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Orioles beat Angels, 6-3, behind Gunnar Henderson’s bat, Grayson Rodriguez’s arm to extend AL East lead to 3.5 games

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Brandon Hyde cheered for two major league teams Monday.

In the afternoon, the Orioles’ manager watched an American League East game on television in his office, hoping the Boston Red Sox would beat the Tampa Bay Rays. At night, he peered from the top step of the visiting dugout as his AL-best club took on the Los Angeles Angels.

Both his teams won.

After the Red Sox defeated the Rays on the East Coast, the Orioles took down the Angels, 6-3, on the West Coast to improve their lead atop the AL standings to a season-high 3 1/2 games.

“It’s a great attitude to have,” Hyde said before the contest about his players’ mindset of focusing on their games and not the Rays’. “I’m maybe a little bit more guilty than they are. I was just watching the Rays game inside.

“Huge Red Sox fan this afternoon,” he added with a laugh.

The Orioles’ two youngest players led them to victory. Starting pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, 23, tossed six innings of two-run ball for his fifth straight quality start, and third baseman Gunnar Henderson, 22, crushed a three-run homer in the seventh to provide the difference.

Since returning to Baltimore’s rotation to begin the second half, Rodriguez has pitched to a 2.85 ERA in nine starts, becoming perhaps the club’s second-best starting pitcher behind ace Kyle Bradish. He scattered seven hits and two walks while striking out seven against a lineup without Shohei Ohtani, who was scratched with an oblique injury he sustained during batting practice.

Like Rodriguez, Henderson also began the season slowly, but the AL Rookie of the Year front-runner has been the Orioles’ best player this summer. He leads the Orioles with a 4.7 wins above replacement on Baseball-Reference.

“We have really, really talented young players, and you saw a few of them tonight,” Hyde said. “We’ve got more guys coming, too.”

After the Angels took an early 1-0 lead, the Orioles scored three in the third on RBI hits from Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle and Aaron Hicks. Yennier Cano slammed the door in the ninth with his sixth save and second since he overtook closer duties with Félix Bautista on the injured list. The comeback win is the Orioles’ 43rd this season.

The victory extends the Orioles’ streak without being swept to 84 series. The last time they were swept was in mid-May 2022. The streak surpasses the 1922-24 New York Yankees for the third-longest in MLB history and most in AL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Baltimore is 86-51, a season-best 35 games over .500 for the first time since 1997, and on pace to win 101 games, which would be the club’s first time reaching the century mark since 1980.

Jordan Westburg, who went 2-for-4 with a double and had an outstanding catch in the ninth, gave the usual cliches when discussing his first time experiencing a playoff race, but the rookie did admit it’s difficult not to scoreboard watch.

“MLB Network’s on every night in the clubhouse, so you see the standings, you see what other teams are doing,” Westburg said. “I’m sure all of us feel a little bit of pressure at some point, but we’re just doing our best to take it one game at a time.”

In May, before Rodriguez was sent back to Triple-A to work on his fastball command and confidence, he allowed nine hits and eight runs to the Angels. But the team he faced Monday looked different with Ohtani scratched, Mike Trout on the injured list and a few new names as Los Angeles (64-74) has gone 9-25 since deciding to buy at the trade deadline.

While the rookie’s outing ended well, Hyde said the right-hander wasn’t “crisp” to begin it. Angels outfielder Mickey Moniak put the Angels up 1-0 in the second. But Rodriguez’s stuff sharpened as his outing progressed, with the only other run off him a Randal Grichuk solo homer in the fourth.

“He’s a dog up there,” Westburg said of Rodriguez. “Even when he has a few innings where I would say probably didn’t feel himself, he’s able to compete, come back out the next inning, make those adjustments and attack hitters. That’s what he did tonight. He just was a bulldog for us for six innings tonight.”

Rodriguez said his confidence now compared with April and May is “not even close.”

“The first time I was up here I wasn’t really having fun,” he said. “I think it showed. Now, I can’t wait to get out there, get the ball when it’s my day.”

Coming off two wins versus Arizona in which the offense broke out for big innings, the lineup put up a crooked number early behind five hits in the third. Jorge Mateo singled to lead off the frame off left-handed starting pitcher Kenny Rosenberg and scored on Hays’ 33rd double of the season. Mountcastle then singled home Hays, and after Westburg kept the rally alive with a two-out single, Hicks poked a ground ball through the right side to drive in Mountcastle.

Henderson then gave the Orioles’ bullpen the cushion it needed by roping a low-and-in sinker from reliever Gerardo Reyes just over the right field wall. The long ball, with an exit velocity of 107.8 mph according to Statcast tracking data, was his 23rd of the season.

“He’s such a special player, he already is,” Hyde said. “For his age, to do what he’s doing, the rookie year he’s having, not just offensively but defensively, and the way he can run — it’s just a really, really special player.”

Former Angel Jacob Webb pitched a scoreless seventh, and left-hander DL Hall surrendered a solo shot to Brandon Drury in the eighth. Westburg then backed up Cano by ranging 84 feet, according to Statcast, to make an over-the-shoulder sliding catch on a popup in center field.

The win was the 300th of Hyde’s career. After taking over the rebuilding club in 2019, Hyde won just 131 games in his first three seasons, with the pandemic-impacted 2020 season sandwiched between two 100-loss campaigns. But the club began to break out of its rebuild last season with 83 wins and fully has this year.

“Took me long enough,” Hyde said with a chuckle about the milestone. “Tough few years. A lot more fun these last two.”

Orioles at Angels

Tuesday, 9:38 p.m.

TV: MASN2

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

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