The last couple series the Orioles gave plenty of reasons to question whether they could truly hang with the best teams in baseball. This weekend, though, they made it known that they can definitely beat up on the worst teams in baseball. That message was never more emphatic than it was on Sunday, as the O’s bats came alive in a 11-3 win over the Royals.
Gunnar Henderson continued to star in his new leadoff role Sunday, going 3-5 with a HR, 3 RBIs and two runs scored. After the Orioles fell behind 1-0 after two Kansas City doubles in the top of the 1st, Henderson led off the bottom of the 1st with a double to center field. Anthony Santander then moved Gunnar to third with a ground out and Austin Hays brought the rookie SS home with a sac fly to right. After three batters, the Orioles had restored parity at 1-1.
With two down in the 1st, some of the newest O’s started a rally. Ryan O’Hearn—hitting cleanup for the first time this season—walked and Aaron Hicks immediately followed with a line-drive double to right on a splitter that hung in the zone. With two in scoring position, Ramón Urías stepped up to the plate looking to give Baltimore and early lead. After getting ahead 1-2, Kansas City opener Carlos Hernandez tried to blow a 100-mph fastball by Urías up and away. Instead the O’s third baseman launched the ball off the right-center wall to score two and give the home team a 3-1 lead.
The Ramón Empire strikes early!! pic.twitter.com/g2SuSPfK8Y— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) June 11, 2023
That lead was slightly short lived, however. After a scoreless 2nd for both teams, first baseman Nick Pratto worked a one-out walk in the 3rd to bring the tying run to the plate. That tying run was represented by former All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, and he wasted no time tying the game. The 12-year vet jumped on a first pitch cutter left over the plate by O’s starter Kyle Gibson, blasting a two-run homer to center to tie things at three.
Just as the Orioles wasted no time in taking the lead in the 1st, they again wasted little time in taking the lead back in the 3rd. O’Hearn led off the inning with a single up the middle, before a walk for Hicks and a single for Urías loaded the bases. Josh Lester then got his third and fourth RBIs of his big league career, bouncing a single up the middle to bring home O’Hearn and Hicks. James McCann capped off the rally by lofting a sac fly in to center field that drove home Urías. With a 6-3 lead after three innings, the Orioles had a lead that was never threatened the rest of the game.
However, just because the Royals bats went silent doesn’t mean the hit parade stopped in Baltimore. With two outs in the 4th, O’Hearn worked another walk to spark a mini rally. Hicks then continued the hot start to his Orioles career, slapping a double into the LF corner that allowed O’Hearn to come all the way around from first to score.
Did you order something? Because Hicks just delivered. pic.twitter.com/Fscd3Dpk7z— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) June 11, 2023
With a 7-3 lead, things settled down a little bit. Neither team got a runner on base in the 5th inning, and the Orioles squandered a scoring opportunity in the 6th. Henderson led off the inning by beating out an infield single on a grounder to first base. After two quick outs from Santander and Hays, O’Hearn picked up his second hit of the day, singling through the right side of the infield and allowing Henderson to move up to third. HIcks couldn’t play hero once again, though, as he hit an 0-2 changeup off the end off the end of his bat, flying out to right-center.
That missed opportunity in the 6th proved to be the setup for the fireworks show the Orioles put on in the 7th. Urías started the inning with a double hit over the center fielder’s head that one hopped over the outfield fence. Then after Adam Frazier walked, GUNNAR HENDERSON entered the conversation. The 21-year-old launched his most majestic home run of the season, a three-run bomb onto Eutaw Street that sent all of Birdland into a frenzy. For those who love launch angles and exit velocities, this beauty sailed off of Gunnar’s bat at 114 mph and went 462 feet. For those that just love great baseball, all you need to do is watch it:
HE'S GUNNA VISIT EUTAW STREET pic.twitter.com/WQmjeYBmAb— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) June 11, 2023
The scoring came to a close in the 8th inning, but not before Ryan O’Hearn “did his best Gunnar Henderson impression” —as color commentator Brian Roberts put it. The Orioles RF muscled a changeup on the outer third of the plate over the right field wall and onto the flag court to give the O’s their final run of the game and a 11-3 lead. Clearly O’Hearn—the former Royal—took this match up against Kansas City very seriously. Despite Gunnar stealing the headlines, the 8th round pick of the Royals shined as well, going 3-3 with four runs, two walks and this majestic blast:
Though the Orioles’ bats were definitely the more noteworthy story on Sunday, the pitching staff also twirled another strong performance against the Royals. Starter Kyle Gibson went 6.1 innings, allowing three runs off seven hits while striking out four and walking none. The pitch on the home run from Perez was really the only mistake that Gibson made all afternoon. The doubles he gave up in the first to Perez and Bobby Witt Jr. were decent pitches—fastballs just off the outside of the strike zone—but the two just put better swings on them.
After the third, Gibson really settled in, effectively mixing all his pitches to continually befuddled Royals hitters. Gibson’s sweeper was particularly effective Sunday, as he’d throw out not only as an out pitch with two-strikes, but he also consistently located it in the zone early in counts. After giving up a single to Maikel Garcia in the 7th, the Orioles lifted Gibson in favor of Keegan Akin. The veteran lefty then proceeded to do his best Felix Bautista impression, as he racked up six Ks over the final 2.2 innings of the game. After giving up a triple in the 9th to outfielder Edward Olivares, Akin blew fastballs by Drew Waters and Garcia, punching out Kansas City’s last two hitters to seal the win.
Though Henderson and O’Hearn provided the most exciting hits for the Orioles Sunday, it was actually Urías who led the club with four hits as he went 4-5 on the afternoon. More importantly than individual stat lines, however, is that the entire O’s lineup came alive against the Royals. Seven of the nine starters registered an RBI and five players had multi-hit games. For a team whose offense has received plenty of criticism lately, this outburst will hopefully inspire confidence heading into this week’s series against the Blue Jays and Cubs.
Who is the Most Birdland Player for Sunday, June 11th?
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