There are few batters in baseball the Orioles would rather have at the plate in that situation. It was Gunnar Henderson, bases loaded, two outs in the sixth.

And he struck out on three pitches.

The rapid fanning of Henderson — three sinkers from left-hander Brennan Bernardino — ended Baltimore’s best chance of the game against the Boston Red Sox in an eventual 8-3 loss. The other two batters before Henderson only required a well-placed out to drive in the tying run. But Austin Hays pinch hit for Cedric Mullins with no outs and his foul-tip strikeout left him yelling in frustration. Jorge Mateo, a resurgent hitter this season, hit a dribbler that resulted in an out at home plate.

Then Henderson, with the lead there for the taking, watched two strikes and swung at a third with the game-tying run 90 feet away.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“Give Bernardino credit; he’s been having a heck of a year and he did a great job against us,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Mounty [Ryan Mountcastle, who walked] had a great at-bat and unfortunately we didn’t score after that. He got the next three guys out. But with how good their bullpen is, we’re down one with the bases loaded in a no-out spot, you feel pretty good about our offense at that point.”

The complexion of the game could’ve been so different had the Orioles cashed in on a golden opportunity in the sixth. Instead, they went down without a run, and then the bullpen fumbled a close game and turned it into less of a contest. For an offense that erupted against Boston during the series opener Monday, the lopsided loss on Tuesday at Camden Yards was one defined by missed opportunities and the continued struggles of one reliever in particular.

Left-hander Keegan Akin opened the season in fine form, allowing six runs over his first 21 appearances. But in his three most recent games, Akin has faltered. Tuesday night’s capitulation came in the form of a sacrifice fly and a two-run home run from Rob Refsnyder. It ballooned Akin’s account to seven runs in his last five innings, and it left the mind to wonder about the missed chance in the sixth.

“Just didn’t have his command tonight,” Hyde said.

With a run — or runs — in the sixth, Akin may not have pitched the top of the ninth. Hyde may have turned to a more high-leverage arm for the occasion.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The early issues from right-hander Grayson Rodriguez didn’t help, although four runs over six innings is hardly too large a hole from which to climb for this offense.

“Any time you give up four runs, I think pretty disappointed about that,” Rodriguez said. “Was glad I was able to go six innings, but should’ve done a better job keeping my team in the game.”

The path toward redemption in Rodriguez’s start began with his fastball. Rodriguez, who has long excelled on the back of his heater, began pumping the pitch in with regularity. In the third and fourth innings, when Rodriguez struck out five of the six batters he faced, 22 of the 27 pitches he threw were four-seamers.

Rodriguez recorded a career-high 12 whiffs with his fastball alone.

The change worked. His off-speed offerings — which, when at their best, are just as deceptive — were at the center of his issues early on. Wilyer Abreu dug out a low changeup for a solo homer in the first inning. Refsnyder doubled on a slider. Rafael Devers managed a bloop RBI single on a fastball out of the zone, an unlucky blip for the pitch, before Jarren Duran’s second-inning RBI double came off a curveball.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Five of the seven hits against Rodriguez were against his off-speed offerings. When he leaned on his fastball, Rodriguez’s outing got back on track.

“They were hitting soft [stuff] pretty well,” Rodriguez said. “Really just kind of flipping that to hard stuff up in the zone.”

Rodriguez finished six innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts and 18 whiffs. It was a better performance than the first two innings may have hinted at, and it kept Baltimore in reach — for a time. They remained in striking distance even after left-hander Cionel Pérez allowed a run in the eighth as Devers capped a four-hit day with a triple.

The Orioles cut into the early runs Rodriguez allowed straightaway. Colton Cowser beat out an infield single to bring home one run, and then Jordan Westburg displayed his two-strike prowess. Down in the count, 0-2, against right-hander Brayan Bello, Westburg poked a sinker on the outer edge of the zone the opposite way. The two-run knock gave Baltimore a momentary lead in the first.

The offense dried until that prime opportunity in the sixth. The Orioles had Hays, Mateo and Henderson at the plate, needing one run to tie the game. They all went down, and so did the Orioles’ best chance. The domino effect, of course, was the use of an out-of-form reliever in the ninth. A comeback effort at that point was a long shot they didn’t hit.

“That’s just the way the game goes sometimes,” Anthony Santander said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t get the job done on that end tonight.”