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Orioles stave off sweep by Brewers with late-inning rallies for 6-3 victory

The Orioles had scored zero runs headed into the seventh inning. They won anyway.

Baltimore Orioles v Milwaukee Brewers
Gunnar Henderson needed to redeem himself, and that’s exactly what he did.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Orioles were four outs away from a disastrous sweep in Milwaukee, which would have been their first time being swept in over a year. The offensive slump was ongoing, making the early damage done by some spotty defense feel insurmountable. They were on the way to destruction, and then, suddenly, they weren’t. With five runs scored between the eighth and ninth innings, the O’s turned the game around into what is for this team a comfortable three-run victory.

The story of the game was one of redemption for Gunnar Henderson. He was on the hook to be the guy to take a big portion of the blame for a loss. Then he came up to the plate with a man on base in the eighth inning, with two outs already, facing Brewers reliever Peter Strzelecki.

Henderson attacked the first pitch he saw, which he has seldom done this year. The pitch was a fastball outside of the zone, against which Henderson has also not swung often this year, sometimes to his detriment when an umpire blows a call regarding where home plate actually is. No matter this time, as Henderson reached out, made contact, and the ball sailed the opposite way, scraping over the left field fence. Henderson circled the bases and suddenly the Orioles were ahead by a run.

The reason that Henderson needed his redemption is that he seemed to have an inexplicable brain fart on defense in the first inning. After starting pitcher Kyle Bradish walked Brewers leadoff man Christian Yelich, Bradish got the next batter, Willy Adames, to hit a ground ball up the middle, on the shortstop side of the second base bag. Henderson, playing shortstop, broke towards the ball as second baseman Adam Frazier broke to the base. Henderson got within diving range of the ball and then just... stopped.

It is not clear, still, why this occurred. Had the Orioles not staged the late rally, this would be subject to angst-laden interrogation from me. There was no reason for Henderson to give up on a ball on his side of second base. This play could have resulted in a snazzy highlight reel double play, or at least getting the batter out at first base. Instead, the grounder kept going into center field. Yelich went to third base.

Bradish turned this into what I always think of as a Jake Arrieta Memorial Inning, in which things go sideways for a pitcher through little fault of his own and he responds to that adversity by making a bunch of mistakes. The Brewers got their first run when Rowdy Tellez hit a groundout that scored Yelich, then Bradish allowed three straight singles that plated two more runs. He did, at least, avoid absolute collapse, but faced eight batters in the inning. It wasn’t good.

This 3-0 Brewers first-inning lead was an obstacle that felt insurmountable for a lot of the game. The Orioles offense, continuing the malaise that’s been floating around them in the month of June, was practically inert against Brewers starting pitcher Colin Rea, who entered the game with a 4.94 ERA.

It’s one thing to get shut down by recent Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, as the team did yesterday. It’s another thing to strike out eight times in five innings against Rea. The Orioles did not score while Rea was in the game. This was sad.

To Bradish’s credit, he followed up the bad luck and bad performance of the first inning by mostly cruising from there. Bradish only allowed two more hits over the next four innings, and did not walk anyone after Yelich’s leadoff walk. He went on to strike out ten Brewers hitters in a five-inning outing.

Had Henderson made a play on that first inning ground ball, a much more unambiguously positive story could be written of Bradish’s outing. Instead, he fits in the “did enough to keep his team in the game” category. That’s not nothing, but it’s still three earned runs in five innings onto his ledger.

The Orioles finally got on the board in the seventh inning, as Ramón Urías built his case for victory in the battle of the Urías brothers by hitting a two-out solo home run off of reliever Joel Payamps. With the way the O’s had been playing on this road trip, this had the feel of little more than an “at least it won’t be a shutout” consolation. Except in the eighth and the ninth, the Orioles kept scoring.

Adley Rutschman provided the spark for the eighth-inning go-ahead rally, which he got started by beating out an infield single. The other Urías brother, Luis, fielded the grounder and made a too-late throw to get Rutschman out. This throw sailed, allowing Rutschman to get to second base. Catcher speed! Rutschman did not stay on second for long, as he scored when Anthony Santander broke an 0-25 skid by doubling into the right field corner. The Orioles were suddenly within a run, and after Henderson batted later in the inning, they were on top.

After taking the lead, the Orioles kept lefty Keegan Akin, who’d pitched a scoreless seventh, in the game to face the lefty batter Tellez before bringing in Yennier Cano. Akin got his man to pop out and Cano then looked more like the Cano of April, getting a couple of easy outs to carry the one run lead into the ninth.

Some more insurance came in the ninth inning. Aaron Hicks, batting for the first time after being a defensive replacement, drew a walk ahead of Ramón Urías getting his third hit of the game, a single that left him the classic triple shy of a cycle. Urías was replaced by Jorge Mateo to make a double play less likely. Still with no one out, backup catcher James McCann dropped one of the weirder looking successful sacrifice bunts you’ll ever see to advance the runners into scoring position.

If there’s a time to sac bunt, it’s the backup catcher in the #9 spot in the lineup, right before the order turns over to a contact-heavy guy like Adam Frazier in the #1 spot. Frazier was 0-4 in the game and had struck out twice, so nothing was guaranteed, but he whipped a line drive into right field for a two-run double.

With the three-run cushion, Félix Bautista had a drama-free ninth. He did allow a one-out single. A wild pitch got this runner to second base. That runner never mattered in the game’s outcome. Bautista struck out the next two batters and the game was over. Sweep averted. Here is a fun Bautista fact: He struck out two batters in one inning and his K/9 went down.

This has been a tough two weeks for the Orioles, as they’ve gone 5-7 since the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. However, they head back to Baltimore with a win being the most recent memory for the plane trip. They can feel good about avoiding this sweep.

Three games against the Royals await starting on Friday night, assuming the Canadian wildfire smoke does not linger long enough to cause a postponement. Tyler Wells and Daniel Lynch are lined up as the pitchers for the start of the homestand.


Who was the Most Birdland Player for June 8, 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Gunnar Henderson (go-ahead two-run home run redemption)
    (436 votes)
  • 1%
    Anthony Santander (snapped 0-25 with RBI double)
    (8 votes)
  • 23%
    Ramón Urías (achieved sibling supremacy with three hits)
    (135 votes)
579 votes total Vote Now