ANAHEIM, Calif. — In the batting cages tucked away in the bowels of Angel Stadium, Gunnar Henderson got to work early. He would go on to play a central role in the Orioles’ 6-5 win against Los Angeles, but first, he wasn’t perfectly happy with how his swing felt.

“Kind of felt like I was getting around to where I wanted to be,” Henderson said, “but still not where I want to be just yet.”

So, before the day game that concluded a two-city road trip, Henderson swung and swung. His offensive numbers haven’t resembled a hitter still searching for fluidity, but he felt his front shoulder fly open on certain swings. That may not have mattered yet, but Henderson knows a pull-side tendency can lead to whiffs on off-speed pitches away.

He carried that mindset into Wednesday’s series finale, too, and Henderson immediately showed how quickly he can make a change for the better. There were his home run and his two-run single. And there was the double the other way, when he swung at a changeup on the outside edge of the strike zone and flipped it to where no Angels were standing.

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The defense had shifted to the right. Henderson took the pitch to left field, cruising into second with his third hit — not the flashiest moment of a day in which he reached base all five times and completed a defensive gem at shortstop in the eighth, but the best indication anyway of Henderson’s body control.

“Just trying to keep that shoulder on the ball,” Henderson said. “Wherever it’s pitched, then I’ll go that way.”

This is just the 22-year-old’s second full season with the Orioles, and yet he has established himself as one of the premier hitters in the game. When asked Wednesday morning whether he would like Henderson at some point to bat lower in the lineup rather than leading off, manager Brandon Hyde emphasized that he wants to get Henderson as many plate appearances as possible. And, at the top of the lineup, the opportunities are plentiful.

So the Angels fielders stood and watched as the ball flew over their heads and out of the park, or down the left field line, or through the middle for another knock. Their pitchers, many of whom had the perceived advantage in a left-on-left matchup, shook their heads. Or they plunked him — accidentally, of course.

“He’s done a little bit of everything,” Hyde said. “Playing great defense, homers, steals, running the bases, hits, awesome.”

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Henderson was the centerpiece of an offense that has fired on all cylinders for much of the season, with five or more runs scored in 14 of 24 games.

With left-hander Tyler Anderson on the mound, Henderson went deep off a southpaw for a second straight game. On Tuesday he launched a hanging curveball from left-hander Matt Moore, and on Wednesday it was Anderson’s cutter that stayed too much in the zone. Henderson sent it over the wall.

After Henderson doubled an inning later, Adley Rutschman — another metronomic producer in this lineup — scored him with a single. Of all the hits, the double from Henderson against a lefty was perhaps most encouraging.

“Just being able to stay on the baseball, and use your hands, and not try to do too much,” Hyde said.

Henderson followed Jorge Mateo’s double in the sixth with two more runs batted in, this time looping a single over the infield off left-hander José Suarez.

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“The way he’s been able to stay on the baseball vs. left-handed pitchers is much improved,” Hyde said. Last season, Henderson hit .210 against lefties. This season, in a smaller sample, Henderson’s average is up to .324 against them.

In addition, Henderson entered Wednesday with the second-highest average exit velocity in the majors at 96.3 mph. But he’s not alone in the fast offensive start.

Jordan Westburg extended his on-base streak to 14 games, and Colton Cowser walked three times. Although the Orioles stranded 12 baserunners and were 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position, they generated enough offense to support right-hander Dean Kremer and the hurlers behind him.

Kremer matched his career high in strikeouts and swings and misses with 10 and 18, respectively, but with all those punchouts and extended plate appearances, Kremer’s pitch count reached 101 in the sixth inning. And, after Mike Trout took an elevated fastball deep for a solo shot and Nolan Schanuel followed with a single, Hyde took Kremer out.

It was another strong display for Kremer, who — besides a stumble against the Milwaukee Brewers that included six earned runs — has proven steady to begin the year. He allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings, with the second scoring when reliever Jacob Webb conceded a two-run shot upon entering in Kremer’s place.

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The success stemmed from a lively four-seam and cutter combination. When Kremer’s cutter is at its best — living on the edges of the zone — it can be elusive. He drew 12 swings against his cutter and earned seven whiffs with the pitch to go with 10 whiffs on his four-seam fastball.

“I don’t know if I have any outlier stuff, but if I can be good with three of the five pitches, or four of the five pitches, it’s hard for them to sit on one particular thing,” Kremer said. “And I think we did a good job mixing up today.”

Right-hander Yennier Cano allowed a solo homer to Zach Neto in the eighth inning, serving as another mark against a bullpen that struggled this road trip. Even with an unearned run against right-hander Craig Kimbrel, those struggles largely haven’t impacted the closer. He finished his 424th career save, tying John Franco for sixth all time.

In doing so, Baltimore narrowly held onto what had been a six-run lead its potent offense built.

What makes the Orioles offense so prolific is how a wide variety of characters chip in each game. Henderson, though, is a star, a recurring character who is reaching new heights almost daily.

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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