Adam Frazier lined an 0-2 changeup from Cal Quantrill into center field tonight, and the Orioles had their new leadoff hitter.
For one game, at least.
Frazier could stay atop the order or move down. Austin Hays might bat first Wednesday or in the next series. The lineup will be fluid with Cedric Mullins idle.
It takes a village to replace Mullins, and the Orioles carried that attitude to an 8-5 victory over the Guardians before an announced crowd of 11,709 at Camden Yards.
A five-run second was highlighted by Anthony Santander’s bases-loaded triple, and the Orioles improved to 35-20.
"We hate that he got injured in that way, but I feel like we all have a great approach and great players behind him," said Gunnar Henderson. "You saw it. We put a lot of runs up today and had our pitchers' backs."
They can’t win easily, however. An 8-1 lead became 8-5 in the seventh after Josh Naylor’s two-run single off Danny Coulombe, and Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista were forced to pitch.
"Was hoping, but it's a major league baseball game and anything can happen," said manager Brandon Hyde.
The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh and didn’t score, with Henderson grounding into a 4-2-3 double play, but Cano recorded four outs and Bautista nailed down his 14th save.
"You try to add on, didn't really do that," Hyde said. "Tried to hold on, and didn't do that very well in the sixth and seventh. But Kyle Gibson was great once again."
Gibson retired the first 10 batters and allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings. The Orioles handed him a quick lead on Henderson’s two-out, two-run double in the first, and they kept pounding away.
Gibson kept dealing until the fourth, when his pitch count jumped from 34 to 64. Amed Rosario singled with one out for Cleveland’s first baserunner, and Josh Bell followed a two-out walk to Naylor with an RBI single.
The other runs off Gibson came in the sixth when José Ramírez singled with one out and Santander didn’t break back on Naylor’s liner to right, the ball eluding his leaping attempt for a double. Ramírez came home on Bell’s fly ball to center.
Hyde removed Gibson at 95 pitches, with the veteran right-hander allowing seven hits and falling an out shy of his third straight quality start and seventh of the season.
"We were really glad to get him a lot of runs, because I know in the past we really haven't gotten him a lot of runs," said Henderson, who had a season-high three RBIs. "Whenever he goes out there, it feels like it's going to be a great game either way. Glad to be able to go out there and play behind him."
Hays started in center field with Mullins on the injured list, as he’s done in 48 other major league games and 156 in the minors. The Orioles value his ability to handle the tricky left field dimensions at Camden Yards, but a plus defender with a hot bat also fits nicely in the middle.
“It’s something I’ve done in the past if that’s required of me,” Hays said. “If there’s days I’m going to have to go out there and play center, I’m ready. My body’s ready, my legs are ready, it’s something that I’m comfortable doing. I’ve done it a lot in my career.
“I know a lot of other guys feel the same way. They have experience there. It’s a group effort. We’ll do whatever we’ve got to do to just try to fill in that void for a little bit, until he’s feeling better.”
Hays is a strong believer in the Orioles’ talent and resiliency. How removing one pillar, whether in the front, middle or back, won’t collapse an entire team.
“There’s been so many games where guys have been called off the bench that were big parts of us coming back in wins,” he said. “It’s not necessarily one through nine, but one through 13. That’s kind of been our motto this year.
“He’s our leadoff hitter and center fielder every single day, so we’re going to miss that for a little bit right now. Hopefully for just a short amount of time, but we don’t know yet. So, yeah, just one through 13, being ready to do whatever we have to do to pick each other up and get out there and compete.”
Frazier lined a changeup past Quantrill in the first and Adley Rutschman drew his 42nd walk. Quantrill retired the next two batters, but right fielder Will Brennan froze on a 103.4 mph line drive and retreated late as the ball cleared his head.
Must be something about right field tonight, because Brennan turned Ramón Urías’ liner in the eighth into a double.
