Hays gets MLB's 3rd June cycle: 'Epic game'

6 innings enough for Orioles' CF to achieve feat in rain-shortened victory

June 23rd, 2022

BALTIMORE -- Austin Hays and the rest of his Orioles teammates were filing back into the home clubhouse when Robinson Chirinos found him. Hays was three-quarters of the way to a cycle through four innings before rain instigated the first of two delays at Camden Yards on Wednesday night.

Hays fully knew what was at his fingertips, mostly because of Chirinos’ chirps, but the center fielder was unsure if he’d get a chance to finish it.

By the time Mother Nature had her second go, she could have at it.

Hays doubled in the sixth (and final) inning of a rain-shortened 7-0 win over the Nationals -- not long before rain ended the affair, which featured 1 hour and 46 minutes of delay time -- to complete the 11th cycle in franchise history (the sixth since moving to Baltimore), the third in MLB this month and the first of his career.

In doing so, Hays had “my favorite big league game so far,” reaffirming his case for an All-Star Game nod in no more boisterous a manner than he possibly could have.

“Goosebumps hit me right as I was touching second base,” Hays said, “and nothing else to do but just point up to the sky and thank God for the opportunity.”

Even had Hays not cycled -- the first by an Orioles player since Jonathan Villar on Aug. 5, 2019 -- the 26-year-old had been making noise for his first entrance to the Midsummer Classic, playing his best baseball while riding a clean bill of health amid an injury-riddled career. A cycle merely helps his cause in the loudest of five-tool manners -- and all it took him was four at-bats in six innings.

By the time Hays pulled into second base for his sixth-inning double, having lasered a slider from Nats reliever Steve Cishek 101.8 mph (per Statcast) into center field, he flashed the Orioles’ trademark goggles celebration back to the dugout. When Hays and Trey Mancini embraced by home plate after Mancini plated Hays with a homer, the feelings were flowing.

“That's going to be shown nationally and on SportsCenter and talked about tomorrow,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “I hope that people recognize it and start looking into the kind of year he's having, because he's putting together a great first half.”

“This is the Austin Hays that we all know and have seen over the years, and he's done a great job of staying healthy this year,” Mancini said. “This is what you get when he does it.”

It started with a first-inning leadoff single against Washington left-hander Patrick Corbin. Shortly after, Hays crossed the plate on Ryan Mountcastle's double for the game’s first run.

Hays then got the hard parts of the cycle done quickly, homering off Corbin past “Walltimore” in left field in the third and tripling off the right-field wall an inning later. His double in the sixth, long after the start of this soggy game, sealed the deal and continued his sensational start to the season -- all coming 24 hours removed from a four-strikeout showing in Tuesday’s loss to the Nats.

“Especially after a tough night last night for him, he just washed it,” Mancini said. “Came back -- that's what he does.”

Along with Hays, the Brewers' Christian Yelich (May 11, third career cycle), the Mets' Eduardo Escobar (June 6) and the Angels' Jared Walsh (June 11) have hit for the cycle this season.

But Hays has something over those three: none also recorded an outfield assist, which Hays did to cut down Juan Soto at third base in the first inning. It was his fifth of the season to tie Cedric Mullins for the team lead, and the second time this season he’s homered and notched an assist in the same game. Only the Brewers' Hunter Renfroe and the Yankees' Aaron Judge have also done that this season.

“He had a tough night last night,” Hyde said, “and comes out tonight and just has this unbelievable, epic game.”

“He's a grinder,” O's starter Tyler Wells said.

“He's a gamer,” Mancini said. “Yeah, he's just the epitome of a gamer.”

The Orioles know who Hays is -- their MVP through this early juncture of the season. They hope the baseball world at large gets to know come the All-Star Game on July 19 in Los Angeles, even though Hays ranked 19th in voting among American League outfielders as of the first balloting update on Monday.

“Everyone wants to see him. I mean, he's worked so hard,” Wells said. "He goes out every single day, doesn't matter how he's feeling, he wants to play, he wants the big spots. He's constantly striving to be the best that he can possibly be. Everyone in this clubhouse is pulling for him, and hopefully Birdland is, too.”