Peter Schmuck: Orioles decide suspense is overrated, hammer Mariners, 9-2 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Peter Schmuck

Peter Schmuck: Orioles decide suspense is overrated, hammer Mariners, 9-2

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The Orioles needed a couple of recent walk-off wins to maintain their early-season momentum, so it had to be nice to walk all over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.

Gunnar Henderson led off the series opener at Oriole Park with his major league-leading 13th home run, and the O’s scored five times in the first inning against Mariners starter Bryce Miller on the way to a 9-2 win that improved their record to 28-14.

They never really looked back as left-hander John Means (2-0, 3.06 ERA) threw a solid six innings, allowing just two runs on six hits to record his first victory at Camden Yards since April of 2021. The road back from Tommy John surgery has been a long one, but if his first three starts of the season are any indication, he’s going to be a major factor in the Orioles’ attempt to successfully defend their 2023 American League East title.

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“He has battled through a lot and dealt with a lot of adversity and he was kind of here from the start [of the Orioles rebuild],” manager Brandon Hyde said. “And to see his way through, these are really big starts for him because he had a lot of time off and he’s really taken advantage. I know he’s appreciative and we’re appreciative to have him out there.”

It wasn’t a cake walk. Means gave up three hits in the first inning and struggled to locate his fastball, but he did not walk a batter for the third straight appearance and maintained a sub-1.00 WHIP.

“I didn’t think he had his best fastball command tonight,”Hyde said, “but that changeup is so good, and throwing the slurve, he dumped some curveballs in and kept them off-balance that way.”

Means said he got a big lift from the five-run rally in the bottom of the first, and also from the raucous crowd of 38,882 that showed up to take advantage of a throwback jersey promotion and see the Orioles take on the first-place team in the American League West.

“It was awesome,” Means said. “It’s incredible to see Camden Yards like this. It’s such a special place and these are such special people. To see this crowd now compared to what it was in April, 2021 or whenever that was, it’s good to see. It’s fun. The energy. Everybody feeds off it. It’s great to have everybody out.”

Henderson got the party started with a long home run to right -enter field that tied him with Houston’s Kyle Tucker for the major league lead in that department. It was the Orioles’ second leadoff homer in as many games, following Jordan Westburg’s against the Blue Jays in his first big league appearance in the leadoff spot.

Henderson added a triple in the Orioles’ four-run seventh inning, right after second baseman Jorge Mateo streaked all the way to third on a line drive to right field that Hyde said would have been a routine double for “about 99 percent of the players in the league.”

Adley Rutschman and Colton Cowser also had two hits and drove in runs. Austin Hays delivered an RBI double in the seventh and dashed home on a wild pitch in a brief late-inning appearance. He has batted just twice since returning from the injured list and produced big hits in each at-bat.

Hyde apparently was holding his breath the whole time since Hays is still not 100 percent since suffering the calf injury that sidelined him for nearly a month.

“He wasn’t supposed to run like that,’’ Hyde said with a laugh. “He stretches a single to a double and then he scores on a wild pitch. That isn’t exactly how I drew it up. I just wanted to get him that at-bat, get him out there for a couple innings of defense, but Austin Hays plays like Austin Hays, and that’s with his hair on fire. That’s the only way he knows how to play.”

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