When the Toronto Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the host Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, they may want to exercise caution with Cedric Mullins.
Few batters are as hot as the 26-year-old Mullins, who had two homers and four RBIs in Friday’s 7-1 win.
Mullins’ third multi-homer effort of the season helped Baltimore end an eight-game losing streak. The leadoff hitter is batting .400 (20-for-50) in 14 games this month.
Long known for his stellar defense in center field, Mullins is making a strong case for his first All-Star invitation with his consistency at the plate.
He enters Saturday’s contest batting .322 with 11 home runs, 23 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
“It’s like people are surprised that he’s hitting home runs, but he’s always been a little bit of a thumper. He’s always been a guy that can steal 30 bags,” teammate Austin Hays said. “It’s fun seeing him do what I knew that he always could here in the big leagues and finally showing everybody what he’s always done.”
Toronto, which has lost five straight games, saw its beleaguered bullpen struggle again in Friday’s loss.
Patrick Murphy and Jeremy Beasley allowed five runs in the final two innings, including Mullins’ three-run homer off Beasley.
“We’re here to win games, and it’s been frustrating because we have been playing good baseball,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Just when your bullpen struggles, nothing’s going to work. It is what it is, but the one thing you know about this team and our coaching staff and me, we’re going to come tomorrow and we’re going to battle again. We’re going to have a chance to win again tomorrow.”
The Blue Jays could use a lengthy outing from rookie Alek Manoah (1-0, 2.66 ERA), who has given up one or fewer earned runs in three of his first four outings since being recalled from the minors on May 27.
The 23-year-old right-hander is looking to build on a strong outing on June 14, when he allowed one run on four hits and struck out five over six innings against Boston.
Manoah has given up three runs (two earned) on eight hits over his last two starts covering 11 innings.
Baltimore will turn to Dean Kremer (0-6, 6.65), who started on June 14 after being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk.
The 25-year-old right-hander allowed four runs (three earned) over 5 1/3 innings in a 4-3 loss to Cleveland.
Both pitchers are making their first appearances in this rivalry.
Toronto is averaging 2.6 runs during its five-game skid and could use a spark from outfielder Randal Grichuk.
The 29-year-old hit seven homers and drove in 18 runs against Baltimore last season, but he was 0-for-4 from the cleanup spot on Friday and has two hits in his last five games.
The Blue Jays were held to four hits in the series opener and fell two games under. 500. One bright spot was Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who snapped an 0-for-18 skid with a solo homer in the fifth inning.
Baltimore’s starting rotation received a welcome spark Friday from right-hander Thomas Eshelman, who was recalled from Norfolk before the contest.
Eshelman allowed one run on three hits over 4 2/3 innings in his season debut. He started in place of Bruce Zimmermann, who landed on the 10-day injured list with left biceps tendinitis.
–Field Level Media