Mullins leads Orioles comeback with three-run homer in ninth inning

For the second consecutive game, the Orioles found themselves trailing by two against a prominent closer from an American League contender. Baltimore needed extra innings against the Rays on Sunday, but the Birds elected to take care of business in nine tonight.



Cedric Mullins stole the lead with a three-run homer in the top of the ninth, and Yennier Cano stranded the tying run at third base at the end of the game. Somehow, the Orioles managed to secure an 8-7 victory in a wacky, back-and-forth contest.

José Abreu and Martin Maldonado scored the sixth and seventh runs for Houston with solo homers, and the Orioles bullpen appeared to squander a two-run lead it received from John Means. Instead, Ryan O’Hearn and Austin Hays brought the go-ahead run to the plate before Mullins delivered the big blow.

Brandon Hyde first turned to Cíonel Pérez, and Pérez generated some weak contact from Yordan Àlvarez. Ramón Urías, a Gold Glove recipient from last season, fielded the ball but threw it away. Àlvarez advanced to second, and moved up 90 feet on a fly out to right field.

Pinch-runner Jake Meyers did not test Adam Frazier on a chopper to second, and Hyde summoned Cano to record the 27th out. Cano needed only three pitches to strikeout Chas McCormick and save the game for the Orioles.

The Orioles last pitching change put the icing on the cake for a ridiculous two game stretch. For the second straight day, the Orioles sacrificed their designated hitter in a comeback attempt that involved emptying the bench in favor of matchups. The game ended with O’Hearn moving to the outfield, and James McCann entering to watch the final strikeout at first base.

The game started innocently enough with Means tossing five solid innings. The lefty matched the inning total from his first start, but managed to limit Houston to just one run with some help from his defense. Austin Hays made a jumping catch on the warning track to rob Yordan Álvarez of an RBI and extra bases in the bottom of the first, and Cedric Mullins raced in from deep center field to make a running catch and nab Álvarez attempting to score in the third.

Means managed only one strikeout over the five frames, and his pitch total crept up as he struggled to put hitters away. He surrendered four hits, walked three, and allowed more fly balls than grounders. Still, he gave the Orioles a chance to win the game against one of the better offenses in baseball. His only earned run came on a two-out double by Tucker in the first.

Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman combined to even the score in the top of the third. Henderson delivered a triple to right, and Rutschman ripped a ball to left field. Houston outfielder Chas McCormick made a diving catch to rob Rutschman, but Henderson still raced home on the sacrifice fly.

Baltimore grabbed its first lead of the game after a pair of singles by Jorge Mateo and Henderson. The pair advanced on a sharply hit grounder by Rutschman, and Ryan O’Hearn plated both with a bloop single to center. The knock marked O’Hearn’s third hit of the game and provided Baltimore a 3-1 advantage.

The Orioles turned to Shintaro Fujinami in the sixth inning, but the six-foot-six reliever unraveled. Tucker tripled, and McCormick cut the deficit in half with a hard hit ball up the middle. Jordan Westburg had an opportunity to field the ball, but the rookie failed to handle the ball as it skipped into the outfield.

McCormick moved up 180 feet on a pair of wild pitches, and Jeremy Pena tied the game with a single to left field. Brandon Hyde summoned Jacob Webb for a fresh arm, but Webb walked Mauricio Dubon to place two runners on base. Webb struck out Maldonado for the second out, but Altuve delivered a two-run double to provide Houston a two-run advantage.

The Orioles, to their credit, battle right back. Henderson led off the seventh with a single, and the rookie-of-the-year-to-be motored all the way home on a double by Rutschman.

O’Hearn recorded his fourth hit of the day with a single lined off the pitcher, and Cedric Mullins ripped a ball down the line. Rutschman easily evened the score at five, but O’Hearn was thrown out by a country mile while attempting to secure the lead.

The play still couldn’t put a damper on a career night from O’Hearn. His single in the ninth marked his fifth hit of the game. The 30-year-old had never exceeded more than three hits in a game before tonight.

The bullpen failed to record a shutdown inning with Danny Coulombe serving up the go-ahead homer to Abreu. Hyde turned to Baumann to end the seventh, and allowed the recently-recalled reliever to continue into the eighth. Baumann relinquished a key insurance run as Maldonado crushed a solo home run to left. The blast doubled Houston’s lead with the score sitting at 7-5.

Many anticipated a bit of a dud from the Orioles after the club spent some time celebrating yesterday in Baltimore. The O’s found another way to surprise us all by rising to the occasion once again with their backs against the wall. O’Hearns career night, Mullins’ big blast, and a three-hit game by Henderson carried the club to victory.

Heston Kjerstad recorded a pair of singles, and the Orioles gained another game’s worth of high-leverage experience. They also picked up another half game on the Rays after an idle day for Tampa.

Baltimore is 94-56. The magic number is down to nine.

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