Henderson 462-foot home run among highlights in Orioles sweep (updated)

The Orioles’ 22nd comeback win of the season was planted today in the top of the first inning, uprooted and planted again in the third. The team that digs in and finds a way.

The Royals used an opener while trying to avoid being swept. The Orioles used another variation of their lineup, sitting some regulars and toying again with the order.

Their methods keep working.

Josh Lester started at first base and broke a tie in the third with a two-run single, Gunnar Henderson hit a 462-foot three-run homer and came within a triple of the cycle, Ryan O’Hearn homered and reached base five times for the only time in his career, and the Orioles defeated Kansas City 11-3 before an announced crowd of 23,255 at Camden Yards. They’ve won four in a row to move 17 games above .500 at 41-24 for the first time since July 26, 2016.

Their 41st win last season came on July 8 in their 85th game. Today marked their first sweep of the Royals since 2017.

An off-day is followed by a visit from the Blue Jays, as the Orioles hop back into the division.

Henderson pushed the lead to 10-3 in the seventh with the longest Eutaw Street homer in the ballpark's history, on a Jackson Kowar slider, the first of his career and 120th at Camden Yards. The exit velocity was 113.8 mph, and Henderson stood at the plate with bat in hand and watched its flight until it hit the warehouse on one bounce.

"That was probably one of the furthest balls I feel like I've hit, especially here," he said, "so I felt like that was a good one to look at a little bit."

The kid is worth watching. Henderson has strung together three consecutive multi-hit games and is 10-for-19 in his last five. His average is up to .236 and his OPS to .804.

"That was loud coming off the bat," said manager Brandon Hyde. "I didn't know it was 462. Is that what it was? Wow. It was a great hit for us at the time, too, to break it open a little bit.

"You can tell he's a lot more aggressive early in the count and getting on pitches he can handle. ... Definitely more confident right now. You can tell he's feeling a lot more comfortable at the plate this last week to 10 days. And it's come at the right time."

Is that as far as Henderson can hit a ball? Maybe at age 21, but just wait.

"I feel like when I finally get to the man-strength phase, I might be able to get a little bit further," he said.

"It just goes to show that no matter what you're going through, you're going to get through it. Just keep swinging and just keep trusting the process. It's hard to do. I can be the first one to tell you it's really hard to do in the moment, but just got to really trust it."

Henderson has the kind of power that could allow him to actually hit the warehouse one day on the fly. Today's ball was tied for the sixth-longest homer here in the Statcast era.

"We'll see when I get a little bit older," he said.

Either way, the 21-year-old will have a home run marker at 31-year-old Camden Yards.

"It's really special because this ballpark is really historic," he said. "It's really going to be a great memory for me and I look forward to seeing it out there."

Henderson will stay in the lineup and perhaps at the top of the order, certainly against right-handed starters. The prolonged slump is long gone.

"It's good for him," said Kyle Gibson. "He's been working really hard, so to see some results to show for it, I'm really happy for him."

It isn't easy for a young player who's continually failing, and with so much hype surrounding him, to resist making adjustments that worsen his predicament.

"I've been there," Gibson said. "I tried to change my delivery in 2011, ended up with Tommy John (surgery) three months later. It's tough, because it's a results-driven game, right? We all know if we don't get the results we're supposed to get, we have a chance to get sent down.

"Nobody in here has lost confidence in him, and for him to stay the course and keep trusting the process shows a lot of maturity, for sure."

Gibson allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings for his seventh quality start. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four.

Salvador Pérez doubled in the first and scored with two outs on Bobby Witt Jr.’s double to right field on a ball that glanced off O’Hearn’s glove as he chased it toward the line. Pérez hit a game-tying two-run homer in the third, launching a cutter 417 feet to the bullpen area.

Not nearly as bad as the May 3 start in Kansas City, when Gibson allowed a season-high six runs and 10 hits in 6 2/3.

