat, that increased the lead to 7-2, Craig Kimbrel notched his 421st career save to move within one of Billy Wagner for seventh place on the all-time list, and the Orioles extended their sweepless streak to 97 series. Henderson knew he got all of it and did a little admiring before beginning his trip around the bases.

O’Hearn and Mullins have homered in consecutive games. Westburg had three hits in the first five innings, and the Orioles improved to 10-6.

Mullins bailed out Irvin in the top of the first with a spectacular diving catch while racing toward the fence in left-center field at a 45-degree angle with two outs to rob Kyle Farmer and prevent Ryan Jeffers from scoring after his double.

Austin Hays was first to greet Mullins because he had the shortest distance to travel, giving his friend a light chest bump. Colton Cowser waited for Mullins along the first base line and slapped hands with him enthusiastically. Irvin lift his right arm, then his left after removing his cap. He held the pose as he walked off the mound.

"That's got to be top few," Hyde said. "I think the one in Seattle last year is always going to be tough to top, just the situation in the game and the play he made the homer after. Kind of the whole combination. But this play, Hays said it felt like he was hovering over the ground for a while and he caught that ball behind him. Ced's a Gold Glove center fielder and he's playing great defense for us so far again this season."

Players in the dugout pounded on the railing. The crowd gave Mullins a long standing ovation.  

"Seems like every time we're playing the Twins and I'm on the mound, he's going to do something pretty cool," Irvin said. "I owe him a little party favor after that one. Hell of a play. He's a great defender, came up and hit a homer. He's just a great player, man. It's great to have all these guys behind us, but especially Ced.

"That might be one of the best plays I've ever had behind me in general. That was one of the coolest plays. Shoot, I don't know if I'll ever see a play like that while I'm pitching. From the angle, man, that was really cool. I didn't think there was a chance he was going to catch it. All of a sudden there's a glove and it's in it. It's an incredible play."

What's the party favor? Irvin shared his go-to gift idea.

"Just a nice little bottle of whiskey," he said. "I do that for everyone that makes a great play behind me. It's just a thank you and appreciation for doing what you're doing, playing hard behind me."

Choosing between the catch and home run as his most important contribution tonight, Mullins deferred to his teammates.

"The fellas say the catch was No. 1 from what they've seen. I'm going to take their word for it and go with the catch," he said.

"It was an all-out effort. Just one of those balls where you really don't know until you get there and then, I knew I had a slight possibility so I went out and went for it."

Mullins should be the one to judge which catch is his finest, with the homer-robbing grab in Seattle in the ninth inning, followed by his go-ahead shot in the 10th, usually ranking first by other observers.

"That's a tough answer," he said. "I'd give it one. Like I said, the fellas give it one. I'll go right there with them. It was a difficult catch, kind of diving away from the field is kind of new.

"I think the instincts kind of take over there. The reads that I get during BP are kind of what leads to that. Taking it serious and making sure I'm getting good jumps on the ball just during BP. It's the little things that matter."

Jose Miranda led off the second with a 411-foot home run to left-center and Christian Vázquez flied to the left field wall. Irvin retired the side in order in the third but surrendered another run in the fourth on Byron Buxton’s leadoff double and Miranda’s single.

Carlos Santana also singled but Vázquez grounded into a double play on Irvin’s 76th pitch and with Dillon Tate warming.

Irvin retired the first two batters in the fifth, making Edouard Julien his fourth strikeout victim, but Manuel Margot singled and Hyde brought in Tate. Irvin is the third starter in four games who couldn’t complete the fifth after a streak of 12 in a row to begin the season.

The left-hander allowed two runs and six hits with no walks and lowered his ERA from 8.10 to 6.75. He threw 82 pitches, 58 for strikes. Tate gave up a single and retired Buxton on a broken-bat popup with the count full.

"I thought Cole did a good job," Hyde said. "He got into the fifth. Unfortunately that third time through the order was coming back around with some dangerous right-handed hitters, and we had the lead there. So, we went with a right-handed option. But we played good defense behind him and we played good defense behind him."

Both runs off Louie Varland in the first were unearned after second baseman Julien’s fielding error. Adley Rutschman and Ryan Mountcastle singled and Westburg doubled to left-center for a 2-0 lead.

O’Hearn launched a cutter 435 feet to center. Mullins’ sacrifice fly came after singles by Mountcastle and Westburg.

Rutschman and O’Hearn singled with two outs in the fourth and were stranded, but Westburg singled in the fifth and Mullins reached the flag court in right field for a 6-2 lead.

Mullins has homered in consecutive games for the first time since April 1-2, 2023.

"Cedric is a really, really important part of our team," Hyde said. "He's played great center field defense and I love the way he's swinging the bat the last week. He's giving us a huge spark offensively."

"I'd say right around the Boston series I was putting some things together," Mullins said, "and I'm continuing to do so."

Henderson’s blast provided more cushion, which was useful after Yennier Cano let two inherited runners score in the seventh on Jeffers’ double. Keegan Akin was charged with his first two runs after six scoreless appearances.

Kimbrel struck out the first two batters and got a ground ball to end the game.

"The fastball just continues to improve and the life on it, especially on back-to-back days," Hyde said. "Same fastball and two really good breaking balls to go with it. I just love how aggressive he's been in the strike zone."

"Someone that understands what he's doing out there," Mullins said. "It's a lot of success behind his name, and for him to come in and do exactly what he's always been doing is great."

Jackson Holliday went 0-for-4 and is 1-for-19. He flied to center field in the second, lined to left in the fourth with the count full, struck out to end the fifth and grounded to first base in the eighth.

* The Orioles keep fiddling with their dugout celebration.

The dirt bike handlebars were replaced by last year’s homer hose, and tonight they unveiled the Homer Hydration Station, with a metal stand and at last five nozzles attached to it – sort of resembling cow utters, but anyone could use it. Cowser didn’t have sole dibs.

(Cowser, the American League’s Player of the Week, struck out four times. His thirst-quenching day is coming, though.)

Players on base for the home runs also can take a swig. Hence, the extra hoses.

Asked about the Hydration Station, Hyde kept a straight face and said, "I saw it in the clubhouse prior."

His thoughts?

"If you're thirsty," he said, "I think there's plenty of liquid in there for refreshment."

* Every player wore No. 42, in Dodgers blue, to celebrate the 77th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.

“I think it’s about opportunity. That is what it boils down to,” Mullins said.

“At the end of the day, it’s about guys and players like myself to have the opportunity to play this game on the highest level. I think it’s an important story for everyone to know how he persevered and created opportunity for players across the world.”

* Left-hander John Means makes his fourth rehab start Wednesday with Triple-A Norfolk. The Tides are in Jacksonville.

Means has worked seven innings and allowed 10 runs and nine hits with four walks and nine strikeouts.

* Former Orioles pitcher Ken Holtzman died Sunday at age 78.

Holtzman will be remembered in Baltimore for his brief tenure and inclusion in two big trades.

The Orioles sent popular outfielder Don Baylor and pitchers Mike Torrez and Paul Mitchell to the Athletics on April 2, 1976, for Holtzman and future Hall of Fame outfielder and World Series hero Reggie Jackson, who lasted only one season.

That was much longer than Holtzman, who stayed two months, posting a 2.86 ERA in 13 starts, before the Orioles dealt him to the Yankees in the famous 10-play trade that netted pitchers Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May, Dave Pagan and catcher Rick Dempsey.

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