O's game blog: Gunnar Henderson makes his MLB debut

It is hard to win when you score just one run and the Orioles have not won the last two games, falling Sunday at Houston 3-1 and by a 5-1 score last night to start a three-game series at Cleveland. Tonight they face the Guardians in the second game of this series.

The Orioles (67-61) begin the night tied with the Twins, three games back of the Blue Jays for the third American League wild card spot. They are 3 1/2 games back of Seattle for the second spot and four behind Tampa Bay for the first one.

So some ground to make up in Game 5 of a road trip where they are 2-2 thanks to the great pitching they got in Houston.

The O’s have scored just seven runs in four games of this trip, batting .172 (21-for-122) and they are 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position. In the last nine games, the team has scored 27 runs with a team batting line of .194/.272/.306 with a .579 OPS in that span.

But even with the recent slumping, the Orioles still rank fourth in the AL in team OPS for August at .718 and they are seventh in the AL in runs this month. Since the All-Star Game, the Orioles' OPS of .704 ranks sixth in the AL and they are sixth in runs scored at 4.25 per game.

The O’s officially added Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect today in infielder Gunnar Henderson from Triple-A Norfolk.

Henderson, who turned 21 on June 29, has put up good numbers at Triple-A Norfolk. And in July, Tides manager Buck Britton provided a take on Gunnar’s progression through his minor league career.

“His overall game has come together,” Britton said then. “He was super young when I first saw him at the alt site (in 2020) and he was still figuring out his body. Just a big, young kid. But he’s starting to physically turn into a man. And he’s been really good. His defense has gotten a lot better. He is more consistent with the routine play and he has the big arm and the speed.

“On the offensive side, this guy has a chance to be a big-time offensive player for us. He obviously has the power to left-center field and he is starting to learn how to pull the ball in the air a little more. When he is going well, there is power to that opposite gap.

“He has really taken hold of the swing decision thing. He is really hunting for pitches over the middle of the plate, especially early in the at-bat. Even if that means taking some tough pitches early and falling behind in the count. He is starting to trust himself a little bit more with two strikes. So you don’t see that panic, when he gets 0-1, he still believes that even with two strikes he can get a pitch to do damage with, so that’s been real encouraging to see. And what it leads to ultimately is more consistent hard contact.”

On the mound tonight, right-hander Jordan Lyles (9-9, 4.45 ERA) makes his 27th start. The Orioles are 13-13 in his starts. Last Thursday against the White Sox, he gave up two runs (one earned) over seven innings on 95 pitches. In his past six starts, he has a 3.27 ERA despite allowing a .302 batting average and .793 OPS. In 14 road starts, he is 5-7 with a 5.85 ERA.

Right-hander Triston McKenzie (9-10, 3.17 ERA) starts for Cleveland. He ranks 10th in the AL in ERA and the Guardians are 14-9 in his 23 starts. He has gone 2-2 with a 2.28 ERA during a stretch of four straight quality starts allowing a .168 average and .515 OPS. The No. 42 overall pick in the 2015 draft, he is 5-2 with a 2.78 ERA and 0.874 WHIP in nine home starts.

As for Henderson, at 21 years and 63 days old, he will become the youngest player to make their major league debut for the O's since Dylan Bundy (19y-313d) on Sept. 23, 2012 and the youngest position player since Manny Machado (20y-034d) on Aug. 9, 2012. Henderson will be the youngest player to debut in the majors this season and the second-youngest player to appear in a major league game behind Tampa Bay's Wander Franco.

Among players with at least 450 plate appearances on the farm this season, Henderson's 154 wRC+ is seventh among all minor leaguers. He leads O's minor leaguers in batting average (.297), hits (121), slugging (.531), OPS (.947), triples (7), total bases (216) and runs scored (101); his runs scored are second-most in the minors this season. 

Henderson homers and singles in debut and Orioles ...
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