Gunnar Henderson hits go-ahead HR in 7th as O's take series opener (updated)

SAN FRANCISCO – With right-handers Dean Kremer of Baltimore and Logan Webb of San Francisco settling into a real pitcher’s duel after both had early trouble, runs were suddenly hard to come by tonight.

But not on one big swing for the Orioles off the bat of rookie Gunnar Henderson in the top of the seventh.

Webb entered the inning having retired 12 of the last 13 batters and the only runner to reach in that span got on not via a hit, but catcher’s interference.

Henderson’s bat has slowly but surely started to come to life and there was more evidence of that tonight. On Tuesday he had driven in a season-high three runs and in May, when his OPS was .740, nine of his 17 hits had gone for extra bases.

Tonight Henderson smoked a 2-1 changeup from Webb over the right-field wall for a 3-2 lead to start the Baltimore seventh. That blast lifted the Orioles to a thrilling 3-2 win in the series opener in front of 27,873 at Oracle Park. The O's bullpen held on late for the win.

Henderson crushed No. 6 with a 110.7 mph exit velocity and drove the ball 410 feet into the San Francisco night. It was quite the swing at just the right moment to get the lead off a pitcher who seemed to be completely settled in.

That blast helped the Orioles improve to 11-6 in one-run games and get this six-game road trip off to a great start.

“Yeah I mean it was an awesome win," said Henderson. "To be able to come out all the way across the country and get the first one of the series is huge. Just felt like I was trying to get something out over the plate early. Got a little too big on the 2-0, but dialed it back and was able to get one over the plate and put a good swing on it."

In the second inning tonight, Henderson drove a ball deep to center with 106 mph exit velocity but the park held that one. Not this time. 

“Best swing of the year from him," manager Brandon Hyde said of Henderson's blast. "Just love the way he was on time with the fastball there. Got his foot down and really stayed through it. An enormous hit for us against a tough starter. I know he felt great after that swing."

Much earlier, after the Orioles went 1-2-3 against Webb in the top of the first, Baltimore’s own LaMonte Wade Jr. gave the Giants a 1-0 lead on the first pitch of the home first with a historic homer.

He lined a Kremer fastball over the right-field wall and the ball landed in McCovey’s Cove and was the 100th “splash hit” in Oracle Park history where the counter on the wall in right only tracks home team home runs that go in the water.

Wade’s blast traveled 385 feet down the right-field line for homer No. 8 against a 93.8 mph four-seamer. Wade, who played high school ball at Baltimore’s St. Paul’s School, also played at the University of Maryland.

The Orioles would gain the early lead in the second against Webb, whose 2.75 ERA at game time was fifth-best in the National League. And he was 4-1 with a 1.68 ERA in his previous seven starts.

Austin Hays, batting cleanup, led off the second with a double to left and advanced to third on Henderson’s deep fly ball to center. After Aaron Hicks, playing in his 900th MLB game, walked, a ground single to center by Ryan O’Hearn tied it 1-1. It was O’Hearn’s 14th RBI with the club. With two outs, Jorge Mateo’s swinging bunt down the third base line scored Hicks for a 2-1 lead for Baltimore. Mateo was batting just .113 in his last 19 games before that hit.

Former Oriole Mike Yastrzemski doubled in a run in the last of the third and the Giants had tied it at 2-2 on his 16th RBI scoring J.D. Davis who had singled. Earlier in the third, right fielder Anthony Santander threw a runner out at the plate for his first outfield assist of the year. Brett Wisely, who had doubled, was gunned down 9-2 but Davis took second on the throw home.

The Henderson homer allowed Kremer to get the win. He went six innings, allowing five hits and two runs with two walks and six strikeouts on 100 pitches. Kremer is now 6-2 with an ERA of 4.43.

Webb took the loss, allowing four hits and three runs over seven innings on 97 pitches.

The Orioles bullpen, one game after allowing 11 runs to Cleveland, allowed none tonight with some sparkling defensive help.

Lefty Danny Coulombe fanned the side in the seventh and Yennier Cano walked a batter and hit a man, but put up a zero in the eighth. Yastrzemski with two on smoked a one-hopper to second and Adam Frazier snared the ball and began a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play. The ball was hit 106.3 mph off the bat. 

“What a play," Hyde said of Frazier's play. "It’s kind of wet here and the ball skips and knocks him over. Just a big play by a really good player. Double play when we needed it."

Right-hander Felix Bautista pitched the ninth, recording his 15th save. But it was not easy as he fanned pinch-hitter Micheal Conforto swinging at 98 mph fastball to end it with the tie run on second base. 

This was the first meeting of these teams since the 2019 season and the first in San Francisco since 2016. The Orioles are now 10-9 in the all-time series.

With the win, the Birds are now 36-21 and 19-9 on the road. And they slowed a Giants (28-29) team that was 11-5 in its previous 16 games and 14-7 in the last 21 games at home.  

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