BALTIMORE—In an utterly forgettable season, centerfielder Cedric Mullins gave Oriole fans something to remember. And admire.
With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the second inning against the New York Yankees, Gary Sánchez hit a long drive to center field. Mullins ran to the fence, timed his jump, turned his back to the field and snatched the ball — his left shoulder parallel with the top of the wall, and his right arm and glove well above it.
Sánchez paused at first, in disbelief. Starter John Means and catcher Austin Wynns raised their arms in salute, as Mullins ran off the field after a wonderful catch.
“Any time a ball goes in the air to center field, I think Cedric has a chance of catching it,” Means said. “That was the most incredible catch. I thought it was gone. Typical Cedric, he doesn’t show off very much, so he kind of nonchalanted with his glove, and threw it in. I was in awe.”
Austin Hays, who was playing right field, said: “I was yelling at him: ‘Get up, rob him!’ He jumped even higher than I thought he could—unbelievable catch.”
That catch, along with Means’ no-hitter on May 5th, lead the few highlights of the 2021 season, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Yankees from winning a most entertaining game, 4-3, before an announced crowd of 10,402 at Oriole Park on Wednesday night.
As rain fell and the grounds crew was ordered off the field, Brett Gardner’s two-run bloop single against Tyler Wells gave the Yankees the lead in the top of the ninth.
Hays’ second home run of the game, a two-run shot that was his 20th, had given the Orioles a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth.
Wells (2-3) walked Luke Voit to begin the ninth, and Tyler Wade came in to pinch-run. Gleyber Torres singled and, after Sánchez flied to center, New York (82-64) pulled off a double steal, with Wade taking third and Torres second.
Gardner’s bloop hit landed in short left field, scoring Wade and Torres.
Wandy Peralta (5-3) recorded the final out of the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman registered his 27th save.
“Tough loss, tough loss,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We did a lot of good things and a blooper beats us, which is unfortunate, a two-strike blooper.”
It was the Orioles’ fifth straight loss.
Means, who allowed only a two-run home run to Gio Urshela in the third inning, left trailing, 2-0. In his last three starts, the Orioles (46-99) have scored just one run while he’s been in the game. In 13 of his 23 starts, they’ve scored two runs or fewer.
Means, who allowed two runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings, has won just once since the no-hitter.
“I didn’t really have anything going tonight,” Means said. “To be honest, the curveball was pretty brutal tonight, and the changeup was a lot harder than it usually is. I wasn’t really sure why. I really just had the fastball, and that was it. Locating the fastball really saved me … I didn’t feel great, but I battled through.”
Nestor Cortes, a one-time Oriole Rule 5 pick who was let go after just four appearances in April 2018, thwarted the Orioles for 6 1/3 innings, allowing just Hays’ 19th homer in the sixth. He struck out 11.
Chad Green, who relieved Cortes with one out in the seventh, got the final two outs. In the bottom of the eighth, Wynns singled, and Mullins grounded to Torres at second, who inexplicably threw to first, allowing Wynns to advance to second.
Green threw a wild pitch, moving Wynns to third. After Ryan Mountcastle struck out, Hays homered to left on an 0-2 pitch.
The 11 strikeouts were a career high for Cortes. Seven of his strikeouts came against the top four batters in the order: Mullins, Mountcastle, Hays and Anthony Santander. The Orioles struck out 16 times, including four for Kelvin Gutiérrez.
Notes: Chris Ellis (1-0, 2.08 ERA) will face Jordan Montgomery (5-6, 3.71) on Thursday. The game will begin at 5:05 p.m. The Avett Brothers and Carter Faith will perform on the field after the game.
Minor league update: Grayson Rodriguez allowed a run on four hits in five innings as Double-A Bowie won its 10th straight, beating Altoona, 5-4, in 10 innings. Rodriguez allowed a run on four hits, striking out five without walking a batter.
Leftfielder Toby Welk hit his first home run and drove in the game-winning run in the 10th.
Adley Rutschman had an RBI triple in Triple-A Norfolk’s 7-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Leftfielder Robert Neustrom hit his eighth home run. Paul Fry recorded two outs and walked a batter in relief.
High-A Aberdeen was held to three hits in its 4-0 loss to Greenville.
Colton Cowser had two RBIs as Low-A Delmarva beat Salem, 4-3.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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