➔ See how BaltimoreBaseball.com can grow your business.
SAN FRANCISCO–In a season in which he was expected to contend for the American League Rookie of the Year award, things haven’t gone as expected for Gunnar Henderson.
Henderson has struggled to keep his average above .200 as the Orioles try to stay in the playoff conversation while centerfielder Cedric Mullins is out with a right groin strain.
On Friday night, Henderson crushed a 410-foot home run in the seventh inning to lead the Orioles to a 3-2 win over the San Francisco Giants before an announced crowd of 27,873 at Oracle Park. It was Henderson’s hardest-hit ball of the season, at 110.7 mph, and sixth home run. It broke a 2-2 tie and, according to manager Brandon Hyde, it was Henderson’s best swing of the year.
“I was trying to get something out over the plate early,” Henderson said. “I’m starting to feel really good in the box. That was definitely one of the best ones I’ve had.”
Henderson acknowledged that the weak start to the season hurt his confidence.
“I felt like it was kind of lost there at the beginning of the year,” he said. “I had to work my way back and glad to be able to go through it and learn how to go through it and hit that developmental stage.”
Oriole starting pitcher Dean Kremer, who grew up in Stockton, California, about 60 miles away, gave up Lamonte Wade Jr.’s home run on the first pitch he threw in the bottom of the first, and an RBI double by Mike Yastrzemski in the third that scored J.D. Davis.
An on-target relay by rightfielder Anthony Santander nabbed Brett Wisely when he tried to score from third on Davis’ single.
“They adapted to me, and then I adapted to them. It was a cat-and-mouse game,” Kremer said. “It ended up working out in our favor.”
Kremer walked Brandon Crawford and Wisely to start the fifth, caught Wade looking and Davis grounded into a double play.
“He dealt with some adversity in the fifth with two walks and to be able to get out of that inning and to go back out in the sixth and to go 1-2-3 showed how he’s maturing as a pitcher and how he’s making adjustments,” Hyde said.
Kremer (6-2) allowed two runs on five hits in six innings. He’s 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in his last six starts.
“Regardless of whether things are going well early or late, it’s just grinding through at-bats, trying to get outs where I can,” Kremer said.
He enjoyed pitching in front of family and friends.
“It’s different, being that I’m always on the East Coast,” Kremer said. “I don’t get too many opportunities to come to the West Coast and see people that I used to. It’s really nice.”
The Orioles (36-21) scored two runs against San Francisco starter Logan Webb (4-6) in the second. Ryan O’Hearn’s RBI single scored Austin Hays, and Jorge Mateo’s dribbler scored Aaron Hicks from third.
Danny Coulombe struck out the side in the seventh. In the eighth, Yennier Cano walked Wilmer Flores and, with one out, hit Davis with a pitch. The inning ended when Mike Yastrzemski hit a grounder sharply to second baseman Adam Frazier, who threw to Mateo at short to begin a crucial double play.
Félix Bautista recorded his 15th save, striking out Mitch Haniger and Blake Sabol before Casey Schmitt doubled. Bautista struck out Michael Conforto for the third out.
The Orioles had a rocky homestand, losing consecutive series for the first time this season, but began the six-game road trip with a complete game, winning despite getting only four hits.
“I felt like we were finally able to catch our breath, have an offday, catch up on sleep. I felt like we all played really well today,” Henderson said.
Henderson thought the home run was his biggest hit with the Orioles.
“I think so. It’s hard to remember all the other ones,” he said. “It feels like so long ago.”
Fifty-one of the Orioles’ 57 games have been decided by four or fewer runs, tied with the Los Angeles Angels for most in the majors.
“We’re doing a really nice job of winning some close games,” Hyde said. “We’re getting used to it. Maybe we can break open one of these.”
Notes: The Orioles’ two double plays give them a major league-leading 55. … First baseman Ryan Mountcastle missed his first game. Hyde rested him because he’s been slumping. He’ll play on Saturday. … Hyde, who grew up in Santa Rosa, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, was managing his first game in San Francisco. … Kyle Bradish (2-1, 4.89) will face former Oriole Alex Cobb (4-2, 3.05) on Saturday at 10:05 p.m.
Minor league update: Chris Valimont (2-2) allowed six runs, four earned, in 3 1/3 innings as Triple-A Norfolk lost to Gwinnett, 16-0.
The Tides had five hits. Catcher Roberto Mantecón allowed four runs in 1 2/3 innings.
Outfielders John Rhodes and Heston Kjerstad homered as Double-A Bowie beat Harrisburg, 3-2, in 10 innings.
Rhodes hit his third homer and Kjerstad his 11th.
Four High-A Aberdeen pitchers held Hudson Valley to four hits in the IronBirds’ 2-1 win in 12 innings.
Aberdeen had just three hits. Outfielder Dylan Beavers hit his fourth home run.
Catcher Samuel Basallo drove in three runs and hit his fifth home runs and centerfielder Isaac Bellony had four hits as Single-A Delmarva beat Fredericksburg, 7-3.
Wyatt Cheney (2-4) allowed one hit in five shutout innings as the Shorebirds held the Nationals to three hits.
Sean Doolittle, who’s on a rehabilitation assignment, was the losing pitcher.
RAVENS LINKS FROM BALTIMORESPORTS.COM