Anaheim, Calif. – The Orioles seemed to be headed for another game that went down to the last out and maybe the last pitch. They have played in a lot of close games this year and won a lot of close ones.
But in need of some insurance runs in the seventh tonight, Gunnar Henderson provided them.
His almost nightly big play or big swing came at the plate this time. He blasted a three-run homer to turn a one-run lead into a more comfortable four-run edge.
The Orioles went on to beat the Angels 6-3 tonight to improve to 86-51 and win their third in a row, ninth in 12 games and 23rd in the past 33 games.
They are now 17-6 in road series-opening games, produced their 43rd comeback win and have opened a season-high 3 1/2-game lead atop the American League East over the Rays, who lost this afternoon to the Red Sox.
Henderson’s 23rd homer came off reliever Gerardo Reyes when the O’s rallied with two outs and none on in the seventh. Anthony Santander singled into right and Ryan Mountcastle walked. Henderson then lined a down-and-in two-seamer at 95 mph over the right field wall to score three and provide the pitching staff some late-game breathing room. He drilled that ball 108 mph off the bat for his 52nd extra-base hit of the year.
Much earlier, Mickey Moniak’s RBI double in the last of the second gave Los Angeles an early 1-0 lead. He hit an 0-2 changeup to right-center to score Michael Stefanick, who walked with one out.
The Orioles, as they did in Phoenix, quickly answered back with three runs in the top of the third to take a 3-1 lead.
Batting ninth, Jorge Mateo led the inning with a single and then scored on Austin Hays' RBI double into the left-field corner as Mateo flew around the bases. That tied the game 1-1. With one out, Mountcastle’s broken-bat RBI single to right made it a 2-1 Baltimore lead. He moved to third on Jordan Westburg’s two-out single and scored on an Aaron Hicks single into right field for the 3-1 lead. Hicks hit an 0-2 fastball that was off the plate, but he punched the ball into right for the run-scoring hit.
Randal Grichuk’s solo homer in the Angels’ fourth cut the O’s lead to 3-2. Grichuk has had good days in the past at the O’s expense with a career 1.084 OPS against Baltimore pitching. That was his 22nd career homer in 58 games against the Orioles.
Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, making his 19th start, did not seem to have his usual sharpness early on tonight. He allowed a single in the first, the run in the second and stranded two in the third when Logan O’Hoppe flew out deep to center with two outs.
But after allowing Grichuk’s homer, he had a strong fifth inning, which was his first 1-2-3 inning of the game. He fanned the side on a 98 mph heater, a slider and changeup, and then put up a zero in the sixth after the infield turned a nifty 5-4-3 double play after a leadoff single.
Rodriguez got the win and is now 5-3 with a 4.91 ERA, allowing seven hits and two runs over six innings on 90 pitches, 61 for strikes.
On May 15 against this team, Rodriguez had allowed eight runs over 3 1/3 innings.
Over his past nine starts, he is 3-1 with a 2.85 ERA and six quality starts. He has now thrown six innings or more six times his past seven starts.
Brandon Drury's solo homer in the eighth off DL Hall pulled the Angels within three runs and accounted for the final margin. Yennier Cano pitched the ninth and got his sixth save with the help of a great catch running into the outfield by Westburg at second base.
With this victory, O's manager Brandon Hyde became the fifth Oriole to reach 300 wins as skipper. He joins Earl Weaver (1,480), Buck Showalter (669), Paul Richards (517) and Hank Bauer (407).
The Orioles have now gone 84 consecutive series without being swept. The Orioles are 32-16 in the second half and a season-high 35 games over the .500 mark.
Hyde on Henderson's three-run homer: “Huge. Game deciding with that homer. Just massive add-on runs at the time and he’s such a special player. Already is for his age doing what he is doing. The rookie year he is having. Not only offensively, but defensively and the way he can run. Just a really, really special player."
Hyde on his 300th victory: “Took me long enough. Tough few years, lot more fun these last two. Lot better players. These last two years have been a lot of fun, just kind of turning the corner. Really appreciative."
Rodriguez on getting locked in after the Grichuk homer: “Yeah, got a little mad. Not gonna lie. Just kind of woke me up a little bit. Little lethargic there at the first. Didn’t really feel like myself. Then we really kind of sharpened some things up there shortly after that."
Wesburg on his defensive play in the ninth: “Ball was hit and I saw Ced (Mullins) was playing pretty far back, so I knew that it was kind of my ball to go after. Didn’t realize it was hit that deep in the outfield. Just trying to keep my eye on the ball and do whatever I can to catch it."