O's have lost two at Rogers Centre, but Gunnar Henderson keeps producing

TORONTO – The Orioles have to be pleased that rookies have driven in all six of their runs in the series at Rogers Centre. But now they could use some help.

The Birds have lost twice in Toronto, both by 6-3 margins, and need to avoid a sweep today. They have fallen seven games behind the Blue Jays, who are 83-63 and have won 15 of 19 and 22 of 31 games. Toronto is 15-4 in its last 19 American League East games.

And Toronto has now won six of the last seven games between these teams, winning those six by five runs, four, four, three, three and three runs.

In the series the Orioles have three RBIs from Gunnar Henderson, two from Adley Rutschman and one by Terrin Vavra.

Henderson is a hitter on a tear, and is now batting .345/.387/.586/.973 after his first 16 MLB games with nine extra-base hits and 12 RBIs. After his first 16 games in the bigs, Rutschman had an OPS of .451 with just three extra-base hits and no RBIs.

And now Henderson seems to drive the ball the other way every night now. A two-run triple to left in Washington, a homer to left in Toronto Friday and a double to left yesterday.

Henderson said it’s simple – he was taught at an early age to hit the ball to left and left-center.

“I feel like that my dad would preach that to me when I was young and that’s just what I’ve done since I was at a young age. Even my first year in pro ball that is what I did best. Now I’ve learned to pull the ball, so do that and take what they give me,” he said during a pregame interview Saturday.

And his two-strike approach is solid. He homered on an 0-2 pitch Friday.

“Last year I got caught up trying to do too much (with a two-strike count). Kind of let it build up a little bit and just was trying to do too much. Now this year just going to the same approach. Make myself a little bit calmer, take a deep breath and let myself react to the ball," Henderson said. 

And beyond his immense talent, he is showing poise beyond his 21 years. Where does that come from?

“Just the self confidence you have to have up here,” he said. “Pitchers are so good that they will make you doubt yourself. So if you have confidence in yourself and your abilities, it can take you a long way. This is what I’ve always wanted to do my whole life, so there is no pressure now that I’m here.”

In the four games of this road trip, Henderson has recorded multi-hit games each day and is 8-for-17 with eight RBIs. He is 4-for-8 this weekend at Rogers Centre. Over his last seven games, he is 11-for-25 with four doubles, a triple, a homer and 10 RBIs. Batting with runners in scoring position, he is now 5-for-10 with nine RBIs.

An amazing start for Henderson at the big league level. There is so much for him to enjoy right now, and being around close friends is the best, he said.

“Just being able to spend this with the guys I’ve come up in the minor league system with. And guys I’ve been really close with. Just great to share this with them and make this playoff push with them as well," said Henderson.

Other O’s notes: Will manager Brandon Hyde consider a lineup change at second base? I asked him about Rougned Odor’s struggles after Saturday’s game. Odor is 0-for-7 in this series and hasn’t gotten the ball out of the infield. He is 6-for-43 his past 13 games and has just two RBIs his last 86 plate appearances.

“He’s in a spot right now where that spot is coming up in big moments. He’s trying so hard. Trying so hard to come through and I know he’s disappointed. You know, I don’t know. He’s gotten some big hits for us this year and right now he’s scuffling,” said Hyde.

Meanwhile the rookies are coming through and have done a nice job in this series.

“I thought they swung the bat well,” said Hyde. “Gunnar continues to do what he’s been doing and Terrin with some good at-bats today, too. You just have to be able to score runs against these guys. You have to try and outscore them. Three runs tonight. Tough to win games against these guys in this park.”

Said Anthony Santander on the rookies this weekend: “You know, it’s the big leagues, if they are here they deserve to be here. They’ve done a really good job up here with the time with the big league team. They’ve done a good job helping us," he said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones.

Santander added that the team will continue to support each other in the clubhouse as they have now lost eight of their past 12.

“I think we have to stay united. We’ve got to continue supporting each other through this. And just focus on every single pitch and do our best to do the best we can and that’s the only way we’re going to get through this,” he added.

O’s starting pitchers have now gone 13 games with just one quality start, registering an ERA of 6.05 in that span.

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