Mancini helps O's to win over Jays with 4 RBIs

August 4th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- When the Trade Deadline came and went, Trey Mancini was out to lunch. It was an off-day for the Orioles, and Mancini sought refuge from the rumors and speculation at a local restaurant, in the company of a few teammates. Though he never realistically thought he’d be traded, Mancini exited that meal relieved, his future in Baltimore secured for at least the short term.

The reality is, though, the question of his status is bound to resurface in the months to come, when the Orioles will face another decision regarding their best player -- extend or trade? Nobody in the organization figures to command a bigger return than Mancini, should the Orioles regauge the market this winter. The crux being that, for a rebuilding club like the Orioles, nobody provides more present value either. 

It’s a paradox plain to see on nights like Saturday, when Mancini drove in a season-high four runs to lead Baltimore to a 6-4 win over the Blue Jays. Mancini put Baltimore ahead with a three-run homer in the fifth, then plated a critical insurance run amid the Orioles’ two-run seventh.

“I’m very happy I’m still here,” Mancini said. “I’ve been saying it all along. I’m so thankful to be here, in this city, to play in front of these fans and be on this team.”

Throw in a go-ahead single from Hanser Alberto and solo homer from Jonathan Villar -- another trade candidate ultimately not dealt at the Deadline -- and it was enough to lift the Orioles on a night Blue Jays lefty Thomas Pannone carried a no-hitter into the fifth, and Baltimore's bullpen nearly turned a two-run lead into a one-run deficit in the seventh. 

After rookie catcher Reese McGuire tied the game with a two-run homer off Richard Bleier -- the first Bleier allowed to a lefty since 2017 -- Freddy Galvis appeared to put Toronto ahead by scoring Bo Bichette with a double down the left-field line.

But a successful manager’s challenge by Brandon Hyde erased the run when replay officials in New York ruled that Pedro Severino tagged Bichette before he reached the plate after left fielder Anthony Santander and shortstop Richie Martin combined on the relay. Alberto plated the winning run with a single to right off Justin Shafer a half inning later.

“There is nothing sexier than a base hit the other way with runners in scoring position, for me,” Hyde said. “Seriously, it’s a beautiful thing.”

“We were down a little bit for a moment, but we had nothing to do but fight every at-bat,” Alberto said. “I realize when I put the ball in play, things happen. Why not put the ball in play? Then I’ll let Mancini do the rest.”

Consider it a mantra of sorts for the Orioles, who don’t know where they’d be without Mancini’s breakout year. His homer Saturday was No. 26, extending his career high. Mancini owns at least a share of the team lead in runs, hits, doubles and homers, and is hitting .279 with a .879 OPS.

“How much has he meant? He means the whole team, I think,” said Dylan Bundy, who held Toronto to two runs over 5 1/3 innings and took a no-decision. “He shows up to play every single day, and it seems like every single day he has a hit. It’s a homer or an extra-base hit most of the time. He means a lot to this team and I’m happy he’s still here.”

For how long remains to be seen. Mancini isn’t arbitration eligible until this offseason and seems to be just entering his prime, all but assuring the Orioles will explore his trade value again. But at 27 and under club control through 2022, the question remains whether Mancini fits into any potential competitive window for an organization committed to a serious rebuild. At least for now, it’s a question for another day. 

“I hope he’s here for a long time,” executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said this week. “I’ve said that for a while, and he’s everything you ask for in the clubhouse. He’s having a terrific season, and he’s our best player, so we like having him here.

"I still feel like this is my first year, as [Hyde] said, we’re in an inventory-taking stage, and I think we’re at the beginning of a new era of baseball here. Looking at contract extensions is just not something on the forefront of my plate right now, but certainly he’s an attractive guy to have around for a while.”