Orioles mark final game in Oakland with 6-3 win, players denied All-Star selections rise to occasion (updated)

OAKLAND – The Orioles’ two All-Star starters made the first two outs today, with Gunnar Henderson grounding out and Adley Rutschman flying out. Anthony Santander followed with a home run. Ryan O’Hearn and Jordan Westburg singled, and they scored on Heston Kjerstad’s three-run shot.

A day after surrendering 19 runs in a blowout loss, the Orioles pounced and vented early, leading from the beginning in a 6-3 win over the Athletics in their final game at Oakland Coliseum. And a few All-Star omissions – some might say snubs - couldn’t be silenced.

Santander’s homer off Mitch Spence raised his total to 23, tied for fourth in the majors as the ball landed in the right field seats. He was a finalist in voting for American League outfielders, missed by one spot and didn’t get selected as a reserve.

O’Hearn was a finalist at designated hitter, missing election by four percent of the votes. Jordan Westburg was a finalist at third base. They’re also staying home barring a late substitution.

Corbin Burnes brought the total number of Orioles to three with his fourth selection in a row. That was the cutoff.

"Just an all-around ace," Henderson said. "When he goes out there you know you’re going to have a chance to win the game, and I feel like that’s what you want to have in your ace starter.”

"I’m very excited for Corbin," said manager Brandon Hyde. "Right now for me, he’s the best pitcher in the league. He definitely deserves it. He’s been an unbelievable starter for us and definitely deserves to be there."

The team celebrated Burnes' inclusion but also chose their words carefully when expressing disappointment in the limited representation.

"With that said, and Corbin for me is the best pitcher in the game, that was a slam dunk, I’m disappointed a lot of the other guys didn’t get in," Hyde said. "Hopefully things will happen and spots open, but I was disappointed. When you win as many games as we have in the last year and a half and you only get three guys in, and you’re on the pace we are on right now and we won 101 games last year with a lot of the same group, you’d think that we’d get more guys in. I’m disappointed in that. But hopefully they’ll have All-Star second halves, also."

“When you have a team of this caliber and only three guys get to go, yeah, it definitely sucks," O'Hearn said. "It is what it is. Very happy for Corbin and Gunnar and Adley. They’re extremely deserving.”

Grayson Rodriguez managed to address the topic while biting his tongue. He smirked as he got deeper into it.

"Yeah, that was a big surprise," he said. "Came in after the start and realized that the rosters had been released. I want to say some stuff about that. I can’t. I think we should have had more than three All-Stars, for sure. There’s a lot of guys in that clubhouse that are deserving to be there."

Kjerstad wasn’t on the ballot or in the conversation, but his raw power can’t be ignored. He launched a cutter 406 feet to left-center field at 107.4 mph off the bat, his hardest-hit ball this season.

At that moment, Kjerstad was batting .407 with a 1.299 OPS, three homers and 12 RBIs in 31 plate appearances since the Orioles recalled him. He’s 11-for-30 heading into the off-day.

"He’s given us a boost," Hyde said. "He’s got that power potential, and he’s taking good at-bats. He’s popping one every once in a while and getting some big hits for us."

"Really impressive," Rodriguez said. "Heston can swing the bat and I think he’s really starting to show people that he can. I think the league’s about to get a wake-up call about him, because the way he handles the bat is impressive. He’s got some juice. You see it during BP, and it’s starting to show during the games."

Kjerstad prefers to focus on the club first and then the individual side and how his career is progressing.

"I just want to help the team win games any way I can do that," he said. "Offense, defense or whatever role they put me in, for sure.

"The more at-bats you can get, the more consecutive games you can play, it kind of helps you get into a rhythm or stay in a rhythm. But also, it’s the game of baseball. Whenever your name’s called on, whether you’ve gotten to play every day or you haven’t played in a couple days, you’ve got to show up and do your job and help the team win.”

