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Extra innings hopes dashed by acrobatic grab

@JoeTrezz
May 9, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Eyes and arms wide in the Orioles bullpen, Branden Kline’s emotion couldn’t be hidden or faked. Nobody’s could: nobody in the Baltimore ‘pen, nobody in either dugout, nobody who stayed to witness the 11th inning Wednesday night at Oriole Park. But Kline had the most up-close-and-personal view, his

BALTIMORE -- Eyes and arms wide in the Orioles bullpen, Branden Kline’s emotion couldn’t be hidden or faked. Nobody’s could: nobody in the Baltimore ‘pen, nobody in either dugout, nobody who stayed to witness the 11th inning Wednesday night at Oriole Park.

But Kline had the most up-close-and-personal view, his face the most obvious shift from elation to bewilderment: Trey Mancini squares up a Ryan Brasier heater, and, in his manager’s words “drives the ball out of the ballpark.”

“It didn’t touch the ground,” O’s skipper Brandon Hyde said. “But it got out of the ballpark.”

That’s because Jackie Bradley Jr. pulled off the seemingly impossible, leaping literally into Kline’s line of vision and over the center field wall to snatch the victory away and leave everyone stunned.

Box score

For Mancini, perhaps the defensive play of the 2019 season translated to “one of the worst feelings you can describe.” For the Orioles, it forced them to react to a 2-1 loss to Boston mostly with shock.

“I'm like, ‘What the heck just happened?’” Kline said. “It felt like his entire torso was over the wall. At one point, it felt like he was almost in the bullpen. It's one of the best catches I've ever seen, that's for sure."

“Did that just happen?” was Hyde’s initial thought. “I can’t remember the last time I saw a catch like that, in that spot, game-saving. That was phenomenal.”

That Andrew Benintendi’s game-winning homer off Yefry Ramirez sailed over Mancini’s head a half-inning later only added cruel irony for a club the right fielder lugged on his back all night, and really has all season. Their efforts Wednesday were aided by a clutch Pedro Severino in the ninth and scoreless multi-inning outings from Mychal Givens and Shawn Armstrong, but the Orioles had mostly Mancini to thank for being in a game in which they struck out a franchise-record 22 times and didn’t register a hit until the sixth inning.

Most of that was because of Chris Sale, who did not factor into the decision despite one of the most electric nights of his career. The All-Star lefty struck out 14 without walking a batter, and no-hit the Orioles over the first 5 2/3 innings. He only blinked when Joey Rickard and Mancini tied the game with back-to-back hits in the sixth, then retired seven of his final eight hitters.

Prior, the game’s offense came courtesy of a Mookie Betts solo homer off Andrew Cashner, who logged six strong innings.

Mancini also doubled to set up a potential game-winning rally in the ninth, only to be stranded at third. The Orioles managed a lone single until he came to the plate against Brasier in the 11th, when he sent an 0-2 pitch into the Baltimore night. Somehow, it never got there.

“It was an amazing catch. I mean, what else can you say?” Mancini said. “It was game on the line, tie ballgame, 11th inning. Just a great catch. And it really stinks to be on the losing side of it and think you hit a walk-off, but you’ve got to tip your cap to him there. That was insane.”

Mancini literally brought hand to helmet before resigning to the dugout, though he admitted “it was kind of hard to do in the moment.” But such is the reality sometimes when sharing a division with one of baseball’s most talented defenders.

“I didn’t get my hopes up too much,” Mancini said. “I’ve hit too many balls to center field that I thought were hits and Jackie’s playing center, and he comes down with.”

This one, he’ll remember for a while. But even in defeat, the evening brought further into focus just how much Mancini has emerged into the centerpiece of the Orioles’ lineup. In 12 turns at bat opposite what Hyde described as “World Series pitching,” the Orioles mustered three batted balls with upwards of 100 mph exit velocity. Mancini had all of them.

Now fully healed from a minor finger injury, Mancini ranks among the American League leaders in hits, runs, and slugging, and is hitting .328 with a .941 OPS in his third big league season.

“I’ve been saying it all along, how I think this guy is on the verge of being a big time impact player in this league,” Hyde said. “He’s the whole package.”

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.