SAN FRANCISCO — One loss came in the standings. Another came in the Orioles’ infield.
One night after his monstrous home run helped win the series opener at Oracle Park for Baltimore, Gunnar Henderson departed Saturday’s game in the third inning due to low-back discomfort. It was arguably the biggest blow the Orioles felt, even as the San Francisco Giants piled on three runs in the third inning and went on to even the series with a 4-0 victory.
Manager Brandon Hyde, though, softened it postgame when he said Henderson is day to day. The official injury designation was discomfort, but Hyde described it as soreness that Henderson has dealt with for a few days.
“Gunnar, these things happen,” Hyde said. “He’ll be fine.”
The game went sideways once Henderson exited. Right-hander Kyle Bradish gave up five straight hits in the third inning, including the first of two doubles from Baltimore native LaMonte Wade Jr. A twisting catch at the center-field fence from Aaron Hicks prevented Bradish’s outing from spiraling further.
But Hyde still pulled Bradish after the fourth inning with seven hits against him. It left the bullpen to cover a large chunk of the game, although barring one run against right-hander Bryan Baker in the sixth, it kept Baltimore in the game.
So frequently this year, the Orioles (36-22) have found a way to scratch back into a contest. Friday’s game, for instance, was their major league-leading 20th comeback win of the season. Their 56 come-from-behind wins since the start of last season trail only the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most in baseball. And, with Saturday’s loss, 52 of Baltimore’s 58 games have been decided by four runs or fewer, which is tied with the Los Angeles Angels for the most in the majors.
This time, a dominant showing from right-hander Alex Cobb shut down any hopes of a comeback.
“With this team, you never know,” said Ryan O’Hearn, who doubled against Cobb in the eighth. “I got plenty of confidence in our guys, and that second and especially third time through a lineup, if that guy has been getting us, I feel like we have a great chance to come back and put up runs, like you’ve seen with this team in the past. Things happen quick. We can string hits together. Just didn’t happen tonight.”
The injury flareup for Henderson’s sore back may have sparked when he swung through strike three in the top of the second inning. He returned to the field for the bottom half of that frame, and then was withdrawn for Ramón Urías in the third inning. Henderson made one defensive play in the second inning, and television cameras appeared to show him in discomfort after the throw to first from third.
“It’s just kind of been lingering the past few days,” Hyde said, “and he tried to play through it and being in the game just made it a little sore.”
Still, the injury comes at a poor time for Henderson, who said following his go-ahead homer Friday that he was “starting to feel really good in the box, and that was definitely one of my best [swings] I’ve had. Starting to feel really good, so I felt like that’s a big step in the right direction.”
He is hitting .201 with a .712 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, both of which are lower than might’ve been expected for the former top prospect. Henderson arrived in late August last year and made an immediate impression for the Orioles, hitting .259 in 34 games. He entered this season considered a rookie of the year candidate, and he still has ample time to reach those heights.
With or without Henderson, there wasn’t much offense the Orioles could muster against Cobb, who spent 2019 and 2020 with Baltimore. Cobb mowed through the Orioles with five hits against, no walks and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
It was a different version of Cobb than the one seen with the Orioles, when he combined for 64 2/3 innings in two seasons and held a 5.57 ERA between them.
“He was banged up a little bit when I had him,” Hyde said. “The last couple years, his stuff is back to what it was in his Tampa days and just throwing the ball extremely well right now.”
Cobb retired 12 straight Orioles batters from the first inning through the fifth. He relied heavily upon his splitter, inducing 14 swings and misses with that offering alone. But Cobb finally ran into trouble in the eighth inning after an infield single from Hicks and a double from O’Hearn.
O’Hearn had seen Cobb in two at-bats earlier, so he knew to look for that splitter in 0-1 and 1-1 counts. O’Hearn found it on the edge of the zone and powered it into the left-field corner, but “even that one was well located. It’s not like he threw it in the middle,” O’Hearn said. “Got to give him credit.”
Cobb forced Jorge Mateo to ground out and received a standing ovation as he departed with two outs. He handed over two runners in scoring position to left-hander Scott Alexander, who retired Adam Frazier despite an off-balance throw to first.
“Even when guys hit the ball well, it seemed like they made a great play or it was right at somebody,” O’Hearn said. “It was one of those days.”
The Orioles finished hitless with runners in scoring position, but there were only three such opportunities as it was. They were kept off base for the most part, leaving their pitching staff little room to wiggle.
So all that was left for the Orioles was a change of focus to Sunday’s rubber match and the solace that Henderson’s injury doesn’t appear to be significant.