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Gunnar blasts clutch homer, bullpen hangs on as Orioles nip Giants, 3-2

The Orioles got back on the winning track with a tense, one-run victory in the series opener in San Francisco.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at San Francisco Giants Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve had plenty of reasons to enjoy watching Orioles baseball this season. But I especially want to thank them on this night.

For one, they rewarded their fans back home who tuned in for a 10:15 start and eschewed their bedtimes, pulling out a late-inning, 3-2 victory in San Francisco to open a three-game series by the bay. Gunnar Henderson’s seventh-inning homer off Logan Webb provided the margin of victory, and Dean Kremer and three relievers escaped a few jams to make the slim lead stand up.

And two, they did it quickly, wrapping up the game in just under two and a half hours, allowing this recapper to finish writing and get to bed before 1 AM. Thanks, Orioles! (And thanks, pitch clock.)

As the game began, fans wondered which version of Kremer would come out of the gate in June — the one who struggled to a 6.67 ERA in April, or the one who rebounded for a 2.45 mark in May? On Kremer’s very first pitch of the game, it seemed that question might be answered. Former Maryland Terrapins standout LaMonte Wade Jr. blasted Kremer’s opening offering well over the right-field wall and into McCovey Cove, the 100th “splash hit” in the 24-year history of Oracle Park/AT&T Park/SBC Park/Pac Bell Park. A hundred splash hits for the ballpark with a hundred names! The event was celebrated with a between-innings confetti drop that slightly delayed the start of the second inning.

The good news for Kremer was that Wade’s ambush homer wasn’t indicative of how the rest of his night would go. He ended up with one of those classic Dean Kremer outings, in which he gave up some hard contact and allowed a bunch of baserunners but wriggled his way out of trouble at nearly every turn.

Kremer, for some reason, pitched brilliantly in even-numbered innings — tossing a perfect second, fourth, and sixth — but struggled in the odds. The third was one of those hard-contact innings, beginning with a Brett Wisely double, then a Wade scorcher that fortunately went directly to first baseman Ryan O’Hearn.

J.D. Davis then blistered a hit to right-center, and I thought the speedy Wisely was an absolute certainty to score, to the point that I was annoyed when Anthony Santander’s throw missed the cutoff man. But in fact Santander knew what he was doing, unleashing a pitch-perfect laser to catcher Adley Rutschman, who slapped the tag on a sliding Wisely for the out at the plate. What a play! It was, surprisingly, Santander’s first outfield assist of the season. In trying to score on that play, Brett chose...unWisely.

Kremer didn’t take advantage of his teammates’ defensive help, promptly coughing up a Mike Yastrzemski RBI double to plate Davis with the Giants’ second run. Still, that was the last run he would allow on the night. After working himself into a fifth-inning jam with two straight walks — prompting MASN’s Jim Palmer to understatedly deadpan, “Ideally, you don’t want to walk the eight and nine hitters to get to the top of the lineup,” — Kremer pulled a Houdini act, fanning Wade and inducing a rally-killing double play from Davis.

Kremer, after everything, ended up with a quality start, throwing exactly 100 pitches in six innings and giving up two runs, five hits, two walks, and six strikeouts. Not the most dominant outing you’ll ever see, but he gave his team a chance to win.

A win, though, would be dependent on the Orioles solving Giants ace and Landry from Friday Night Lights lookalike Logan Webb. For the most part, they didn’t; Webb faced the minimum three hitters in five different innings, dispatching the O’s with relative ease. But there were two notable exceptions.

In the top of the second, the Birds put together a two-run rally with help from some surprising sources. Austin Hays led off with a double off the top of the wall — nothing surprising about that for Hays, who has been scorching the ball — but the rally was extended by Aaron Hicks, who deftly worked a walk after falling behind 0-2 in the count, and Ryan O’Hearn, who laced an RBI single up the middle.

Later, with runners at the corners and two outs, Jorge Mateo just got a piece of an 0-2 sinker and trickled it just a few feet down the third-base line. The swinging bunt worked to perfection; the Giants had no chance of throwing out Mateo as Hicks raced home with the Orioles’ second run.

Webb settled in and shut down the O’s in the middle innings, carrying a 2-2 tie into the seventh. And that’s when Gunnar Henderson came through with one of his biggest hits of the season. The rookie jumped on a hanging changeup and crushed it 410 feet to right field, just shy of the cove, for a no-doubt, go-ahead homer. That’s what I’m talking about, Gunnar! The Orioles led, 3-2.

With a one-run lead in the seventh, Brandon Hyde could map out his bullpen plan perfectly, allotting one inning each to his three most reliable relievers: Daniel Coulombe, Yennier Cano, and Félix Bautista.

Of the trio, it was Coulombe, unexpectedly, who put on the most dazzling show. He absolutely wrecked the Giants in the seventh, whiffing Casey Schmitt, Patrick Bailey, and pinch-hitter Austin Slater in quick succession. Good morning, good afternoon, and good night. That’s probably the best I’ve ever seen Coulombe, and he’d been plenty good already.

The eighth inning was Cano’s, as usual, and he followed a recent trend of looking, well, less than stellar. Cano walked the leadoff man — only his second walk of the season — and plunked Davis on an 0-2 pitch, putting the tying and go-ahead runners aboard with one out. But second baseman Adam Frazier speared a sharp grounder from Yastrzemski and turned it into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

That left the ninth to The Mountain. Bautista, too, made things a bit too stressful. After blowing away the first two hitters, he gave up a first-pitch double to Schmitt and fell behind 3-1 to pinch-hitter Michael Conforto. No worries. Bautista reached back for two 98-mph fastballs, Conforto swung through them both, and the ballgame was over. Had it all the way.

Orioles win! For those who went to bed at a normal time and are just waking up to check the score, I’m happy to be the bearer of good news.


Who was the Most Birdland Player for Friday, June 2?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Gunnar Henderson (go-ahead HR in seventh)
    (393 votes)
  • 30%
    Dean Kremer (quality start, sixth win)
    (191 votes)
  • 6%
    Danny Coulombe (perfect inning with 3 Ks)
    (42 votes)
626 votes total Vote Now