Teammates waved their arms at Cedric Mullins tonight after he returned to the dugout in the bottom of the second inning. Motioning him back onto the field. Demanding, in fact, that he accept a curtain call in celebration of his 30th home run and admission into an exclusive club.
One that now has its only member from the franchise.
Mullins stood on the dirt track and raised his batting helmet in appreciation of the loud ovation at Camden Yards. He slapped it a couple of times, still holding it above his head, and returned to the bench, the only Orioles player ever to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season.
The three-run shot to center field off Rangers starter Spencer Howard gave the Orioles a 4-2 lead, but the score and eventual outcome - an 8-5 loss that included Tyler Wells facing one batter and leaving with right shoulder discomfort - will be footnotes to history made in Baltimore.
A player sent back to the minors in April 2019 and finishing at the Double-A level, unable to earn a promotion back to the Orioles. The successor to Adam Jones getting the same treatment tonight as the five-time All-Star in his last game here, when he ran to center field before first pitch and noticed everyone else staying in the dugout to allow fans the opportunity to honor him with a standing ovation.
Mullins also was a lone figure in the outfield in the top of the third inning. He jogged to his position and players lined the railing to join the applause.
This time, Mullins held up his cap, patted it against his glove and circled to offer silent thanks to everyone for another goosebumps moment.
“There were moments when I knew I was kind of going against the clock a little bit,” Mullins said. “It was just a matter of trying to continue to stay locked in each at-bat. I know that at-bat I was trying to hit a line drive over short and ended up resulting in a homer. That experience, the trip around the bases, the curtain call immediately after, going out on the field, the guys letting me have that moment, just kind of take a breather on the situation, it was awesome.”
Manager Brandon Hyde said major league coach Fredi González had the idea of letting Mullins go solo onto the field.
“Once that happened, he talked to the guys in the dugout,” Hyde said. “Thought it was a cool idea to have everybody stay and let Cedric go out without Cedric knowing, make sure everybody in the ballpark could give him a nice round of applause and the credit he gets for just an amazing achievement. It was a special night for him.
“It hasn’t happened here. There have been a lot of great players who have put on an Orioles uniform and nobody had ever gone 30/30. That shows you how special that it. There are Hall of Fame players who have come through Baltimore, a history of great hitters, and for Cedric to do that, you don’t see it very often, so it’s unbelievable.”
Mullins is the 43rd player to register a 30-30 season and the first since Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuña Jr. in 2019. Mookie Betts and José Ramírez were the last American League players in 2018. He’s the first center fielder since Mike Trout in 2012.
“He has done this since the first game of the season. Incredibly consistent, good at-bats every night, amazing defense,” Hyde said. “It’s cool to watch somebody be so consistent and so good for so long. It’s such a hard game at the major league level, playing in this division with the pitching we face, and for him to, (.906 OPS) and power, speed, takes great at-bats, the bunt tool, everything, to watch it night in and night out ... He is so professional and he’s just really come into his own this year, matured in so many ways. It’s fun for all our guys, especially the guys who have played with him for a long time.”
The last home run for Mullins came in the nightcap of a Sept. 11 doubleheader against the Blue Jays. Eleven games passed without his 30th.
The gap didn’t go unnoticed by Mullins. It was on his mind a lot.
“It’s kind of hard for it not to be,” he said. “Mounty (Ryan Mountcastle) got his homer to go ahead and break Cal (Ripken Jr.’s) record and he kept saying it’s my turn, and from that day forward if not earlier, there was a lot of buzz going around. And of course it’s hard not to listen and be a part of it, knowing you’re one home run away from doing something very special.”
Mullins can’t decide whether he’s prouder of the 30 homers or steals, though the latter seemed more probable.
“I always felt like I had 30 bags in me,” he said. “The 30 homers are something that I always envisioned if my power clicked like it has. It’s an amazing feat and I’m proud of this moment and it’s just awesome, surreal.”
Mullins led off tonight with a ground ball to second baseman Nick Solak. He drove an 89 mph cutter to center in the second, Leody Taveras planted his feet and leaped for the ball, and Mullins circled the bases.
Players pounded the railing in excitement and another modest crowd at the ballpark, announced at 7,935, sounded much larger by volume.
