MILWAUKEE — Gunnar Henderson made a defensive blunder that was a catalyst for the Brewers’ three-run first inning.
Playing shortstop, the 21-year-old went up the middle for a soft ground ball that should’ve been an out, but he pulled up as second baseman Adam Frazier approached, allowing it to trickle into center field. Three more hits followed.
But Henderson more than made up for the early mistake, hitting a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning to propel the Orioles to a 6-3 win over Milwaukee. The clutch home run was his second of the road trip after his solo shot in the seventh inning of Friday night’s win over the San Francisco Giants gave the Orioles a 3-2 win.
“That’s what you dream of as a kid, is being in those situations and coming through,” Henderson said.
Henderson came up with the Orioles trailing by a run and just four outs away from being swept. But the rookie barreled up the first pitch he saw from Brewers reliever Peter Strzelecki, hammering the high-and-away fastball and hitting it 366 feet over the left field wall.
“It just shows you the power he has,” manager Brandon Hyde said about Henderson’s long ball. “He doesn’t need to try to pull the ball, doesn’t need to try to do too much. He’s so strong and has got so much leverage that he can take a ball out over the plate and drive it the other way.
“To see him do that was special.”
Baltimore’s offensive woes continued for much of Thursday’s game. The Orioles had scored three or fewer runs in nine of their past 12 games, and they were held scoreless through the first six innings.
But Ramón Urías broke out of his slump with an opposite-field solo shot in the seventh. An inning later, Anthony Santander ended his 0-for-25 stretch with a double that scored Adley Rutschman to bring the winning run to the plate. Frazier added insurance in the ninth with a two-run double to give Félix Bautista breathing room that he didn’t need, as the 6-foot-8 closer struck out two to record his 16th save of the season.
After the poor first inning, starting pitcher Kyle Bradish was as dominant as he’s been this season. The 26-year-old struck out a season-high 10 batters in five innings, just the third double-digit strikeout game of his career.
“We never talk about his stuff as an issue,” Hyde said about Bradish. “It’s all about being able to command it and not walking guys, not leadoff walks, not two-out walks. But to be able to pitch knees and below and to be able to punch guys out and not have 3-2 counts every hitter, he did a much better job after that first inning.”
Bryan Baker, Keegan Akin (2-1), Yennier Cano and Bautista pitched four shutout innings in relief. Baker and Akin had their best outings of June, Cano bounced back from giving up a rare run Tuesday and Bautista was his typical dominant self.
“Our bullpen was absolutely fantastic,” Hyde said.
Bradish’s bad first inning wasn’t all a result of Henderson’s mishap. The right-hander walked leadoff batter Christian Yelich, who came home to score on an RBI groundout from Rowdy Tellez. Bradish then allowed three straight singles, with Owen Miller and Jon Singleton driving in runs.
But Bradish bore down after the 32-pitch first and retired the next 12 batters he faced, striking out eight. He struck out the side in the second and fifth innings and pitched into the sixth but exited after surrendering a leadoff double. He also got help from his defense, as Henderson rebounded defensively with a diving play up the middle in the fourth.
The other two double-digit strikeout games in Bradish’s career came last season in his rookie campaign. In May 2022, he struck out 11 in seven innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in the third start of his career. Four months later, he sat down 10 in 8 2/3 shutout innings against the Houston Astros.
After allowing three runs in four innings on just 79 pitches last week, Bradish said he was glad to “bounce back” Thursday. His 98 pitches were a season-high.
“I’ve felt like I’ve thrown the ball well for the past month,” Bradish said. “Just was able to strike out some more guys. Still got to work on putting guys away in four pitches, but yeah, big confidence boost right there.”
The Orioles (38-24) end the six-game road trip with a 3-3 record. The comeback win is their 21st of the season.
“Going 3-3 on the road feels a lot better than going 2-4,” Hyde said.
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“These wins matter,” Bradish said. “I know we lost the series, but every win matters now.”
Around the horn
- Hyde said Tyler Wells will start Friday’s series opener against the Kansas City Royals and Kyle Gibson will take the ball Sunday. Saturday’s starter has yet to be announced, with Hyde noting it’s more likely to be a “traditional starter” than the bullpen game that Baltimore went with against the Cleveland Guardians last week, to a disastrous outcome. The spot in the rotation is the fifth starter’s spot that was previously filled by Grayson Rodriguez, but the prospect was sent down in late May after he continued to struggle. It’s likely the Orioles call up one of their Triple-A starters to fill in Saturday.
- Games across the East Coast have been postponed the past few days because of poor air quality caused by winds carrying wildfire smoke from eastern Canada. The Maryland Department of the Environment has issued a Code Red air quality alert. The Orioles are scheduled to play Friday at 7:05 p.m.
Royals at Orioles
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
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