For all the excitement his debut in Cleveland brought, Gunnar Henderson had yet to provide a signature moment at Camden Yards.
A possibility presented itself in the sixth inning of Friday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox. As the Orioles’ top prospect came to the plate, he did so not only with the bases loaded and one out, but also with Baltimore facing a one-run deficit after scoring its first run in 14 innings on a wild pitch.
Henderson tripled the frame’s run total and flipped the scoreboard with one groundball through the right side, his two-run single giving the Orioles a 3-2 lead they didn’t relinquish as the bullpen pitched five scoreless innings even with closer Félix Bautista unavailable because of arm fatigue.
“Never gets old,” Henderson said of the roar of the announced 16,451 in attendance after his key knock, whichgave the youngest player in the majors hits in eight of his first 10 career games and doubled his RBI total. He’s batting .306 with an OPS of .831 in the majors.
“Him, Adley [Rutschman], all these guys that are coming up, it seems like they’re not scared of the spotlight,” starting pitcher Austin Voth said. “They’re helping us win every day.”
Henderson’s game-winning single marked the Orioles’ first hit Friday by a player other than Cedric Mullins. Mullins opened Baltimore’s night against Boston starter Brayan Bello with a single but was erased trying to steal second base. He began the fourth with a hard line drive off the right field wall, only for Alex Verdugo to smoothly field the ricochet and throw him out at second.
But when he smacked a ball into left field with one out in the sixth, Mullins made little effort to advance beyond first base. He finally did so when Rutschman walked, beginning a string of three straight free passes that included the run-scoring wild pitch from reliever Kaleb Ort.
Henderson said those plate appearances gave him insights he carried with him as he stepped to the plate. Ort’s trouble throwing strike continued as he fell behind Henderson, 3-0. Henderson took a fastball for a strike and gleaned that was the only pitch Ort could get over the plate, so when he threw another, Henderson slapped it into right field.
“I just told myself to get on top of it and not miss it,” Henderson said. “We were in a good situation right there to put ourselves in the lead and felt like it was a good opportunity. I was glad I was able to get the job done and help the team win.”
Henderson came through with Baltimore’s last two hits, adding a double that proved fruitless in the eighth. The Orioles’ bullpen made his single stand, allowing Baltimore (73-65) to keep pace with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League wild-card race and potentially gain a game on the Seattle Mariners.
The win was the Orioles’ 73rd, tying them for the most since 1900 by a team that lost at least 110 games the year before, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It’s been really good, just being in this playoff push and seeing how the atmosphere is in a winning atmosphere and being able to be here and experience that,” Henderson said. “I feel like it can only help me going forward, and I’m looking forward to continuing it and hopefully making playoffs.”
No Félix, no problem
Bautista, the Orioles’ rookie closer, came out of Tuesday’s two-out save with arm fatigue, manager Brandon Hyde said. Ranking in the top 15 of major league relievers in both appearances and innings, Bautista has a 1.62 ERA and 12 saves.
“We just wanted to give him a few days,” Hyde said. “The guy’s had so many appearances, top of the leaderboard in innings pitched and appearances out of the bullpen. So very, very normal. We wanted to give him a few days. I’m hoping he’s available tomorrow.”
Without him, Hyde had to alter his typical late-inning formula. In bringing in left-hander Cionel Pérez to get the last out of the seventh, Hyde was presumably going to hand the game to his backend trio of Pérez, Dillon Tate and Bautista. Instead, Bryan Baker entered for the eighth, and Tate recorded the final four outs.
“This club has a lot of fight,” Tate said. “Guys are ready to go when their name is called. It’s just good to get this win. Really happy to be back in the win column.”
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Having allowed a two-run home run to Xander Bogaerts in the third, Voth exited with no outs in the fifth, the fifth time in the past seven games Baltimore’s starter failed to record an out after the fourth inning. DL Hall, the Orioles’ No. 4 prospect, bounced back from a poor outing Monday with 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and Jake Reed matched that, entering with the Orioles trailing and leaving with a lead, one a Bautista-less bullpen held onto from there.
“No Bautista, we had to pick up the pieces there, and we did a great job,” Hyde said. “We didn’t swing the bat real well tonight, but we got a win. The pitching picked us up tonight.”
Around the horn
- Both Hyde and right-hander Jordan Lyles expressed hope Lyles would be able to start Saturday. He missed a turn through the rotation for the first time when a stomach virus prevented him from pitching in Monday’s doubleheader.
- Infielder Jonathan Araúz cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk.
- Double-A Bowie’s Connor Norby and Cade Povich were named the organization’s minor league player and pitcher of the month for August.
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