O's Cedric Mullins on again facing Verlander and the return of Trey

The Orioles task tonight does not sound easy. Just beat a red-hot Houston team with potential AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander (17-3, 1.78 ERA) on the mound.

The Astros are 19-6 in Verlander’s starts this year and his ERA is 1.21 since June 24.

Piece of cake, right?

Houston is 99-51, best record in the AL and have won four in a row, 10 of 11 and 18 of 22 games.

The Orioles, behind great pitching, did take two of three at Houston at the end August. But they failed to sweep, losing the Sunday game in that series that was started by Verlander. But Verlander left that start after allowing three hits in three scoreless innings with right calf discomfort. It led him to the injured list and he just recently returned from the IL to throw five no-run, no-hit innings against Oakland last Friday.

The O’s had some competitive at-bats last time versus Verlander, forcing him to throw 60 pitches in three innings. Center fielder Cedric Mullins led off that game with a single and stolen base and also walked in that game against Verlander. He felt the O’s took good at-bats that day off the 39-year-old right-hander.

“I did feel that,” Mullins said today. “You know what’s important tonight, is what we did last time. Locking in on our zone. Getting aggressive when it presents itself. And kind of staying with the at-bat the entire time. Not letting any pitch get away from you or not letting a certain at-bat carry into the next one.”

Verlander is in his 17th major league season and fifth with the Astros. He’s a 9-time All-Star, 2-time Cy Young Award winner (2019, 2011), the 2017 ALCS MVP, 2011 AL MVP and 2006 AL Rookie of the Year. He currently ranks 14th all-time in big league history in strikeouts with 3,176.

Yep, remarkable career.

“It’s amazing, to put it simply,” said Mullins. “Someone I have watched for a very long time. For him to continue to get better, that’s a credit to his hard work.

“The hype of facing someone that is elite brings out the competitive nature in everybody. It makes the game fun in that aspect.”

Verlander struck out nine and issued just one walk in his last outing versus Oakland, tossing 79 pitches. It marked the 21st time in his career to begin a start with five no-hit innings, which ranks third in MLB history. Per Elias Sports, only righty Nolan Ryan (52) and southpaw Randy Johnson (27) have started more games than Verlander with five no-hit innings.

The Orioles got back into the win column last night and are still trying to close the gap for the final AL wild-card spot, four back of Seattle with 14 to play.

“It’s kind of been reiterated for the past couple of weeks. Every game moving forward is critical to us. It’s a matter of not putting pressure on ourselves and going out there and competing the best we can,” Mullins said.

Meanwhile, former Oriole Trey Mancini returns to Baltimore tonight for the first time since his trade to Houston. In 41 games as an Astro, he is batting .193/.281/.407/.688 with eight homers and 21 RBIs. Mancini had an OPS of .751 with the Orioles. He went 1-for-10 in that earlier series in Houston against the Orioles.

“It’s exciting. I hope it’s a great turnout. I hope he gets the ovation he deserves,” Mullins said of Mancini’s Oriole Park return.

What was it like competing against him at Minute Maid Park?

“It was fine. You know, it’s just one of those things where, you get to know somebody for a long time. And then they are on the other side of the field. It is what it is. We’ve got to compete,” he said.

 

 

 

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