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Baltimore Orioles

Cedric Mullins’ big hit enough to back Bruce Zimmermann as Orioles shut out Brewers, 2-0, in home opener

Throughout their weekend series in Florida, the Orioles craved a big hit. Their fan base seemed to share the feeling, desperate to erupt with the bases loaded in the second inning of Monday’s home opener at Camden Yards.

Cedric Mullins delivered, smacking a two-run single up the middle that provided all of the game’s offense as Baltimore downed the Milwaukee Brewers, 2-0, to secure its first win of 2022 in front of an announced sellout crowd of 44,461. A day after being shut out to end a Tampa Bay Rays sweep, Loyola Blakefield product Bruce Zimmermann combined with four relievers to do the same to the Brewers (1-3), the reigning National League Central champions.

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The final score matched that of Baltimore’s victory in the inaugural game at Camden Yards 30 years ago, with the anniversary celebration of that first season beginning with an energetic ballpark. Zimmermann got in on it as well, letting out a yell after ending the second inning with a strikeout to strand a Brewer in scoring position. In the bottom half, Mullins gave the left-hander and fans even more reason to celebrate.

“It was palpable,” said Zimmermann, the first pitcher born in Maryland to start the Orioles’ home opener since 1990. “That punchout and walking off and hearing the ‘Bruce’ chant and everything, that really kind of hit and fired me up a little bit more. It was kind of feeling the adrenaline but not getting it too big, but then hearing the chant and then having Ced hit the go-ahead two-run single there, it was kind of everything you want as a starting pitcher.”

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Mullins’ single was the Orioles’ only hit in 10 at-bats with a runner in scoring position Monday, leaving them 3-for-34 in those situations through their first four games. Monday, at least, that seemed to partly be a case of bad luck. Baltimore’s hitters struck nine balls at 98 mph or harder, according to Statcast, with six turning into outs. The three with the highest exit velocities — Mullins’ hit and a pair from Anthony Santander, who reached base four times — fortunately found gaps.

In his first at-bat in what might prove to be his final Camden Yards home opener as an Oriole, Trey Mancini drove a ball toward right-center field, opposite the direction of the iconic ballpark’s new, deeper left field wall that had little impact on the result in its debut. But Milwaukee center fielder Tyrone Taylor made an impressive catch at the wall, securing a 104.9 mph ball that Statcast gave an expected batting average of .950. An inning later, Taylor snagged a sharp liner from Austin Hays.

“We hit a ton of balls on the nose,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “The luck was not going our way offensively.”

But a pair of walks from the bottom of the order followed, loading the bases for Mullins. Since taking the first pitch of Baltimore’s season to his right hand, Mullins had struck out in eight of 13 plate appearances. He sent a 2-1 sinker from Adrian Houser back up the middle to score two runners, with speedster Jorge Mateo narrowly beating a throw home for the latter run, emphatically pumping his first afterward.

“That was awesome,” Mullins said. “It was an exciting moment, and we’re hoping have a lot more out there.”

Hyde, after his first victory in four home openers as the Orioles’ manager, echoed that, calling Mullins’ single “one of the louder moments here since I’ve been here.” He hopes the club can keep providing fans with reasons to replicate it — and come to the ballpark in the first place — over the summer.

“We gotta give them something to cheer about,” Hyde said. “We gotta give them something to root for.”

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Terrific tandem

Coming off a shortened spring training, starting pitchers around the league will be handled cautiously as they continue to stretch out into the season. That was the case Monday with Zimmermann, who was pulled after four innings and 66 pitches with the top of the Brewers’ order looming for a third time.

Hyde handed the game to Mike Baumann, making his season debut after struggling in a handful of relief appearances in 2021. Baumann recorded the next seven outs without giving up a run.

Hyde had hoped to use a similar tandem approach in Sunday’s game, with Dean Kremer coming in behind Tyler Wells. But Kremer suffered a left oblique strain while warming up, and before Monday’s game, they placed him on the 10-day injured list, with Hyde saying he could miss a month. With outfielder DJ Stewart optioned after Sunday’s game, the Orioles filled two open roster spots by recalling left-hander Alexander Wells and selecting right-hander Spenser Watkins’ contract.

With the Orioles (1-3) yet to announce a Tuesday starter, the pair could piggyback as Baltimore goes for its first series victory of the year.

Bullpen hierarchy

Hyde managed a victory for the first time this season, showing how he might deploy his relievers in such situations.

Behind Baumann, Dillon Tate got the final two outs of the seventh, stranding two runners to leave the Brewers 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Left-hander Cionel Pérez threw a scoreless eighth. Including spring training, Pérez has pitched eight scoreless outings since Baltimore claimed him on waivers from the Cincinnati Reds over the offseason.

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Right-hander Jorge López, who Hyde has said will pitch in the biggest spots of games, pitched the ninth, earning his second career save and first with the Orioles after spending last year as a middling starter.

“Extremely well-pitched game from our guys,” Hyde said.

PitchCom problem

The Orioles are among the teams using PitchCom, a device that allows catchers to call pitches by pushing a button to send an audio relay to pitchers and three fielders. But they had to stop in the middle of Monday’s game.

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The Brewers had issues with their PitchCom system, and for the sake of fairness, the Orioles had to stop using the device. They’ve had their own technical difficulties with it; during Saturday’s game, catcher Robinson Chirinos wasn’t hearing the call even though all of his teammates were, leading to confusion. But on the Orioles’ side Monday, they were able to move forward and complete the shutout.

“It was no big deal,” Baumann said. “Just go back to using signs like normal.”

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BREWERS@ORIOLES

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.

TV: MASN2

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM


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