The Orioles offense appeared destined for another disappointing night after struggling starter Patrick Corbin limited the O’s to one run in six innings. The Nationals summoned their best reliever in the bottom of the seventh, but the Orioles responded with one of their most fun innings from the season.
Brandon Hyde pushed the right buttons, Gunnar Henderson raced around the bases for a little-league home run, Jorge Mateo went deep and the Birds came back to life. Baltimore’s bullpen delivered a heroic effort after an abridged start by Tyler Wells, and the Orioles pulled out a 6-2 victory in Washington.
Corbin kept the Birds off balance, but they finally broke through when the veteran exited the game. Washington reliever Mason Thompson had limited opponents to just a .120 batting average in 14 games this season. Thompson held a 1-0 record and a miniscule 0.60 ERA before tonight’s game. Remarkably, the Orioles were happy to see him.
Jesús Aguilar quickly singled up the middle to record his second hit of the day. Brandon Hyde had started Aguilar and Ryan McKenna for the matchup against Corbin. Hyde left Aguilar in to face the righty Thompson, but he immediately sent Terrin Vavra out to pinch run after the big man reached first.
Hyde did pinch hit for McKenna, and Cedric Mullins made him look good with a single up the middle. Suddenly, the Orioles had the go-ahead run on base for one of their star rookies.
Henderson laced a 1-0 sinker down the left field line that rolled into the corner. Both Vavra and Mullins scored with ease, but the play did not stop there. César Hernández made his way to the corner, but the ball slipped out of his hand when he attempted a throw. Henderson never broke stride as he rounded third and scored with a smile on his face.
GUNNAR LITTLE LEAGUE HOMER! pic.twitter.com/gUmtVwW4e2— Orioles on MASN (@masnOrioles) September 15, 2022
The Orioles claimed a 4-2 lead on what was officially scored a triple and an error, but they left their foot on the gas. Mateo lined the first pitch he saw over Hernández and the left-field fence to increase the lead to three.
The Orioles tacked another run on in the top of the eighth. Vavra led off with a ball to the gap but was thrown out attempting to stretch a single into a double. Mullins followed with a single to right before Henderson delivered another clutch hit. Henderson pounded a double off the right-field wall to drive in Mullins and extend the lead to four.
The seventh inning felt monumental after Corbin lulled the Birds to sleep for a majority of the game. The Orioles loaded the bases with nobody out in the second, but only scored once with a fielder’s choice by Henderson. Corbin retired the next 12 batters he faced.
Wells started the game but was never expected to work deep into the contest. The game marked Wells’ second appearance after the righty strained his oblique at the end of July.
Wells retired the first eight batters he faced before allowing a solo home run to Riley Adams. Wells limited the Nationals to just two hits, but the Nats made both count. Luke Voit whalloped a no doubter to center field to provide Washington a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning.
DL Hall worked a clean fifth inning before Austin Voth entered in the sixth. Voth issued a pair of two-out walks, but generated a fly ball from Voit to end the inning. Cionel Pérez worked around a leadoff single to retire the side in the seventh, and Jake Reed recovered after a leadoff double to post another zero.
Bryan Baker kept things light by taking the bullpen cart to the mound in the bottom of the ninth. Baker’s eccentric entrance did not break his focus. The flame-thrower worked a 1-2-3 ninth to complete the mini-series sweep.
Voth picked up the victory against his former team, but the bullpen shined in more ways than one. Five shutout innings allowed the Orioles to rest Félix Bautista after the closer complained of arm fatigue last week. The relievers also backed up the decision to have Wells stretch out at the major league level instead of rehabbing in the minors.
The win brought the Orioles to within four games of Tampa Bay for the final wild card spot. The offense showed life with 11 hits and six runs, and the Birds can now carry some momentum into their final off day of the season.
Who was the most Birdland player for September 14?
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Gunnar Henderson (2-4, 2B, 3B, career-high 4 RBI)
The Bullpen (5 scoreless innings, only 2 hits allowed)