“Everyone jumped up,” said Alexander Wells, a minor league teammate in 2019. “I personally jumped up, as well, put my hands in the air and celebrated like everyone else. It was awesome to watch. We also didn’t know if the center fielder caught it or not, which made it more of a hold your breath moment. When we saw he didn’t catch it, we just went wild.
“It’s incredible to see him in 2019 and right now. He’s putting up crazy numbers and it’s unreal to watch. I love watching it every day when he goes out there and plays. It’s awesome.
“He makes those plays in the outfield and hits the ball as far as anyone at the moment. I can’t really pinpoint one thing, it’s just a whole game right now. It’s just incredible.”
Hays extended his hitting streak to 10 games and continued his scorching September with a leadoff single.
Ryan McKenna’s two-out single in the eighth scored Mountcastle, who reached on an infield hit and moved up on Severino’s walk, to increase the Orioles’ lead to 5-3. But DJ Peters had a leadoff triple against Wells in the ninth, and the Rule 5 selection walked off the mound with assistant athletic trainer Mark Shires and pitching coach Chris Holt.
“We’re reevaluating tomorrow and seeing how he’s doing,” Hyde said.
Conner Greene was rushed into the game for Wells, who tried to notch saves on back-to-back nights. Greene failed to register his first in the majors after pinch-hitter Willie Calhoun’s sacrifice fly and some unfortunate soft contact.
Taveras reached on a bunt single and Isiah Kiner-Falefa on a roller to the left of the mound. Andy Ibañez walked on four pitches to load the bases, Eric Hanhold began to warm as Holt visited the mound, and Adolis García lined a two-run double into the left field corner to give Texas a 6-5 lead.
An intentional walk reloaded the bases and Solak’s fielder’s choice grounder and a double steal, with García ruled safe at the plate upon review, inflated the margin.
Wells retired the first two Rangers in the first inning, but García singled and Nathaniel Lowe homered for a 2-0 lead. Wells bounced back with a seven-pitch second.
Kelvin Gutiérrez lined a single into right field and Mullins gave the local media more bulk in next week’s stories on his selection as Most Valuable Oriole. Most likely in unanimous fashion.
The Rangers rallied in the fourth, beginning with Lowe’s single. Solak walked, the Orioles failed to turn a double play on Charlie Culberson’s sharp grounder because Gutiérrez was slow transferring the ball to his bare hand and Peters followed with an RBI single.
The score stayed 4-3 after former Orioles minor leaguer Jonah Heim grounded into a double play.
It also stayed that way in the bottom of the fourth because Peters robbed Valaika of a home run with a leaping catch in left field.
Only Mullins seems to be immune to such treatment.
Wells allowed three runs and five hits in five innings, with one walk and one strikeout, and exited after 72 pitches. Dillon Tate faced three batters in the sixth, two reached on singles and left-hander Fernando Abad replaced him. The rally expired on two ground balls.
“I think it was good,” Wells said. “I attacked the strike zone, made a mistake in the first inning which cost me a little bit, but minimized damage later on in the game when I got in a little bit of trouble. It was a good outing for me.”
Abad retired the first two batters in the seventh and Joey Krehbiel became the 61st player used by the Orioles this season. He gave up a single in the inning and nothing else, returned for the eighth and was replaced by Cole Susler after retiring García on a ground ball.
Sulser, who threw 22 pitches last night in 1 2/3 innings, stranded Solak after a two-out double. He hasn’t been scored upon in his last seven appearances or allowed an earned run in 10 of 11.
The Orioles used eight pitchers. The combo didn’t get them a win, and their record fell to 49-105.
Notes: Bowie took a five-run lead over Akron in Game 3 of the Double-A Northeast Championship Series and lost it, allowing four in the eighth and Will Brennan’s solo homer off Diogenes Almengo in the ninth. The Rubber Ducks completed the rally on Bo Naylor’s two-out, bases-loaded single and completed their sweep of the Baysox with a 6-5 win.
Triple-A Norfolk’s Kyle Bradish tossed five scoreless innings with two hits allowed, two walks and five strikeouts. Cody Sedlock completed the shutout with four scoreless innings and three hits allowed. Zach Jarrett hit his 10th home run. Kyle Stowers went 4-for-5 with an RBI and Brett Cumberland drove in two runs.