Mullins, Eshelman save the day for O’s
Above their heads, they waved the T-shirts bearing his name and number they had been handed entering the gates of Camden Yards. They roared with adoration. Some chanted “M-V-P” after Cedric Mullins blasted his second home run of Friday night.
Mullins bookended the Orioles’ 7-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays with blasts in front of a season-high announced crowd of 13,284. His leadoff home run provided a quick lead to soft-tossing right-hander Thomas Eshelman, starting in place of left-hander Bruce Zimmermann after he landed on the 10-day injured list with left bicep tendinitis that manager Brandon Hyde said will keep him out up to two weeks. His latter shot broke the game open, a three-run home run that ignited that crowd and led to a curtain call.
Two years after plummeting to Double-A when he struggled as Baltimore’s Opening Day center fielder, Mullins has emerged as a clear All-Star candidate. His two home runs Friday brought him to 11, and he’s batting .322 with a .935 OPS while playing, as Hyde has said repeatedly, Gold Glove defense in center field.
His big night, which also included a single amid a run-scoring rally in the fifth inning, provided more than enough support for a pitching staff that allowed no hits until the fifth inning and only one afterward as the Orioles ended an eight-game winning streak.
Slow but steady
Eshelman’s first pitch of his first major league start of 2021 was tracked by Statcast at 89.5 mph. It was the hardest he’s thrown
a pitch in his major league career.
Eshelman, who had a 5.22 ERA in 22 outings for the Orioles over the past two seasons, made a strong first attempt at filling
Zimmermann’s place in Baltimore’s rotation. After Marcus Semien grounded out on that first pitch, Eshelman struck out Bo Bichette and got major league home run leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to ground out, as well, dismissing Toronto’s fearsome top of the order. In that 11-pitch frame, he topped his previous career high for velocity five times.
A walk to Cavan Biggio in the second represented the only base runner against him until Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s home run with one out in the fifth. Two more hits followed, and a narrowly missed double play and Semien coming up for a third time prompted Hyde to go to his bullpen. Surging Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Wells struck out Semien to strand runners on the corners, making Eshelman the first Orioles starter in two weeks to allow no more than one run.
After stranding Eshelman’s runners, Wells worked a clean sixth against the heart of Toronto’s order. Though Hyde has teased using Wells as a high-leverage reliever, Friday marked the first time he had been deployed with the Orioles neither holding a large lead or losing. In six June outings, Wells has pitched 11 scoreless innings.
Tanner Scott, Hunter Harvey and Paul Fry finished the game with a scoreless inning each.