NEW YORK — On Tuesday afternoon, as the Orioles continued their longest skid of the season, manager Brandon Hyde made it clear he was not worried.
Sure, they had just lost for the sixth time in seven games, a big hit eluding them during that stretch as their bullpen faltered. But they also were still steadily in the playoff picture, with plenty of time before the All-Star break to turn things around.
And that they did.
Two days later, the Orioles have two more wins, including a resounding 14-1 victory over the Yankees on Thursday night. They are leaving New York with a series split, no worse off in the playoff standings than when they arrived four days ago. The Orioles head to Minnesota for three games, their last series before the Midsummer Classic.
“After two games of not our best baseball, played two really good games,” Hyde said. “That’s a really good feeling going into Minnesota.”
The baseball season is long. And this inexperienced team is just learning how to ride the waves.
There’s no better example of that than Gunnar Henderson, the youngest of the bunch at a fresh 22 years old. On Thursday, he kicked things off with the first leadoff home run of his career. He followed that with two singles and another home run to give him a career-high five RBIs before the fourth inning was even finished.
“I just felt like I was really sticking with my approach,” Henderson said. “No matter what they were throwing, I was sticking to it and just really trusting myself today.”
He’s now carved a place in the Orioles history books, becoming the:
- Fifth rookie to hit a leadoff home run, joining Cedric Mullins (Sept. 18, 2018 and Aug. 31, 2018), Joey Rickard (May 20, 2016), Ryan Flaherty (May 10, 2012) and Matt Angle (Sept. 24, 2011)
- Fourth rookie with four hits and two home runs in a game, joining Ryan Mountcastle (4 H, 3 HR on June 19, 2021), Chris Richard (4 H, 2 HR on Sept. 3, 2000) and Curt Blefary (4 H, 2 HR on July 3, 1965)
- Second rookie to have four hits and five RBIs in a game, joining Richard (4 H, 6 RBI on Sept. 3, 2000)
- Second player to have seven at-bats in a game, joining Mike Bordick (May 16, 1999)
For Henderson, this game represented just the latest, and most jarring, marker in his turnaround. He ended May hitting just .201 with five home runs, finding his first full season in the majors a bit more difficult than he anticipated.
Clearly, he adjusted.
Now, he’s AL Rookie of the Month and has hit 13 home runs, second on the team to Anthony Santander.
“I think that experience really helped him,” Hyde said. “Dealt with some adversity early, but great kid. Worked extremely well and hard to figure it out. It’s not going to be easy the rest of the way, but he’s swinging the bat really well right now.”
Henderson didn’t do it alone Thursday. Ryan O’Hearn had three hits with four RBIs, tying the career high he set this season. Adam Frazier, a late add after Aaron Hicks was scratched, also had three hits, a solid night for a player who has underperformed since signing his one-year, $8 million deal last offseason.
Every starter but Colton Cowser had a hit, but even he found himself on base multiple times in his second major league game after he walked twice and was hit by a pitch.
Kyle Bradish, not to be forgotten, also had himself a night, allowing just three hits in six scoreless innings. It was his third six-inning shutout of the season, and he ends his first half with a 3.32 ERA.
He perhaps had one of the hardest jobs of the night, having to stay fresh while his teammates put up seven runs in the third and five in the fourth.
“It’s tough to get into a rhythm, but I’ll take that any day I pitch,” Bradish said. “Forty-five minutes between innings, your mind starts to wander and you get caught up watching the game. Great offensive performance today.”
The night ended with Hyde heading back to the locker room early. He was ejected in the eighth inning after Yankees pitcher Wandy Peralta hit Cowser. The umpires issued warnings to both teams instead of throwing Peralta out. Hyde came out to ask why and was ejected immediately.
“First of all, we were up by two touchdowns,” Hyde said. “If they were going to put a warning out, I just didn’t understand why they weren’t going to throw him out. They thought that was deemed a warning at that point. I was just going to ask that. I got ejected for coming out for that. I just didn’t know that was an ejectable offense.”