Mullins makes splash with franchise's 12th cycle -- literally

May 13th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- must have been in a history-making mood Friday night. He was the first Orioles player to set off the brand-new, freshly unveiled “Bird Bath” celebration, with his fifth-inning triple leading to the soaking of fans in the 156 seats of Section 86 in left-center field at Camden Yards.

A fun moment but far from the most historic one, because Mullins later achieved one of baseball’s most illustrious hitting feats -- the cycle.

With a three-run homer in the eighth, Mullins completed the 12th cycle in franchise history (the seventh since relocating to Baltimore in 1954) to power the Orioles to a 6-3 series-opening win over the Pirates. In addition to his earlier triple, the 28-year-old center fielder singled in the third and doubled in the seventh.

The O’s needed to send five batters to the plate in the eighth in order for Mullins to get a chance to join the Marlins’ Luis Arraez (April 11) as the only MLB players with cycles this season. Heading into that inning, everybody in Baltimore’s dugout was yelling, ‘Let’s get Ced up,’ according to manager Brandon Hyde.

When Mullins got up with runners on the corners and two outs, he rose to the occasion -- and gave the O’s insurance runs they needed. His blast off a 1-1 changeup from Pittsburgh right-hander Duane Underwood Jr. pushed Baltimore’s lead to 6-2.

“That’s a highly anticipated moment right there, and it was huge for me to come through for the team,” Mullins said. “You obviously know that you’re a single swing away from the cycle, but at the same time, you’re trying to get a job done, drive some runs in, and everything just kind of fell in line.”

After the eighth ended, the Orioles needed to record three more outs to improve to 12-1 in series openers and 25-13 this season (which they eventually did once closer Félix Bautista came in and struck out the side). But before the ninth began, Mullins’ teammates remained back in the dugout and let him run out to center field by himself, allowing him to receive a standing ovation from the 25,682 fans in attendance.

It was a special moment for a player who’s been in Baltimore since 2018. Mullins endured the tough years of the rebuild. Now, he’s getting to enjoy the team’s success, while continuing to serve as arguably its biggest spark plug -- he owns a .268/.365/.478 slash line with 16 extra-base hits (including five homers) and 31 RBIs and is 12-for-12 on stolen-base attempts.

Mullins is also playing exceptional defense, which he again showed with a diving catch to rob Jack Suwinski of a hit to open the seventh.

“You look back at how far he’s come as a player, it’s unbelievable,” Hyde said. “He showed you tonight why he’s an All-Star-type player and why he’s so valuable to us.”

Just how valuable?

“I don’t even know if you can put words on it,” fellow outfielder Austin Hays said. “He’s our everyday center fielder; he’s as good as they come in center. He hits for power. He’s one of the best stolen-base threats in baseball. He’s as valuable as anybody can be to any team.”

Hays, who was roommates with Mullins in the Minor Leagues, is the only one of his teammates who knows what it’s like to hit for the cycle. Hays had been the most recent Orioles player to do so, completing the feat in a six-inning rain-shortened win over the Nationals at Camden Yards last June.

Some O’s fans got wet on Friday night, too -- those seated in the “Bird Bath.”

This season, whenever the O’s hit a double or triple, the players on the top step of the dugout spit water onto the field in sprinkler-like fashion. When there’s a home run, he who goes deep gets to drink from the homer hose. Starting Friday, whenever any of that happens during a home game, “Mr. Splash” -- the team’s new “Chief Hydration Officer” -- will get the fans involved, too. His job is to spray those seated in Section 86 with a hose while the Orioles are celebrating in their own fashion.

“‘Mr. Splash’ was letting it fly out there,” Hays said. “I know the fans were loving it, they were extra riled up tonight. Give that guy a raise out there. He was electric for the boys.”

Mullins made sure “Mr. Splash” stayed busy, collecting three of Baltimore’s five extra-base hits. The introduction of the “Bird Bath” only added to the atmosphere generated by a raucous Friday crowd.

And while the fans were already having a great time, Mullins went on to make the night that much more memorable.

“To have a great crowd out there today, and to be able to share the moment with a lot of people, is fun,” Mullins said.

“What a special night for Cedric,” Hyde said. “What a great player.”