MINNEAPOLIS – All it took was one remarkable catch. One strong starting pitching performance. One clutch late relief outing. A sac fly, a sac bunt, a clutch double and a few others things for the Orioles to beat a team they often struggle against.
They lost two of three to the Twins last weekend. And while the Twins' record is inferior to the Orioles', they are a first-place team that leads the major leagues in team ERA and had won five of six games entering this series.
But the Orioles got two runs in the top of the 10th on a Ramón Urías double and Aaron Hicks sac fly. Félix Bautista pitched the ninth and 10th, getting his fourth win with a 30-pitch outing.
The win and night made better by the news that the Rays lost for the sixth straight game and the Orioles are three games back, just one in the loss column.
Wasn’t their season heading for a downturn about 10 minutes ago?
But the catch topped all on this night. Dwight Clark was nowhere to be found, but Cedric Mullins provided his own version of liftoff. He robbed his good friend Byron Buxton of a three-run homer leaping over the wall in center in the fourth. Keeping three runs off the board seems pretty huge in a 3-1 win.
“That was incredible. Took three runs off the board. That was an enormous play,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
Lefty starter Cole Irvin, asked by a reporter if this was truly a game-saving play, said yep.
“One hundred percent," said Irvin. "This is definitely an application of that term where if Ced doesn’t make that play, we don’t win the game. And we are not there in extras. Kudos to him. What a great play, timed it perfect. He saved me and saved the team and we are trying to build off of good energy we are creating going into the break."
Irvin and Hyde both said the team did big things and little ones to pull out this win, the Orioles' third in a row.
“(James) McCann throwing a runner out in a big spot. McCann out in front of the plate with a fast runner, great play. McCann with a bunt off a guy throwing 103 mph sinkers at his face. And then Hicksy off the bench with a huge sac fly, Urías leading off that inning. Lot of guys did a lot of things well,” said Hyde as he team improved to 52-35 for the year, 3-2 on this road trip and to 11-4 in road series opening games.
“What a great play (by Mullins), what a great team win,” Irvin said. “McCann was great. Gutsy bunt he had in the tenth. All in all, today was just a great team win. Working together. Team got in late last night and just grinded it out.”
Mullins felt the catch he made running into the right-center gap last Sunday in Baltimore, to also rob Buxton, was better than this one. They both led to wins and Buxton’s reaction to the catch and his hat tip to Mullins was an example of one great defender showing respect to another.
“Worked out with him a few times. Gotten to know each other for a few years,” Mullins said of his friendship with Buxton, two players with Georgia ties. “Good friends with him. Hate to do it to him, but that’s baseball.
“Yeah I’d say so (he showed great respect). Him also being an elite defender in the outfield, he’s definitely robbed a few people as well.”
Going into this series the Twins were 27-9 against the Orioles since 2017 and 38-18 since 2014.
The O’s pitchers have allowed just three earned runs during the last three wins with an ERA of 0.96. In those three games, O’s starters have an ERA of 0.93. And the Baltimore rotation has produced five quality starts the last seven games with an ERA of 2.13.
The last three games between these teams have seen the O’s outscore the Twins by 5-3.
Urías’ RBI double in the 10th marked his seventh go-ahead RBI this year.
Hays could return today, will start in All-Star game: The Orioles' Austin Hays has not played since leaving the game early last Sunday due to a left hip bruise. He took a lot of pregame work at Target Field on Friday and said yesterday he expects to play today.
Yesterday was also the day he found he will start next week's All-Star Game in the American League outfield due to injuries to Mike Trout and Aaron Judge. He can't wait to rub elbows with the best in the sport in his first All-Star Game.
“I think just being around all the guys on the other teams that I never really get to share a clubhouse with," Hays said. "You see them on the other side. You greet each other, acknowledge each other but you never actually get to share a clubhouse. So I think actually getting to do that for the first time will be a lot of fun for me.
“I don’t think there will be nerves, no. Just will be really fun and exciting."
And Hays said he will be a supportive teammate in the Home Run Derby for Adley Rutschman and hinted he's got some special thoughts on that.
“I’ve got some plans and ideas for the Home Run Derby. So you guys will see. I’ve got some stuff cooking," he said.
During a pregame interview Friday, Hays threw some props to young talent that has just joined the team like Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser. They have brought an energy that is playing well in the clubhouse.
“Yeah. They’ve all gotten to play together in the minors, so you see that on the field," Hays said. "There was a tweener ball between Gunnar (Henderson), him (Cowser) and Westburg right behind third base. Yankee Stadium can be rough, it’s loud. Especially your first time playing defense there. And you see him running. He called the guys off late. They turned around smiling at him and he’s kind of saying, ‘This is my spot out here.’
"Yeah, they are comfortable with one another and play with a lot of confidence. Definitely that moves through the clubhouse. To see young guys come up and play their first couple of innings of defense at Yankee Stadium and be relaxed and confident with guys they have played with in the past in the minors, just shows you, lot of good relationships here. And it’s come up into the big leagues."