BALTIMORE—On July 2nd, the Orioles had lost their fourth straight game, were 35-44 and a season-high 23 games out of first place in the American League East. The next day, they began a 10-game winning streak. In the next two months, the Orioles went 35-17 and are 8 ½ games out of first place.
During that time, the AL East-leading New York Yankees have gone 21-32. Their lead over second-place Tampa Bay is just five games.
“Nothing really surprises me. The teams in this division are really good, and we play each other,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That’s challenging. It makes us better.”
The Orioles are 27-29 against the AL East. They have 10 games remaining against Toronto, seven against Boston and three against New York.
“The past few years of us getting kicked around, playing the schedules we play have made our young players better,” Hyde said. “The division is tough. It’s not going to be easy for anybody to roll through it.”
The Orioles have made up 14 ½ games in two months. With 31 games remaining, they could cut into the lead even more.
“I don’t think it’s crazy,” Hyde said. “If you look at the last 3 ½ months of baseball, we’re playing pretty well and played them well.
“I think every team, most teams go through different ebbs and flows of the season. I think the Yankees are still extremely talented and a really, really good team that might be in a little bit of a funk. That’s a really good ballclub.”
Henderson at third: For his fourth major league game, Gunnar Henderson gets his second start at third base. He played there in his first game, then played shortstop and second, becoming the first Oriole to play three different positions in his first three games.
Hyde isn’t sure where the 21-year-old will play most.
“I don’t know. We’ll see. I think he’s got a lot of ability, a lot of talent,” Hyde said. “I’ve seen him for three games. I’m just going to continue to throw him out there.
“I’m really happy. He’s just off to a good start in every facet. It’s exciting to have him … He’s got special tools, a big strong guy, too. A lot of ability. He’s exciting.”
Castro claimed, Martin outrighted: Right-hander Anthony Castro was claimed off waivers from Cleveland and optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Castro is 1-2 with a 6.00 earned-run average and a save in three seasons with the Guardians, Detroit and Toronto.
In five appearances against the Orioles, Castro has allowed one hit in 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
To make room for Castro on the 40-man roster, right-hander Phoenix Sanders was designated for assignment.
Infielder Richie Martin, who was designated for assignment on Thursday when Jesús Aguilar’s contract was selected, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk.
Rodriguez, Wells updates: Grayson Rodriguez, who threw 1 1/3 innings on Thursday night in a rehab start at High-A Aberdeen, will pitch for Double-A Bowie on Tuesday. He’s recovering from a lat strain.
Tyler Wells, who pitched 2 1/3 innings for the IronBirds on Friday night, will throw another side session before his next outing, which could come for Aberdeen or perhaps Norfolk. He’s on the 15-day injured list because of lower left side discomfort.
Rutschman for Hays: On Friday night, Adley Rutschman pinch-hit for Austin Hays and drew a bases-loaded walk to bring home the go-ahead run in a 5-2 win.
“When you pinch-hit for a regular, it’s not because you don’t want to see him hit,” Hyde said. “I had a little bit better matchup on the bench in Rutschman.
“Guys understand that. That’s winning baseball … That’s what good teams do, especially down the stretch. You might not do that in May or June, but in the situation we’re in, guys are pulling for each other, and we’re going to do everything we can to win a game.”
Milestone for Chirinos: Catcher Robinson Chirinos reached 10 years of major league service time on Saturday.
“That is an awesome, awesome accomplishment for a major league player,” Hyde said. “To be able to get 10 years in, so congratulations to Robbie. That’s a huge deal. It’s a huge deal to players to be able to get that milestone.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB