Not every day at the ballpark is eventful, and not every day is created equal. Yesterday, for instance. It was a special day to be at Camden Yards, especially in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Needing a win to go over .500, take three of four from the Tampa Bay Rays and go 5-5 in a 10-game stretch versus the Yankees and Rays, the Orioles got one. A 3-0 shutout over the Rays to get to 50-49. Game No. 100 comes tonight in Cincinnati and the Orioles will be, at worst, a .500 team contending for a playoff spot.
But when Trey Mancini lifted a fly ball to right field with Austin Hays on second with one out in the O's eighth, it looked like what could be his last at-bat at home as an Oriole would go down F9 in the scorebook. But right fielder Josh Lowe lost the ball in the sun, it hit him in the face and Mancini circled the bases, beating the relay home for a thrilling two-run, inside-the-park homer.
Just when the O’s needed a big hit, they got one. From Mancini. On Mo Gaba Day. On the anniversary of the day Mancini lost his dear friend two years ago. On the day he caught the ceremonial first pitch from Mo’s mom, Sonsy, on Mo Gaba Day at the ballpark.
It was an amazing Mo-ment.
Mancini would later get an extended curtain call, and he took time to soak it in and wave to fans who just adore the guy. They have pretty much since the day the Orioles drafted him, and the classy Mancini noted that during a postgame interview on the MASN telecast.
“It’s my 10th season in the organization,” he said. “It’s the only place I know, and I love it here. The fans from Aberdeen to Delmarva, Frederick, Bowie, Norfolk and here in Baltimore – everybody has been incredible from the second I got drafted. And it’s home to me. No matter what, a big part of me will always be here.”
Hays was on second base when Mancini lifted that fly ball into right.
“When I rounded third, I looked and saw how far the ball had rolled, so I was playing third base coach halfway to home, waving him in,” Hays said. “That was a really cool moment to experience, knowing that could have been his last at-bat here as an Oriole.
“It was amazing. Getting a curtain call after you hit your first career inside-the-park home run in that moment is really cool.”
Hays said he has tried not to ponder what life without Mancini on the club could be if he is traded.
“I try not to really think about it too much and just enjoy the games and the moments that we’ve had here,” he said. “I was thinking about it today, in that it was 2017 when I got called up. That was my first season with Trey. Wow, that was six seasons ago. I’ve never been on an Orioles team that didn’t have Trey here. I hope he stays, but we’ll see what happens.”
Cedric Mullins noted how special that homer was and how special it was to happen on Mo Gaba Day.
“That was unbelievable to watch. That was crazy,” said Mullins. “As soon as I saw it hit and saw how far it rolled, I looked to see where he was at and thought, ‘He’s got a chance. He might be gassed by the time he rounds third, but he’s got a chance.’ Sure enough, watching him around third, he was tired and trying to get around there, but he got in there. Cool moment, for sure.
“It was an awesome moment by the fans too. Also, to commemorate the passing of Mo. I feel like, in that moment, he was looking out for Trey. It is crazy how that works out. They’d been really close for years, and that was a pretty awesome moment for Trey.”
Ryan Mountcastle said he was watching the Mancini at-bat very intently.
“I looked at Cedric before the at-bat and you never know what’s going to happen, but said, ‘This could be Trey’s last at-bat (here as an Oriole).’ And he hit that. Just crazy how things work out. I’m so happy for him.
“I really hope he stays with us, because he’s a great teammate, great person. For that to happen there was pretty special,” said Mountcastle.
And Mullins also said he has tried not to think about what it would be like to not have Mancini on the Orioles, should that happen in the next few days.
“Not really. It’s just one of those things where if it happens, we’ll see what it’s like in the moment," Mullins said. "That is where my mindset is – staying in the moment. He is here with us now and you know we are cherishing these moments just in case. It’s one of those things you can’t control.
“He has been a big guy for a lot of us, even when he was dealing with his own issues. I feel like he was there for us the entire time. He’s a great guy to talk to about many things out of baseball as well. Just an all-around great guy.”
After going 5-5 against those American League East teams, the Orioles' next nine games are against under-.500 clubs with three each at Cincinnati and Texas and home against Pittsburgh.
The Orioles recorded their ninth shutout after pitching just five all of last year.
The Baltimore bullpen allowed just one earned run over 18 2/3 in this series. The O's staff recorded an ERA of 2.19 in taking three of four from Tampa Bay.
O's pitchers have allowed two earned runs or fewer 17 times in the last 35 games, and the Orioles are 16-1 in those games.
Baltimore is now 20-24 on the season in AL East games. They have won four of their last six, eight of 14, and are 12-10 their past 22 games within the division.