O's Villar hits for cycle, doesn't even know it

First-base coach delivers the news when SS completes the feat in 9th

August 6th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- When he strode to the plate in the ninth inning on Monday, Orioles shortstop had no idea he was a mere hit away from history. Never mind that most of the 20,151 on hand at Oriole Park were well aware, many of whom stayed to the end of Baltimore’s 9-6 loss to the Yankees to witness Villar’s last at-bat. But nobody told Villar, who had tripled, doubled and homered in his four previous at-bats, about the exclusive club he was on the verge of entering.

It wasn’t until Villar arrived at first safely that first-base coach Arnie Beyeler delivered his congratulations, and the news. By dunking a single into right off Aroldis Chapman, Villar had completed the first cycle of his career, the first by an Oriole in nearly 11 years and the fifth in the Majors this season. He left Camden Yards with the baseball and lineup card to commemorate an accomplishment that stunned Villar in the moment he achieved it.

“It’s unbelievable,” Villar said. “I don’t pay attention to that, and nobody said anything.”

Afterwards, Villar could only guess his teammates were trying to avoid a jinx by not telling him, like during a potential no-hitter. Perhaps the night’s circumstances played a role also, as the Orioles spent the evening making history on several fronts, not all of them positive. Despite clawing back multiple times -- the last on Villar’s game-tying homer in the sixth -- Baltimore allowed multiple homers for the 10th consecutive game, becoming the first team in MLB history to do so.

On Monday they allowed five, the most critical being Mike Ford’s go-ahead shot off Paul Fry in the eighth. The Orioles were also frustrated when Brandon Hyde’s challenge failed to overturn home plate umpire Ed Hickock’s ruling that Jace Peterson was out at home on the front end of a double-steal in the fourth, erasing what would’ve been the go-ahead run. The loss was their 13th straight to the Yankees at Oriole Park dating back to 2018.

“I thought it was a joke. That was pathetic," Hyde said of the call, confirmed by replay officials in New York. "It was a really terrible decision.”

But it was all overshadowed by Villar, who joined Brooks Robinson (July 15, 1960), Cal Ripken (May 6, 1984), Aubrey Huff (June 29, 2007) and Felix Pie (August 14, 2009) as the only players to hit for the cycle in club history. The others to do so in the Majors this season are Jorge Polanco, Shohei Ohtani, Jake Bauers and Trea Turner.

Here is a breakdown of how Villar carved out his little place in MLB history.

Inning: 1
Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka
Result: Strikeout

Villar’s night began inauspiciously when he struck out swinging on a 2-2 cutter from Tanaka in the first. The Orioles would waste doubles by Anthony Santander and Hanser Alberto over the next two frames, not breaking through until Villar stepped to the plate in the third. By then, Austin Romine had hit a solo homer off Gabriel Ynoa to put New York up 1-0.

Inning: 3
Pitcher: Tanaka
Result: Triple

But that changed after Villar clanged a first-pitch slider from Tanaka off the center-field wall, taking third when the ball ricocheted away from Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner. He scored on Trey Mancini’s RBI single a batter later.

Villar’s three triples this season tie both the team high and his personal best, set previously in 2016. The Orioles as a team have 18, and they are on pace for their highest three-bagger total since 2008.

“He had a great game,” Hyde said. “He did a ton of things offensively, just had a really nice baseball game. It shows you the tools that he has. They’re obviously extremely exciting. When he’s going well, he’s a game changer.”

Inning: 5
Pitcher: Tanaka
Result: Double

Villar’s third hit looked like a routine single off the bat, before he noticed how Aaron Judge was slow fielding the ball in right field. That’s when Villar turned on the jets, reaching second in 3.67 seconds, per Statcast, ahead of Judge’s lackadaisical throw.

“That’s my game right there,” Villar said. “I never stopped running. The manager tells me all the time: ‘You need to run all the time, you never know.’”

Inning: 6
Pitcher: Tommy Kahnle
Result: 2-run home run

The calculus had changed by the bottom of the sixth, when the Orioles scored five times to chase Tanaka and claw all the way back. Jace Peterson’s two-run homer and Chris Davis’ sac fly set the stage for Villar, who savored his 415-foot game-tying shot off Kahnle.

Villar skipped up the first base line, bat in hand, shouting words of celebration at the Orioles’ dugout, while Kahnle momentarily took issue.

“That’s me being happy right there,” Villar said. “It felt like we were starting again, we were continuing to play hard.

Inning: 9
Pitcher: Chapman
Result: Single

All of which brings us to the ninth, and a situation not unfamiliar to the Orioles. It was as recently as July 20 that Santander, in a 16-7 loss to Boston, finished a double away from the cycle by grounding out in his final at-bat.

This time, Villar fought off a 99.5 mph fastball from Chapman to complete the feat. At an exit velocity of 72.2 mph, it was by far Villar’s softest hit of the night, but the one he’ll cherish the most. Villar said he plans to give the baseball to his three-year-old daughter, Kaylee Helena.