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Austin Hays saves huge win for Orioles with spectacular ninth-inning catch

Baltimore secured a big win over division rival Toronto thanks to Hays going full extension.

Austin Hays of the Baltimore Orioles looks on against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 24, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Bookmark the below video, because if the Baltimore Orioles wind up capturing the AL East by a single game this season, they’ll have Austin Hays to thank.

The O’s went to the ninth inning of Monday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays with a 4-2 lead and All-Star closer Felix Bautista headed to the mound. But the Mountain was uncharacteristically shaky, putting two men on with just one out for the top of Toronto’s order. It seemed for a moment like disaster had struck: An 0-2 fastball from Bautista caught way too much of the plate, and Whit Merrifield lined one that looked ticketed for the gap in left-center. At best, the Jays would have the tying run in scoring position. At worst, the game would be tied.

And then Hays came out of nowhere:

That isn’t your typical diving catch; that is hang time, Hays fully leaving the Earth to go full extension and save the day. If he comes up empty who knows what would happen — both runners almost certainly score, and Merrifield is off to the races. Instead, Bautista finished the job to salt away a 4-2 win for Baltimore.

The win keeps the O’s three up on the Tampa Bay Rays in the loss column in the AL East and stretches the gap on Toronto to 6.5 games. The O’s have been conspicuously quiet so far this trade season, but with the deadline less than 24 hours away, Baltimore and its incredibly deep farm system remain better positioned than any other contender to make splash — maybe for Justin Verlander, perhaps?