The Orioles clubhouse players let out a collective groan.
Ahead of Thursday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays game against the Colorado Rockies was shown on televisions in the Baltimore locker room. Rays infielder Josh Lowe just hit a two-run homer en route to a crucial win amid a close American League East run.
“They did that in all three games,” an Orioles player said, noting the Rays came back to win every game against the Rockies.
It was Baltimore’s – and Gunnar Henderson’s – turn on Friday. With the Orioles trailing by one run in the eighth inning against the Rockies, the sensational rookie hit a two-run homer to propel Baltimore to a 5-4 win at Camden Yards.
“Well, we’re sticking together,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “These guys think we’re going to score late. We’ve done it before, so there’s confidence. But yeah, it’s a special group that wins tough games late.
Baltimore starter Cole Irvin was pretty good, throwing six four-run innings, but the Orioles trailed 4-2 in the fifth against the worst team in the National League. In the sixth, Austin Hays joined Ryan Mountcastle, who hit a shallow home run to right field in the first, with a solo shot that barely cleared the outstretched arm of Colorado right fielder Charlie Blackmon to cut the deficit in half. of the Orioles.
Henderson’s two-run homer — the 22nd of his American League Rookie of the Year campaign — put the Orioles bullpen in position to slam the door on a third straight win.
“It’s really important,” Henderson said of wins like Friday’s. “Especially those early-year games that some teams might offer, they’re just as important as these. Just being able to take care of it and steal a few games here and there, it really puts you in a good position.
After Irvin, Shintaro Fujinami threw two sparkling innings to keep Baltimore in the game. He gave way to Félix Bautista in the ninth, and the closest retired the first two batters and had two strikes on Michael Toglia before leaving the game with discomfort in his right arm after tripping during his delivery. Southpaw Danny Coulombe came in and struck out Toglia on the first pitch he threw for the second save of his nine-year career.
The comeback win is Baltimore’s 39th of the season and fifth after seven innings. The Orioles are 80-48 and on course to win 101 games. They are three games ahead of the Rays at the top of the AL standings.
“Overall it was a great team win,” Irvin said. “Gunnar Henderson, what else can I say? Fuji arrives and does what he does. I’m praying for Bautista, whatever’s going on, I don’t know what it is. And then Danny can come in and throw a pitch and make us win.
“This is what our team looks like. We pick ourselves up when we need to, and the team definitely did that tonight.
Irvin opened the game by allowing a base runner in each of his first five innings. The southpaw, whose season was split between Norfolk’s triple-A, Orioles rotation and their bullpen, is back as the newest member of Baltimore’s six-man rotation.
He struggled to start the season after being acquired from the Oakland Athletics and was opted for the minors in April. But after returning from Triple-A in June, Irvin recorded a 3.00 ERA in his previous 45 innings on Friday. He had allowed three or fewer runs in his seven starts during that streak before ending that streak on Friday.
After Mountcastle’s 361-foot homer barely cleared the right-field wall and Henderson’s sacrificial fly gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead, Baltimore bats went cold against southpaw Kyle Freeland , who gave up 12 in a row over the next four frames. The Rockies (48-80) regained the lead, as Elías Díaz hit Blackmon on a single in the third, Alan Trejo scored a run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth, and Ezequiel Tovar hit a two-run homer in the fifth. .
Irvin ended his night with a sixth at three and three innings – the most innings he has pitched in a game since July 7. He scattered six hits and a walk while striking out five.
“I didn’t think Cole’s command was as good as it had been,” Hyde said. “It’s a really aggressive offensive team. I thought he was a bit in the middle of the plate. … But he played six innings for us and gave us a chance.
Fujinami, also a trade acquisition from the Athletics, followed Irvin with two scoreless runs for his third consecutive good outing. The volatile reliever has struggled at times in high-leverage situations, but in his last four innings in less stressful environments, he struck out six, allowed two hits and gave up zero on balls. This win was Fujinami’s first as an Oriole.
“Fuji tonight was the game starter for us,” Hyde said. “He won us the game there. … I like the kicking ability he’s showing right now and how aggressive he is in the strike zone.
Hays, who walked 2-for-3, hit an opposite-field home run that traveled just 371 feet and would have left the park in just 12 of 30 MLB stadiums, according to the Statcast tracking data. After hitting .314 with an .853 OPS before the All-Star break, Hays slumped to start the second half and saw those numbers drop to .279 and .754, respectively. But over his last nine games, Hays has slashed .344/.462/.813 – good for a whopping 1,275 OPS.
His walk to the eighth allowed Henderson to throw a long left fly ball against Rockies reliever Brent Suter, who entered with just two homers allowed in 58 innings. Henderson, who leads the Orioles in Baseball-Reference wins over substitution, hits .251 with an .815 OPS.
“Gunn is having an amazing rookie season,” Hyde said.
around the horn
- Hyde named Kyle Bradish as Saturday’s starting pitcher, continuing his starters’ replacement cycle one night after Jack Flaherty was scratched on Wednesday. With the day off Monday and the Orioles’ stretched system with a six-man rotation, Bradish is well rested to start. Hyde said the club hopes Flaherty, who said he couldn’t start on Wednesday because he hasn’t physically “bounced back” from his last outing, can start in “the next few days”.
- John Means started Game 4 of his minor league rehab mission on Friday. Means, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, moved to Triple-A Norfolk, pitching 4 1/3 innings and progressing to 72 pitches. The southpaw allowed one run on four hits and two walks while striking out two. He averaged 90.8mph on his fastball and hit a top speed of 92.5mph – within his typical range, but two ticks slower than his average heat in 2021. He generated six puffs on 28 swings, but his bread and butter when he was Baltimore’s ace during the rebuild was inducing soft contact. He did it on Friday, with an average outbound speed from all 12 balls put in play against him at just 78.3 mph. Means could get one or two more starts before his rehab assignment ends in early September. It’s unclear what role Means will play if he returns to the Orioles.
Saturday, 7:05 p.m.
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