Gunnar Henderson’s 2-run homer in 8th lifts Orioles to 5-4 comeback win over Rockies, extending AL East lead

The players in the Orioles’ clubhouse let out a collective groan.

Before their game Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays’ matchup against the Colorado Rockies was on the televisions in Baltimore’s locker room. Rays infielder Josh Lowe just hit a go-ahead two-run home run en route to a crucial victory in the middle of a tight American League East race.

“They’ve done this all three games,” an Orioles player said, noting the Rays came back to win each game against the Rockies.

It was Baltimore’s — and Gunnar Henderson’s — turn Friday. With the Orioles trailing by one in the eighth inning against the Rockies, the sensational rookie hit a go-ahead two-run homer to propel Baltimore to a 5-4 comeback victory at Camden Yards.

“Well, we stay together,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “These guys believe that we’re going to score late. We’ve done this before, so there’s confidence there. But, yeah, it’s a special group that is winning tough games late.”

Baltimore starter Cole Irvin was good enough, pitching six innings of four-run ball, but the Orioles trailed 4-2 in the fifth against the National League’s worst team. In the sixth, Austin Hays joined Ryan Mountcastle, who hit a shallow homer to right field in the first, with a solo shot that barely cleared the outstretched arm of Colorado right fielder Charlie Blackmon to cut the Orioles’ deficit in half.

Henderson’s two-run homer — the 22nd of his American League Rookie of the Year-caliber campaign — put the Orioles’ bullpen in a position to slam the door on a third straight win.

“It’s really important,” Henderson said of come-from-behind wins such as Friday’s. “Especially those games early in the year that some teams might give away, those are just as important as these. Just being able to take care of those and steal a couple games here and there, that really puts you in a good position.”

After Irvin, Shintaro Fujinami pitched two sparkling innings to keep Baltimore in the game. He gave way to Félix Bautista in the ninth, and the closer retired the first two batters and had two strikes on Michael Toglia before exiting the game with an apparent injury after stumbling during his delivery. Left-hander Danny Coulombe entered and struck out Toglia on the first pitch he threw for the second save of his nine-year career.

The comeback win is Baltimore’s 39th of the season and fifth when trailing after seven innings. The Orioles are 80-48 and on pace to win 101 games. They are three games ahead of the Rays atop the AL standings.

“All in all, this was a great team win,” Irvin said. “Gunnar Henderson, what else can I say? Fuji coming in, doing what he does. Praying for Bautista whatever he’s got going on, don’t know what that is. And then Danny being able to come in and throw one pitch and get us the win.

“This is what our team looks like. We pick each other up when we need to, and the team definitely did that tonight.”

Around the horn

  • Hyde named Kyle Bradish as Saturday’s starting pitcher, continuing the cycle of bumping up his starters one night after Jack Flaherty was scratched Wednesday. With a day off Monday and the Orioles’ elongated system with a six-man rotation, Bradish is plenty rested to make the start. Hyde said the club is hoping Flaherty, who said he was unable to start Wednesday because he didn’t physically “bounce back” from his most recent outing, can start in “the next couple days.”
  • John Means started the fourth game of his minor league rehabilitation assignment Friday. Means, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, was moved up to Triple-A Norfolk, throwing 4 1/3 innings and progressing up to 72 pitches. The left-hander allowed one run on four hits and two walks while striking out two. He averaged 90.8 mph on his fastball and topped at 92.5 mph — within his typical range, but two ticks slower than his average heater in 2021. He generated six whiffs on 28 swings, but his bread and butter when he was Baltimore’s ace during the rebuild was inducing soft contact. He did so Friday, with the average exit velocity of the 12 balls put in play against him at just 78.3 mph. Means could get one or two more starts before his rehab assignment ends in early September. It’s unclear what role Means will play if he returns to the Orioles.

This story will be updated.

Rockies at Orioles

Saturday, 7:05 p.m.


Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM


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