Quantrill hit Urías leading off the second, Jorge Mateo and Frazier singled with one out, and Rutschman ran the count full and drew his 43rd walk for a 3-0 lead. Mateo’s ball was 110.9 mph off the bat.
Santander also ran the count full and pulled a sinker down the right field line for his first triple since Aug. 6, 2020 against the Marlins. The ball deflected off the corner and rolled away from Brennan, and Santander scored on Hays’ fly ball for a 7-0 lead.
Henderson’s second RBI came in the fifth inning on a 105 mph line drive into left field that scored Santander, who led off with a double to get halfway to the cycle. Quantrill was done after allowing eight runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Santander also doubled in the seventh and is 33-for-96 (.344) this month with a .432 on-base percentage and .625 slugging percentage, reaching base in 23 of 26 games. He tied his career high with three extra-base hits and became the first Oriole with a three-run triple since Jace Peterson on May 2, 2018 in Anaheim.
"A little more on time with the fastball," Hyde said. "He scuffled a little bit early, but for me, on time with the fastball a little bit more. A couple beautiful swings tonight."
Coulombe inherited two runners from Bryan Baker in the seventh, walked a batter and gave up Naylor’s two-out hit. Cano retired Bell on a ground ball, with Hyde gritting his teeth from the heavy bullpen usage a night before using an opener or starting Austin Voth on Wednesday.
Cano threw only two pitches, but the club’s failure to break open the game kept him active in the eighth after Mike Baumann warmed. Jaw clenching.
The first two batters singled, and Urías chose the out at second base on Mike Zunino’s chopper rather than going to third. Straw grounded into a 6-4-3 double play on Cano’s 17th pitch.
The Orioles will close out the series, enjoy an off-day in San Francisco and begin a two-city road trip.
Losing Mullins can’t halt the march to the postseason.
"That's a tough loss, obviously," Gibson said. "Cedric's one of the best center fielders in the game, if not the best. It was tough news. ... It seems like he was in good spirits today, and that goes a long way through the locker room. We can feed off his energy and how he's approaching the situation. Seems like it's a pretty favorable timeline for the team and definitely better than it could have been. I think we responded well."
“I think that we’re all professionals now and I think we’ve been pretty fortunate so far, and this is kind of something that just happens and you know it happens,” Hyde said. “We’ve played other teams that are missing guys. It’s part of the six-month season in a sport we play every night, and you never want to see it and it hurts to have one of your main guys miss some time, but it’s part of the game.
“Good teams are able to deal with some adversity and have other guys step up and give other guys some opportunities. Hopefully, we’ll get Cedric back and he can continue on the great season he was having.”
There will be an adjustment period. Ryan McKenna replaced Terrin Vavra in left field for the first two outs in the ninth and switched with Hays.
"That was a miscommunication from the start of the inning," Hyde said. "And then, with the light show and noise, and then the pitch clock, we got two guys sprinting counting the seconds down. That was unfortunate. I hated the way that looked. We're so used to having Mullins in center field that we just couldn't get the communication in time. That was a bad look."
* Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells are starting in San Francisco.
* Jordan Westburg hit his 14th home run for Triple-A Norfolk. DL Hall allowed one run in three innings and threw 50 pitches, 27 for strikes. Spenser Watkins was charged with five runs (four earned) in 1 2/3 innings, with two hits, four walks and three strikeouts.
Coby Mayo had two more hits for Double-A Bowie, including his 15th double. Garrett Stallings got the win with five scoreless innings in relief and only one hit allowed. Stallings didn’t walk a batter.
High-A Aberdeen’s Jud Fabian hit a grand slam, doubled and drove in five runs. Jackson Holliday went 1-for-3 with an RBI, walk and run scored. Alex Pham allowed one run in five scoreless innings, and Jake Lyons earned his first save with four shutout innings.
Single-A Delmarva’s Edgar Portes shut out Fredericksburg on one hit in four innings.