The decibel level rose at each turn around the bases, first from Jorge Mateo and then Gunnar Henderson. The pair of them, in a neck-and-neck race only Statcast’s advanced sensors (and one fascinated sportswriter) was tracking, slid into third base only two minutes apart.

The Orioles added on in the seventh inning of a 9-2 win against the Seattle Mariners with four straight extra-base hits, but there are few plays more exciting in baseball than the triple. And, with the two fastest Orioles players going back to back, it became even more interesting.

First came Mateo, whose opposite-field liner against left-hander Kirby Snead opened the frame with a blaze of speed. He slid in headfirst at third base 11.34 seconds after he left home plate. That time matched Mateo exactly with Henderson’s (and the Orioles’) season-best home-to-third clip.

Henderson, it seemed, couldn’t settle for a draw.

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Again, the 38,882 at a raucous Camden Yards roared as Henderson rounded second on an opposite-field liner. Once he slid in at third, the moment of truth: 11.32 seconds. Henderson took back the fastest Orioles triple time in a flash, a mere minute or two after Mateo leveled him.

“Lucky to have two unbelievable athletes like that,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

“That’s like ‘Triples Alley’ out there; the wall’s forever away,” Henderson said. “When you see it get in there, I feel like there’s a pretty good chance at a triple.”

When an offense is working at its best, these are the oddities one can focus on. The Orioles took the series opener against the Mariners with a five-run first inning off right-hander Bryce Miller and then burst out for four more runs in the seventh inning that included Austin Hays’ second double in as many at-bats since returning from the injured list.

Shortly after, Hays scored on a wild pitch, racing toward the plate despite lingering calf soreness that held him out of the lineup for a few days.

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It’s the late-inning hustle from Mateo, Henderson and Hays, among others, that makes the Orioles special. It also ballooned a three-run lead into something much larger, giving a bullpen used to close games breathing room.

Before the game, Hyde and Mariners manager Scott Servais both talked up the opposing pitching staffs — and for good reason. The Orioles (3.26 ERA) and Mariners (3.36 ERA) entered with the fifth- and sixth-best ERAs in the majors. Their starting rotations are stout, and Hyde and Servais predicted a tightly contested, low-scoring series.

Naturally, the opposite became the case.

There is no ease-in period against this Orioles lineup, not with Henderson striding to the plate to see the first deliveries out of a pitcher’s hand. Miller got only two pitches out of his hand before he felt the burn of Henderson.

Miller spin around, watching a high fly ball from Henderson drift up and out and away. It’s an unusual feeling for Miller, and for most in Seattle’s starting rotation. Miller entered with a 2.66 ERA yet left an onslaught of a first inning Friday night with an ERA nearly a run higher.

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“Felt like we just stuck to the plan that we went out there with and didn’t sway away from it too much,” Henderson said. “Felt like we all put together our processes and just put together good, lengthy at-bats.”

John Means got the win by allowing six hits and two runs in six innings, striking out four. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

To Miller’s credit, he recovered to pitch 5 1/3 innings before the bullpen behind him buckled once more to Baltimore’s lineup.

The Orioles’ first five batters reached safely in the first. After Henderson’s leadoff homer, Adley Rutschman singled, Ryan O’Hearn singled and Ryan Mountcastle reached on a throwing error that scored one. Once Anthony Santander walked, Colton Cowser’s double that narrowly stayed fair scored two more. To close the five-run frame, Jordan Westburg knocked a sacrifice fly.

“Off a really tough starter, too,” Hyde said. “Being able to jump on him right away and get a bunch of runs right there in the first inning ... and great to see us add on the way we did.”

Left-hander John Means faced some of the only traffic he allowed all night in the first, when Dylan Moore doubled and scored on Mitch Garver’s single. But Means got out of that, and apart from Moore’s fifth-inning homer, Means was prolific.

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Means, whose offseason training delay for the health of his surgically repaired elbow pushed back his return to the rotation, hasn’t walked a batter in three starts this season. That command bodes well for Means, even though his fastball velocity dipped to a low of 88.1 mph.

“The breaking ball and the changeup got him out of a lot of trouble,” Hyde said. “Got him some outs. I didn’t think he had his best fastball tonight. Didn’t have his best fastball command tonight. But that changeup is so good, throwing the slurves, he dumped some curveballs in and kept them off balance that way.”

It was the first time Means faced Seattle since his 2021 no-hitter. He also earned his first win at Camden Yards since April 25, 2021. In the time since, he has undergone Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and featured sparingly in 2022 and 2023.

Baltimore has risen from the depths to the heights of the majors in that time. Means is one of the few players remaining in the clubhouse to fully appreciate the difference.

“Incredible to see Camden Yards like this. This is such a special place,” Means said. “To see this crowd now compared to what it was in April of 2021, whenever that game was, it’s good to see.”

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With a 3.06 ERA to start this year, Means looks healthy again. He had the benefit of offense behind him, beginning with a first-inning eruption and followed by two triples in the seventh that captivated a packed crowd at Camden Yards.


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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