Rodriguez was charged with three runs in six-plus innings, and the Orioles won the series while improving to 57-33. They lead the division by three games.

The Orioles won two of three in Seattle and Oakland.

"Skip just told us, ‘That’s championship baseball,'" Rodriguez said. "Being able to go to the West Coast, it’s not easy. If we’re able to go 4-2 like that, that’s big. That’s going to carry us deep into October."

“It’s definitely not easy to do that," Henderson said. "It’s just a testament to the guys we have in the clubhouse. Just being able to kind of overcome that adversity and just be really ready to go out there and try to win as many ballgames as we can. And I feel like we came out here and did that.”

“We’ve been good in the face of adversity pretty much all year," O'Hearn said. "I think this road trip is a good example of that. It’s never easy to come out West and win two series. Proud of the guys for how we competed. After yesterday, coming back and just ready to bounce back and find a way to get the series. It’s kind of the good character of our team.”

Jacob Webb entered in the seventh with runners on the corners, no outs and the Orioles leading 5-2. Webb got a strikeout and ground ball that should have produced a 5-6-3 double play, but Henderson’s throw sailed past O’Hearn.

Rodriguez also qualified as a possible All-Star. Today’s win was his 11th to go with a 3.52 ERA. He allowed six hits, including Tyler Soderstrom’s RBI double in the sixth, walked one and struck out eight.

Soderstrom reached on an infield hit leading off the second inning, with Westburg making a backhand stop and bobbling the ball, and Rodriguez struck out the next three batters.

Singles in the fourth and fifth produced nothing against Rodriguez, who completed the inning at 71 pitches with a shutout intact. But JJ Bleday drew a leadoff walk in the sixth, Rodriguez hit Brent Rooker with one out and Soderstrom poked a double down the left-field line. Shea Langeliers’ fly ball reduced the lead to 5-2.

The inning cost Rodriguez 20 pitches and ended his scoreless streak at 13 1/3. Back-to-back singles in the seventh forced his exit at 95 pitches.

The disastrous start in Houston, with seven runs and nine hits in five innings, is becoming a distant memory. A mere blip.

"I feel like throwing the changeup better has allowed me to pitch deeper in the ballgame," he said. "Obviously, the defense has been spectacular. So any time you’ve got guys making plays behind you, it’s really easy to pitch deep into the game, especially when our lineup is putting up a lot of runs at the beginning as well. I think the way I’ve been throwing the ball has a lot to do with our offense, so yeah, thanks to those guys."

Henderson tripled with two outs in the second, perhaps a generous ruling with Bleday letting the ball bounce past him in center. At 112.5 mph, it ranks among the hardest-hit balls by an Oriole this season. Santander is first at 114.4 on June 14.

Santander led off the third inning with a popup that Brett Harris lost in the sun, and he scored with two outs when Bleday dropped Kjerstad’s fly ball in a miscommunication with right fielder Lawrence Butler.

The 19 runs yesterday must have taken a lot out of the A’s.

"Those games happen throughout the season," Kjerstad said, "and to bounce back today, great pitching all the way around, put up six runs, that’s a solid game of baseball.”

The offense couldn’t squeeze out another run until the ninth on Henderson’s single that scored pinch-runner Jorge Mateo.

"Love the way we came out and swung the bat," Hyde said. "We kind of went dormant there for a while, but I thought Grayson threw the ball great. Just had that one inning where he walked the leadoff guy and hit-by-pitch kind of hurt. Pretty well-played game today."

Yennier Cano struck out two batters to strand a runner in the eighth, and closer Craig Kimbrel was handed the ball in the ninth. Kimbrel struck out two and registered his 23rd save and 440th of his career.

He’s allowed one earned run in his last 21 innings.

He’s a nine-time All-Star denied his 10th selection today.

"All the guys, they’ve had really awesome first halves," Henderson said. "Yeah, kind of disappointed didn’t get to see more of them in there. I don’t really know what else to say. Just disappointed they didn’t make it in.”

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