After he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on Sunday against Houston, O’s rookie Gunnar Henderson saw his average drop to .276. At that point he was 0-for-13 with seven strikeouts his previous four games and 4-for-29 with 11 strikeouts his previous eight.
Reason to worry? Nope.
Henderson, still just 21, began the game Monday at Boston by drawing a walk. Then he walked again. Then he walked again. Three walks in the first five innings. Then he mashed a baseball out to center in the sixth. A two-run homer that he hit 111 mph and it went 428 feet. A mammoth blast.
Henderson continues to show he belongs in the majors and that he has smarts and poise and composure beyond his years. When he made his MLB debut Aug. 31, he became the youngest player to make his debut for the Orioles (21 years-063 days) since Dylan Bundy (19-313) on Sept. 23, 2012 and youngest position player since Manny Machado (20-034) on Aug. 9, 2012.
Henderson’s 0-fer run actually was at 16 at-bats when this series began. But he showed no signs of any concern. He didn’t chase any pitches or expand the zone. He didn’t miss any hittable pitches or pop up a hanging slider or ground out on a fastball right down the middle.
He just locked in on the strikezone, took his walks and waited for a pitch to pounce. Then he pounced and pounded. Jumped on a 96 mph fastball and pounded it into the center-field seats.
It’s exciting to think what Henderson could do with a full season of big league at-bats which he will get during the 2023 season.
Four won 20: Monday was also an anniversary of an amazing feat in Orioles history. On that date in 1971, Sept. 26, Jim Palmer won his 20th game. That gave the 1971 Orioles four 20-game winners. During the 2021 season there was one 20-game winner in all of MLB and during the full 2019 season there were two. So that is three in both leagues over two full years while the 1971 Orioles had four.
* Dave McNally went 21-5 with a 2.89 ERA throwing 224.1 IP
* Pat Dobson went 20-8 with a 2.90 ERA over 282.1 IP
* Mike Cuellar went 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA over 292.1 IP
* Palmer went 20-9 with a 2.68 ERA over 282 IP.
McNally was hurt mid-summer that year or his innings total would have approached 300 like the others. Those four pitchers started 142 of the O’s 158 games that year as the Orioles went 101-57. Those four combined for 70 complete games. That’s 70.
The only other club ever with four 20-game winners was the 1920 Chicago White Sox, who did it one year after they threw the World Series!
The 1971 Orioles had nine players receive MVP votes which ties for the most ever.
McNally won his 20th game on Sept. 20. On Sept. 24, Dobson and Cuellar each got wins in a doubleheader. Two days later Palmer got his 20th and then there were four. It was the second 20-win season of eight 20-win years for the Hall of Famer.
So Happy Anniversary to the 1971 group of four that achieved something incredibly remarkable in both O's and MLB history.
O's lose at Boston: The current Orioles still need two wins to secure a winning record for the first time since the 2016 season. O's pitching allowed 13 runs over the second, third and fourth innings last night in a 13-9 loss at Boston.
The Orioles are 80-74 with eight games left and have lost three of four, seven of 12 and 13 of their last 22. They have a losing record at 12-13 in September.
In the loss, Anthony Santander produced his third two-homer game in the last four games. He hit homers No. 32 and 33. He tied a MLB record by homering from both sides of the plate for the fourth time in one season. The only other player to do that was Ken Caminiti of the 1996 San Diego Padres.
With six homers his last four games and 33 on the year, Santander tied Eddie Murray for second-most by a Baltimore switch-hitter. Murray hit 33 in 1983. The duo trail only Ken Singleton, who hit 35 in 1975.