Until a few of his prospect friends join him for a cup of coffee, Cedric Mullins continues to be one of the only reasons to watch an Orioles game. Mullins did not waste any time giving Baltimore fans something to cheer about tonight. The rookie turned around the second pitch of the game and drove the 94-MPH fastball 412 feet over the right-center field fence.
Unfortunately for Baltimore, it was all down hill after that. Andrew Cashner struggled through 5.1 innings, and the Orioles fell, 9-2, to Kansas City in the first of a three game series.
Baltimore’s one-run lead disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived. Whit Merrifield got things started for the Royals with a lead off double. Alex Gordon followed with a single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Cashner was able to get Hunter Dozier to ground into a double play, but Merrifield jogged in to tie the game at one.
Cashner made a few big pitches to keep Baltimore in the game early on. After allowing a pair of singles, the righty walked Merrifield to load the bases. Cashner threw three straight balls to Gordon, but battled back with three consecutive strikes. Gordon went down swinging to end the threat.
After a quick and clean third inning, Cashner worked his way into more trouble in the fourth. The Royals sandwiched a Brett Phillips single in between two walks, and reclaimed the lead with a Merrifield sacrifice fly. Still, Cashner kept things close by getting Gordon to fly out and end the inning.
The Royals added another run via a towering shot by Hunter Dozier. Dozier took a first-pitch change up and blasted it 426 feet to left field. In addition to the home run, all three Royals outs that inning came via the fly ball. They Royals put a lot of balls in play and a lot of balls in the air. Eleven of the 16 outs Cashner recorded were fly balls. He struck out only one and walked three batters.
The Orioles trimmed the lead to one in the top of the sixth. Mullins led off with a double, and eventually came around to score on a Trey Mancini sacrifice fly. Mancini nearly had an extra base hit, but Phillips made a jumping catch at the wall to rob the sophomore DH. Adam Jones singled, and Chris Davis worked a walk to provide a few more base runners, but Tim Beckham chased a pitch in the dirt to end the inning.
The Royals broke things open with three runs in the bottom of the frame. Cam Gallagher hit a solo shot to left that doubled the lead. The blast chased Cashner from the game, and the Orioles summoned Yefry Ramirez from the bullpen. Ramirez allowed three singles, the third being a two-run base hit to left field by Ryan O’Hearn.
Both teams stayed off the scoreboard until the Royals added a few more for good measure in the eighth inning. Dozier brought in Merrifield with a sacrifice fly off of Ryan Meisinger. With Gordon already on base after a walk, O’Hearn capped the Royals nine-run outpour with a two-run home run. The Orioles would go scoreless in the ninth inning.
Baltimore’s offense could not solve Kansas City rookie Brad Keller. The six-foot-five righty worked eight innings, and allowed only four hits and two walks. Keller threw 114 pitches, and lowered his season ERA to 3.26. Kevin McCarthy pitched a clean ninth for the Royals.
Jones and recently recalled Joey Rickard were the only other Orioles to collect a hit. Mullins picked up his third home run and sixth double in his young career.
The Orioles are now four games “up” in the loss column in the chase for the number one pick. The MASN broadcast played audio of Buck Showalter dismissing the race to the bottom. He pointed out that the top player taken rarely turns out to be the best when it’s all said and done, which is certainly true, but the Orioles would like to have the first choice. Still, they’re not trying to lose. It just comes naturally.
Cashner moved to 4-13 on the year, and his ERA now sits at 4.86. Dylan Bundy gets the nod tomorrow, and he might even surpass the 11 fly balls that Cashner recorded tonight. There’s only one way to find out.