The players in the Orioles clubhouse 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 televised in the Baltimore locker room. Rays infielder Josh Lowe just kicked off a two-run home run en route to a decisive win in the middle of a tight American League East race.
“They did that in all three games,” said one Orioles player, noting that the Rays won every game against the Rockies.
On Friday it was Baltimore’s and Gunnar Henderson’s turn. With the Orioles trailing the Rockies in the eighth inning, the sensational rookie hit the go-ahead for a two-run home run to give Baltimore a 5-4 comeback win at Camden Yards.
Baltimore starter Cole Irvin was good enough, throwing six innings with a four-run ball, but the Orioles trailed 4-2 in the fifth against the worst National League team. In the sixth, Austin Hays joined Ryan Mountcastle, who hit a flat home run into right field in the first, with a solo shot that narrowly crossed Colorado right fielder Charlie Blackmon’s outstretched arm to cut the Orioles’ deficit in half.
Henderson’s back-to-back home run — the 22nd of his season as American League Rookie of the Year — enabled the Orioles’ bullpen to slam the door to a third straight win.
After Irvin, Shintaro Fujinami threw two brilliant innings to keep Baltimore in the game. In the ninth game he gave way to Félix Bautista and the closer player knocked out the first two batters and had two shots against Michael Toglia before leaving the game with an apparent injury after stumbling during his throw. Left-hander Danny Coulombe came on and beat Toglia in the first pitch he threw for the second time in his nine-year career.
The comeback win is Baltimore’s 39th of the season and fifth by trailing by seven innings. The Orioles have an 80-48 record and are on track to win 101 games. They’re three games ahead of the Rays at the top of the AL rankings.
Around the horn
- Manager Brandon Hyde named Kyle Bradish as Saturday’s starting player, continuing the cycle of beefing up his starters on a night after Jack Flaherty was scratched on Wednesday. With a free Monday and the Orioles’ extended system with a six-man rotation, Bradish is rested enough to start. Hyde said the club hope Flaherty, who said he would not be able to start on Wednesday because he has not recovered physically from his last outing, can start in “the next few days”.
- John Means started the fourth game of his minor league rehabilitation assignment on Friday. Means, who is recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery at Tommy John’s, was promoted to the Triple-A Norfolk where he pitched 4 1/3 innings and caught up to 72 pitches. The left-hander allowed one run on four hits and two walks while hitting two strikeouts. He averaged 90.8 mph with his fastball and hit a top speed of 92.5 mph — within his typical range but two ticks slower than his average stoker in 2021. He hit six whiffs in 28 swings , but his bread and butter when he was Baltimore’s ace during Reconstruction sparked a gentle contact. He managed to do that on Friday, with the average exit speed of the 12 balls played against him averaging just 78.3mph. Means could start one or two more times before his rehab stint ends in early September. It’s unclear what role Means will play when he returns to the Orioles.
This story will be updated.
Rockies at Orioles
Saturday, 7:05 p.m
Radio: 97.9FM, 101.5FM, 1090AM
https://www.twincities.com/2023/08/25/gunnar-hendersons-2-run-homer-in-8th-lifts-orioles-to-5-4-comeback-win-over-rockies-extending-al-east-lead/ Gunnar Henderson’s 2-run home run in 8th place gives Orioles a 5-4 comeback win over the Rockies and extends AL East – Twin Cities’ lead