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Saturday Bird Droppings: Gunnar goes off

Wins in the Bay Area, Hicks still has a sore back, and J.J. Hardy’s birthday!

Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Good morning, Birdland!

Last night went as well as I could have hoped it would. The Orioles are a good team, and the Athletics are a bad team. That was quite evident in the O’s 9-4 win on Friday.

The entire lineup contributed, although Gunnar Henderson stood out with his three hits, including another home run. Not to be outdone, Adley Rutschman also recorded three hits. Those two form quite a formidable 1-2 punch atop the lineup, don’t ya think? I sure hope they stick around Baltimore for years to come.

On the pitching side, Kyle Gibson was...not great. But the bullpen was! They combined for four scoreless innings and racked up six strikeouts in the process. Cionel Pérez continued his perfect August, and Jacob Webb once again looked like a reliable option. There are still changes to come for the relievers—mainly the return of Danny Coulombe and perhaps the addition of DL Hall—but their form has steadied in recent weeks.

Tonight is the Cole Irvin game. The lefty returns to face his former organization, and the Orioles have a clear advantage in the pitching matchup. Some of that is because the A’s have been starting anyone with a pulse for most of the season, but Irvin has also improved by leaps and bounce since April.

Irvin’s ERA on April 13 was 10.66. He comes into today with a 4.92. He has spent a chunk of the season in the bullpen, appearing in low-leverage moments. But the starts he has been handed have been solid. His most recent outing in Seattle was terrific: five innings, two hits, no runs, one walk, six strikeouts. Some more of that would be lovely.


Gunnar making case to match Cal Ripken Jr.? |
Henderson is the favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year. That isn’t a sentence that would have surprised many in March, but it looked far less likely in April. He’s been amazing since.

Hicks on back soreness: “It’s kind of hit or miss right now” | Roch Kubatko
The Orioles are in a position where they are in great shape to make the playoffs. They now need to balance their push for the division title with keeping the players healthy enough to play deep into October. That could mean getting someone like Cedric Mullins—and his groin—off the field for a few extra innings on occasion. That probably requires a healthy Aaron Hicks, or another centerfielder.

Adley Rutschman or Cedric Mullins: Who should be the Orioles’ leadoff hitter? | The Baltimore Sun
From an approach perspective, Rutschman is the far better choice. He sees tons of pitches, works counts more, and is better at getting on base in some way, shape, or form. But once he’s on he certainly doesn’t put pressure on the defense in the same way as Mullins. Even still, Rutschman feels like the guy moving forward.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

  • J.J. Hardy turns 41 today. The slick-fielding shortstop spent seven seasons in Baltimore from 2011 through 2017, winning three Gold Gloves in the process.
  • Lance Cormier is 43. He spent the 2008 season in the Orioles bullpen.
  • Rocky Cherry celebrates his 44th. Between 2007 and ‘08 the righty appeared in 28 games as an Orioles reliever.
  • Luis DeLeón is 65 years old. The 1987 season saw him pitch in 11 games for the Birds.
  • Paul Mitchell (not the shampoo guy) turns 74. He began his big league career as a member of the 1975 Orioles pitching staff.
  • Jim Lehew (b. 1937, d. 2016) was born on this day. The Baltimore native played in eight games between 1961 and ‘62 for his hometown team.
  • Jim Finigan (b. 1928, d. 1981) also gets a posthumous shoutout. The infielder came off the bench for the 1959 O’s.

This day in O’s history

2001 - The Orioles overcome a five-run deficit to beat the Red Sox 13-7. Jeff Conine leads the way with five hits.

2016 - The O’s set a modern record by hitting four home runs before making an out in their first turn at-bat, but ultimately lose 15-8 to the Astros.