Leftovers for breakfast

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded a pitch from Kyle Bradish up the middle Wednesday afternoon with two outs in the third inning, and George Springer surely thought he was going to score from second base. Shortstop Gunnar Henderson couldn’t make a diving stop. He appeared to be the last line of defense.

Jorge Mateo had other ideas, and his ridiculous range.

Mateo darted past the bag and corralled the ball to hold Springer at third base. Unfortunately for the Orioles, Bo Bichette followed with a fly ball to the right field warning track that Anthony Santander couldn’t grab before his knee slammed into the wall, resulting in two runs and a 2-1 lead.

The Fielding Bible Award winner at shortstop in 2022 is excelling at second base this year, to the point where he’s pretty much got regular duty rather than working in a utility role.

The play Wednesday wasn’t the only example of the vast territory he can cover. Remember how he hustled to first base to take the relay throw on a double play? How often does that happen?

“He’s made that transition I feel like pretty quickly,” said first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. “Even the other day, he made a really big play in extra innings. Just always doing the right thing over there. I mean, he’s so fast and athletic. He covered a double play on a ground ball hit to me, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen. Which is insane. Some of the things he does is super special.”

This is why some teams collect shortstops. They can play anywhere.

Gunnar Henderson is playing Gold Glove defense at the position, and Jordan Westburg is flashing plus-leather at second and third.

“They’re unbelievable to watch,” Mountcastle said. “Just the things they do. They get to balls that a lot of people don’t get to, and always making the right plays. Definitely a really fun infield.”

The pitching staff routinely shows its gratitude on the mound. Caps are raised, arms are spread apart. Jaws occasionally drop.

“It makes the biggest difference in the world,” said John Means. “You have so much more confidence to attack the zone and make sure they put the ball in play, and it’s definitely something that’s really going to help us down the road over the course of the full season.”

Means made his major league debut in 2018 and he rates this year’s infield as the best defensively that he’s ever seen.

“There’s three shortstops in the field,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Kudos to Means for pausing and pointing out how there are actually four. The Orioles drafted Mountcastle as a shortstop before moving him to third base, left field and eventually first base.

“Mounty came up as a shortstop. We can count Mounty,” Means said.

“We were just talking about that in the tubs. He’s a little bigger now than he was then.”

* Jordan Westburg homered in his first at-bat Wednesday as the Orioles’ leadoff hitter, and Adley Rutschman launched the walk-off in the bottom of the ninth inning, his ball clearing the out-of-town scoreboard by inches.

Dramatic, for sure, but also unusual.

To find the last time that the Orioles had leadoff and walk-off home runs in the same game, you must go all the way back to … April 17 with Gunnar Henderson and Cedric Mullins against the Twins.

But it’s happened on three other occasions in franchise history according to STATS research – May 23, 2000 against the Mariners with Brady Anderson and Cal Ripken Jr., June 19, 1998 against the Blue Jays with Anderson and Rafael Palmeiro, and Aug. 8, 1982 against the Royals with Al Bumbry and Terry Crowley at Memorial Stadium.

The Elias Sports Bureau unearthed this gem: It marked only the fourth game in major league history where a team hit a leadoff and walk-off homer but didn’t score in between.

Here’s the list:

Phillies vs. Giants, Sept. 2, 1983 – Joe Morgan leadoff, Ozzie Virgil pinch-hit grand slam.
Athletics vs. Red Sox, Aug. 22, 1971 – Bert Campaneris leadoff, Reggie Jackson inside-the-park (both against Sonny Siebert).
Braves vs. Dodgers, Aug. 9, 1966 – Felipe Alou leadoff, Eddie Mathews homer (both against Sandy Koufax).

* So much happened in the last two innings Wednesday that heads might still be spinning.

James McCann trying to lay down a bunt on four attempts despite twice being knocked down to the dirt and having two strikes on him. Anthony Santander trying to get around the bases on a bruised knee. The out at home plate that was reviewed and confirmed. Ryan O’Hearn replacing Santander in right field in the ninth.

Perhaps unseen or overlooked was Craig Kimbrel warming in the eighth.

Kimbrel joined left-hander Danny Coulombe. The left-hander worked the top of the ninth because the Orioles still trailed 2-1.

Apparently, Kimbrel would have gotten his first save chance in exactly a week if the Orioles moved ahead in the bottom of the eighth.

Kimbrel has strung together three scoreless outings in a row since May 8 in D.C., when he was charged with two runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Let’s see whether Kimbrel gets the call tonight if there’s a save opportunity.

* Triple-A Norfolk third baseman Coby Mayo went 2-for-2 yesterday with a double and two runs scored, but Errol Robinson pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the fifth inning.

The first thought is, are the Orioles bringing Mayo to Baltimore? And if so, is he replacing an injured player?

No and no.

Mayo ran into part of the dugout while chasing a foul ball, and the Orioles said he was removed as a precaution.

I’m told that Mayo hit his side and at the least has a contusion, which everyone else calls a bruise outside of baseball.

If that’s the case, he’s probably day-to-day.

Mayo is batting .291 with a .964 OPS, 11 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and 37 RBIs in 42 games.

Jackson Holliday hit his fourth home run and also collected his 10th double. Heston Kjerstad went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two walks after homering Wednesday on the first pitch he saw after the Orioles optioned him.

* Michael Pérez was in the Camden Yards clubhouse for the Blue Jays series, using Ryan McKenna’s old locker. What did it mean?

Pérez was the taxi squad catcher and David Bañuelos was allowed to play baseball again.

Bañuelos caught Game 1 of Wednesday’s doubleheader against Lehigh Valley and served as the designated hitter in Game 2. His last action was on April 16 at Camden Yards when he received his first major league at-bat in the eighth inning of an 11-3 blowout win against the Twins and flied to right field.

The Orioles have selected Bañuelos’ contract twice and designated him for assignment twice. He’s spent most of the year on the taxi squad, making him a convenient counter roster move.

Bañuelos caught again yesterday and went 1-for-4 with a double, making him 6-for-21 with the Tides. He’s expected to return to Camden Yards for the weekend series.

Norfolk has nice catching depth with Maverick Handley also on the roster.

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