MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

For many of us, the true beauty of baseball is that in any game you attend or watch you are likely to see something you’ve never seen happen before no matter how much baseball you’ve watched in your life.

Sunday afternoon presented a great opportunity for that for both Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals fans.

In an unreal sequence with the Orioles holding a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth in Seattle, centerfielder Cedric Mullins made an extraordinary leaping catch (beneath a sign that read “No Fly Zone,” no less) to bring what would have been Ty France’s game-tying home run back into the ballpark.

In an instant, France’s hit was clocked at over 102 mph with Mullins sprinting to his left through the outfield, somehow finding the ball in the high sun, reaching the wall, leaping, sticking his glove to his right across his body and over the fence and somehow bringing it back and holding on to it upon his landing.

Two pitches later, though, Seattle’s Dominic Canzone made a meal out of a Mike Baumann pitch to hit a game-tying homer that Superman wouldn’t have been able to bring back to send the game to extra innings.

In the top of the 10th with one out and the runner on second, Mullins stepped in and crushed a ball to right that left the park in seconds but hooked just wide of the foul pole. Two pitches later and 11 minutes and 42 seconds after his remarkable catch (yes, I timed it watching the encore presentation), Mullins crushed another ball to right, this one well fair, to power Baltimore to a 5-3 win over the Mainers.

“How many times do you see a guy hit a foul-ball homer that just goes barely foul and then go deep after that?” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It rarely happens.”

This time it did happen in just Mullins’ third game back from the injured list in which he didn’t even enter until the sixth inning, as the Orioles attempted to give him a day off.

“He didn’t start the game,” Hyde said, “but he finished it.”

The entire scenario took place in less than 12 minutes and the resilient Orioles extended their lead in the American League East to three games with a league-best 73-45 record, which includes an MLB-best 37 victories by a margin of one or two runs.

Just the night before, Seattle ace George Kirby threw nine scoreless innings at the O’s, yet somehow the Orioles won another 10-inning thriller, 1-0. The guy who scored the game’s only run? Why, Cedric Mullins, of course.

Earlier on Sunday afternoon and in the Washington on the East coast of the country, the Nationals’ Jeter Downs, whose name evokes thoughts of a race track, stepped to the plate in just his fourth big-league game this season to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning with his team trailing 7-2 to the hapless Oakland Athletics.

As in the case of Mullins, Downs had entered the game in the eighth inning in place of shortstop CJ Adams, who experienced back spasms.

Downs worked a six-pitch walk from Trevor May, the A’s closer (like having Willie Sutton in charge of security at your bank). One out and two singles later, the Nats had the bases loaded. A single and a sacrifice fly later, the Nats were within 7-4 with runners on first and third, but a passed ball and another walk loaded the bases.

Dominic Smith drew a six-pitch walk to bring in the fifth run, the necessary clutch fielding error by the A’s shortstop then brought in two more runs to tie the score. That, naturally, brought up Downs again, the same man who led off the inning with his team five runs down, and who had not recorded a big-league hit since July 28, 2022, or an RBI since July 17 of last season with the Red Sox.

After working the count full, Downs dropped a ball into shallow center field to score the winning run from third and the Nats had yet another walk-off win, their second in a row and their fourth in the past seven games.

Though not to the stage of Baltimore’s, this Washington rebuild is beginning to move the needle. The young Nats are fun to watch and they have numerous come-from-behind wins as well, showing quite a bit of character for such a young team. They don’t waste at-bats and they play to the final out.

Or, in the case of Sunday afternoon, to the point of not needing a final out.

It’s baseball, baby. If you don’t get it, you just don’t get it.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT