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Cedric Mullins’ latest All-Star statement, Thomas Eshelman’s unexpected start lead Orioles past Blue Jays, 7-1, ending 8-game skid

Above their heads, they waved the T-shirts bearing his name and number they had been handed entering the gates of Camden Yards. They roared with adoration. Some even chanted “M-V-P” after Cedric Mullins blasted his second home run Friday night.

Mullins bookended the Orioles’ 7-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays with blasts in front of a season-high announced crowd of 13,284 at Oriole Park. His leadoff home run provided a quick lead to soft-tossing right-hander Thomas Eshelman, starting on short notice in place of left-hander Bruce Zimmermann after he landed on the 10-day injured list Friday with left bicep tendinitis. His latter shot broke the game open, a three-run home run that ignited that crowd and led to a curtain call, which Mullins said was his first.

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“I was kind of nervous to go back out there, but it felt amazing,” Mullins said. “It was just a surreal moment.”

When Eshelman first saw Mullins in the locker room, he made sure to note how much of an honor it was to stand next to an All-Star. Mullins has not yet formally earned that title, but two years after plummeting to Double-A when he struggled as Baltimore’s Opening Day center fielder, he has done what he could to emerge as a clear candidate. His two home runs Friday brought him to 11 among his American League-leading 84 hits, and he’s batting .322 with a .935 OPS while playing, as manager Brandon Hyde has said repeatedly, Gold Glove defense in center field.

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“What a great night for Cedric,” Hyde said. “The crowd was unbelievable tonight. That’s the most energy in the ballpark that I’ve seen here in three years, and I feel like our guys really fed off that. For the fans to recognize Ced and his great night, that was a super cool moment. That was a first for me here also, to have somebody recognized like that.”

Mullins’ big night, which also included a single amid a run-scoring rally in the fifth inning, provided more than enough support for a pitching staff that allowed no hits until the fifth inning and only one afterward as the Orioles ended an eight-game losing streak.

Slow but steady

Eshelman’s first pitch of his first major league start of 2021 was tracked by Statcast at 89.5 mph. It was the hardest he’s thrown a pitch in his major league career.

Eshelman, who had a 5.22 ERA in 22 outings for the Orioles over the past two seasons, made a strong first attempt at filling Zimmermann’s place in Baltimore’s rotation, with Hyde saying the rookie will miss 10 days to two weeks. After Marcus Semien grounded out on that first pitch, Eshelman struck out Bo Bichette and got major league home run leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to ground out, as well, dismissing Toronto’s fearsome top of the order. In that 11-pitch frame, he topped his previous career high for velocity five times.

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“I was pretty shocked tonight at some of the numbers I was putting up off my fastball,” said Eshelman, who had a 6.41 ERA in six Triple-A appearances this season. “For me to get an opportunity to get back up here, I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to stay here.”

A walk to Cavan Biggio in the second represented the only base runner against him until Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s home run with one out in the fifth. Two more hits followed, and a narrowly missed double play and Semien coming up for a third time prompted Hyde to go to his bullpen. Surging Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Wells struck out Semien to strand runners on the corners, making Eshelman the first Orioles starter in two weeks to allow no more than one run.

Wells then worked a clean sixth against the heart of Toronto’s order. Though Hyde has teased using Wells as a high-leverage reliever, Friday marked the first time he had been deployed with the Orioles neither holding a large lead or losing. In six June outings, Wells has pitched 11 scoreless innings.

“He’s pitching with a ton of confidence right now,” Hyde said. “It’s fun to watch him develop.”

Tanner Scott, Hunter Harvey and Paul Fry finished the game with a scoreless inning each.

Sisco designated for assignment

To create a 40-man spot for Eshelman, the Orioles designated catcher Chance Sisco for assignment. Sisco, 26, was Baltimore’s second-round pick in 2013 and was ranked by Baseball America as their top prospect entering the 2017 season. But he never lived up to that lofty status, hitting .199 across parts of five seasons in the majors before he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last month.

The Orioles have seven days to trade Sisco or try to pass him through waivers.

“For whatever reason, he was off to a good start in Triple-A [in 2019], came up and hit pretty good right away with us,” Hyde said before the game. “You saw the strike-zone discipline, the swings were aggressive, he was driving the baseball, and he just hasn’t really gotten back to that point. The strike zone discipline has always been there, but really being on time and staying behind the ball, just had a tough time adjusting at the big league level.

“We think highly of Chance. Chance is a great kid. Hoping it works out for him, whichever way it goes.”

BLUE JAYS@ORIOLES

Saturday, 4:05 p.m.

TV: MASN Radio: 105.7 FM

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