"Really, in that first one, other than they strung a couple hits there in the sixth and seventh, I tried to do similar stuff," Gibson said. "I felt good for most of that start. Today, other than the cutter to Salvy there in the third, I felt good about what Mac (catcher James McCann) and I were able to do. We made some adjustments there late that allowed us to get a couple more quick innings."

Gibson was removed today at 90 pitches following Maikel Garcia’s single. Keegan Akin struck out two batters to strand Garcia, and he gave the Orioles 2 2/3 scoreless innings with one hit and six strikeouts.

The Orioles responded in their half of the first to the early deficit by jumping on right-hander Carlos Hernández, who knew that his appearance would be brief when the bullpen got busy two pitches into his start.

Henderson led off with a double clocked at 106 mph off the bat, driving the ball to left-center field. He scored the tying run on Austin Hays’ fly ball.

O’Hearn, batting cleanup for the first time this season, drew a walk and moved to third base on Aaron Hicks’ double. Ramón Urías fouled off a 101 mph fastball, worked Hernández down to 100 and doubled to right-center for a 3-1 lead.

Hicks walked in the third and had a run-scoring double in the fourth. He’s reached base in all 10 games with the Orioles and gone 10-for-29.

Hyde anticipated that Mike Mayers would replace Hernández, as the right-hander did on Monday. Hernández had retired all six batters he faced. Today wasn’t a duplication.

O’Hearn led off the third with a single off Mayers, Hicks walked and Urías singled to load the bases. Adam Frazier popped up, but Lester grounded a single into center field for his second hit of the day and McCann lifted a sacrifice fly to medium center field for a 6-3 lead.

Lester’s first major league hit last Sunday was a bases-loaded, two-run single in San Francisco.

A two-out walk to O’Hearn in the fourth burned the Royals, with Hicks’ double increasing the lead to 7-3.

Urías led off the seventh with a double and singled in the eighth to give him seven hits in his last three starts. O'Hearn homered to right field in the eighth, his ball measured only at 390 feet.

"I know Gunnar was 462," O'Hearn said, "which is an absolute moon shot."

The combination of Urías, O’Hearn, Hicks and Lester went 11-for-16 with four doubles, a home run, three walks and six RBIs.

"You need a strong bench, and we feel great about the depth on our club," Hyde said. "Guys like Lester and O'Hearn took really good at-bats today and we got a lot of production from them. Great day for us offensively, and pitching did an outstanding job, as well.

"I know it feels good for O'Hearn, especially because of playing against a bunch of his friends from the past few years and guys that he knows across the field, and they kind of let him go. So, good for him. But we're getting contributions from a lot of guys who didn't break with us, and that's what you need over the course of six months to have a winning season."

Said O'Hearn: "I think going back to spring training, you saw how many guys were smashing baseballs all spring training, and that speaks to the organization and how they bring in the right guys. The hitting staff and how they develop guys. It's pretty impressive, the amount of depth that we have."

What about punishing the Royals after the Orioles purchased his contract in January?

"I love all the people in Kansas City," he replied. "The coaches, the front office, any teammate I had, nothing but love for them over there. But I think anytime you have success against your old team it feels good, but I wouldn't say revenge game or anything like that. Just feels good to get to play and compete and get comfortable up there. I feel as confident as I ever have in the box right now, and today was a lot of fun."

The Orioles have swept three opponents in a three-game series this year. They’ve built three winning streaks of at least four games. The eight-run margin was their largest in a victory this season.

They keep finding a way.

On the bench, and in the power of a former No. 1 prospect.

"He's on a heater right now, man," Gibson said.

* Terrin Vavra had another leadoff home run today with Triple-A Norfolk and he also tripled. Joey Ortiz and Connor Norby each had a double. Colton Cowser wasn’t in the lineup.

Ryan Watson allowed four runs, walked six batters and struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings.

Double-A Bowie’s Chayce McDermott allowed one earned run and two total in four innings. He struck out five batters.

Jud Fabian hit his ninth home run for High-A Aberdeen and finished with four hits and five RBIs.

Single-A Delmarva’s Edgar Portes allowed three runs and two hits in four innings.

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