Despite their success in May, the Orioles’ bats have, at times, gone cold.
After spending April as one of the best offenses in the majors, Baltimore was shut out Monday for the fourth time this month. However, the possibility of it happening again Tuesday was put to rest early, as the Orioles exploded for seven runs in the first two innings en route to an 8-5 win over the Cleveland Guardians.
The Orioles entered Tuesday with just 11 runs across their previous five games, and it wasn’t going to get easier with leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins being placed on the injured list earlier in the day with a right groin strain. But Gunnar Henderson’s two-run double in the first inning and Anthony Santander’s bases-clearing triple amid a five-run second snapped the club’s lumber lull and provided enough offense to stave off Cleveland’s comeback attempt.
“We hate that he got injured in that way, but we all have great approach and great players behind him,” Henderson said. “You saw it, we put a lot of runs up today and had our pitchers’ backs.”
As the Orioles’ merry-go-round was turning, the Guardians were being stymied by Kyle Gibson. Baltimore’s No. 1 starter retired the first 10 batters and provided his third straight solid start. It wasn’t as sparkling as his seven-inning gems against the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees, but Gibson won his seventh game of the season after pitching 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball.
“That’s a tough loss, obviously. Cedric’s one of the best center fielders in the game, if not the best,” Gibson said. “It was a tough evening and tough news hearing he was going to miss a little bit of time, but seems like he was in good spirits today. That goes a long way through the locker room. We can feed off his energy and the way he’s approaching the situation. Seems like it’s a pretty favorable timeline for the team and definitely better than it could’ve been. I think we responded well and got back in the series and gave ourselves a chance to win [it] tomorrow.”
The middle relief behind Gibson was shaky, but the duo of Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista followed to slam the door.
With one game remaining in May, the Orioles are 17-11 in the month that provided perhaps the club’s toughest stretch of the season. They’ll look to avoid losing a second straight series for the first time this season in Wednesday afternoon’s rubber match.
The three-run triumph is the Orioles’ 32nd by four or fewer runs this season. All but six of their 55 games, in which they are 35-20, have been decided by fewer than five runs.
Manager Brandon Hyde was “hoping” to be able to spare Cano and Bautista once the Orioles took a large lead early, but once it dwindled and the game’s fate hung in the balance, he had to turn to his two dominant relievers. The ability to win close games has been one of the Orioles’ greatest strengths, but their inability to win by significant margins is also a significant drawback.
“It’s a major league baseball game and anything can happen and you try to add on. We didn’t really do that,” Hyde said. “You try to hold on, and we didn’t do that very well there in the sixth and seventh, but I thought Kyle Gibson was great once again. Gave up a couple of runs there in the sixth, but besides that, really good fastball command and a good slider. Just really knows how to pitch and pitches to both sides of the plate. So, awesome job by him, and great job by our offense scoring a bunch of runs early.”
Adam Frazier and Adley Rutschman nudged open the floodgates by leading off the first with a single and a walk, respectively. Henderson, who went 2-for-4 Tuesday to improve his batting average from .199 to .207, doubled them home with a 103.4 mph line drive off Guardians starter Cal Quantrill that right fielder Will Brennan misplayed.
Ramón Urías was hit by a pitch to lead off the second, and Jorge Mateo and Frazier both lined one-out singles to load the bases. Rutschman accepted a walk — the first of two Tuesday for his American League-leading 43 — to bring in a run before Santander pulled a 3-2 sinker down the right field lead to clear the bases. Santander, who also hit two doubles, then scored on a sacrifice fly from Austin Hays to give the Orioles a 7-0 lead.
“A little more on time with the fastball,” Hyde said about Santander’s 1.057 OPS in May compared with his .629 figure in April. “Just scuffled a little bit early. But for me, just on time with the fastball a little bit more and a couple beautiful swings tonight. Loved it when he goes into left-center. He had a great night offensively.”
Cleveland’s first base runner off Gibson came with one out in the fourth when Amed Rosario singled. Rosario later came around to score on Josh Bell’s bloop single. The run ended Gibson’s 15-inning scoreless streak that dated to the third inning of his one-run start against the Blue Jays and went through his seven shutout frames versus the Yankees last week.
Henderson singled in the fifth, this time a 105 mph liner the other way, to put Baltimore up seven runs again, but the Guardians began to mount a comeback in the sixth and seventh. Bell hit a sacrifice fly and Andrés Giménez hit a two-out RBI double to end Gibson’s night. The 35-year-old scattered seven hits and one walk while striking out three, but he perhaps should’ve been out of the sixth before the two runs scored, as Santander got a poor jump on a double from Naylor earlier in the inning.
Relievers Bryan Baker and Danny Coulombe struggled out of the bullpen. Baker stranded a runner in the sixth but allowed a hit and a walk to open the seventh. Coulombe allowed both of Baker’s runners to score on a two-out single from Naylor.
Cano stranded two runners in the seventh and then escaped his own jam in the eighth with an inning-ending double play after allowing singles to the first two batters. Bautista retired the side in order in the ninth for his 14th save.
Around the horn
- The Orioles announced their starters for their weekend series in San Francisco, keeping the rotation on turn. Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells will pitch against the Giants on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
- On May 30, 1982, Cal Ripken Jr. played the first of 2,632 consecutive games. In that game 41 years ago, Ripken batted eighth and played third base in a home loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Three Orioles minor leaguers were promoted Tuesday. Catcher Creed Willems and outfielder Douglas Hodo were moved from Low-A Delmarva to High-A Aberdeen, and right-handed reliever Nick Richmond was promoted from Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie. Willems, a 19-year-old who was paid well over slot in the 2021 draft, had a 1.056 OPS in 30 games with the Shorebirds. Hodo, a sixth-round pick in 2022, had a .403 on-base percentage in his 34 games with Delmarva. And Richmond, who the Orioles signed to a minor league contract last spring, allowed just one run in 12 1/3 relief innings with the IronBirds.
Guardians at Orioles
Wednesday, 3:05 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM