What would you rather have: a leaping, Superman-like catch that is already one of the web gems of the year? Or a walk-off home run to sweep a series?

This week, Cedric Mullins doesn’t have to choose.

Before Wednesday, the 29-year-old had never hit a walk-off homer in his big league career, a stat play-by-play man Kevin Brown had just blurted out on the MASN broadcast before Mullins smashed a changeup 379 feet to the flag court for a 4-2 Orioles win over Minnesota.

Mullins flipped his bat as he began his home run trot — an uncharacteristic show of flair for a player who seems to keep his deepest emotions vaulted. But undoubtedly he had earned the right to celebrate after a series that saw him make a dazzling catch, extend his hitting streak to nine games and cap the whole thing off in heroic fashion, complete with a water cooler bath.

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With a seemingly endless line of exciting prospects, the Orioles’ future can sometimes seem brighter than its present. Mullins’ hot streak is a testament to how good some of the long-standing veterans can be for a winning team.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - APRIL 15:  Cedric Mullins #31 of the Baltimore Orioles catches a fly ball hit byByron Buxton #25 if the Minnesota Twins in the first inning during a baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 15, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland.  All players are wearing the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Cedric Mullins takes an extra-base hit away from Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins with perhaps the most spectacular catch of the season Monday. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

“For me, this is Cedric Mullins,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Yeah, he got banged up at the end of the year last year, but the first half, two-thirds of the year, this is what he did for us. He drives runs in. He causes chaos on the bases. He plays Gold Glove center field. He’s just a huge igniter for our offense, and awesome to see him get that home run tonight.”

The Orioles have been on a homer heater recently, leading the majors with 30. They have six players with at least four homers. With at least three homers in five straight games, Baltimore has tied the second-longest streak behind only … the Orioles in 1987.

Mullins has been at the heart of the recent flare, knocking three balls out of the park in the last four games. On Wednesday, as he waited for his pitch in the bottom of the ninth with Ryan Mountcastle on base, you’d never have detected from his steely demeanor that he had never hit a walk-off homer before.

“Definitely something that’s hard to accomplish, but I wasn’t trying to do too much right there,” Mullins said. “Mounty got us going with a single. I was trying to follow it up with another single. I was able to get a pitch that I can handle and put it over.”

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Baltimore has gotten used to the idea that Mullins’ incredible 2021 season, when he hit 30 home runs and stole 30 bases, was a high-water mark, an aberration. But, when healthy, Mullins still can be a fantastic contributor. As Hyde pointed out, the biggest factor for Mullins is always health.

Looking back on the 2023 season, Mullins’ leg injuries had a dramatic effect. He was hitting .262 in April and May, stealing 13 bases and hitting eight home runs. He wound up with more hits (51) in those two months than the final four (43), his injuries seemingly affecting every part of his offensive game.

It dented the durable aura Mullins had created in his first two full big league seasons, playing virtually every day.

“I think that’s kind of the focus on keeping the body healthy throughout the year,” Mullins said. “I’ve had my challenges, but I know I can go pretty good when I’m healthy.”

Baltimore Orioles centerfielder Cedric Mullins (31) does a post-game interview after hitting a walk-off homer in game three of a series against the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards on April 17, 2024. The Orioles won Wednesday, 4-2, to sweep the series against the Twins. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

These are interesting days for the rebuild generation of Orioles, including the outfield trio of Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander. With so much talent rising to the big leagues, there is pressure on the older players to keep performing. Hays has already ceded time to Colton Cowser by virtue of a slump. The Orioles have a lot of young prospects who can play corner outfield, and Santander is slated to be a free agent next year.

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Mullins doesn’t become a free agent until 2026, but last year the Orioles drafted Enrique Bradfield Jr., who projects to be an elite fielder and baserunner, if not quite matching Mullins’ talent at the plate. Looking at the farm system sometimes feels like the layout of a succession plan.

But consider how good Mullins, who will turn 30 in October, still is. He still can lay out for hard-hit balls in center, as he did Monday against the Twins. His power is still there, and he’s right behind Gunnar Henderson for the team lead in homers.

And Mullins sets and example every day in the clubhouse for the Orioles.

“Day in, day out, he goes max effort every day and puts in his work,” Mountcastle said. “Definitely a leader on this team.”

The future looms, but for those paying attention, the present is still pretty damn good.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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