Gunnar Henderson comes up big in Orioles’ win; Félix Bautista leaves with trainer
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Gunnar Henderson comes up big in Orioles’ win; Félix Bautista leaves with trainer

Jul 16, 2023

It was once again looking like it wasn’t going to be the Orioles’ night.

But this team, when things aren’t going its way, finds a way to win. Cole Irvin wasn’t his sharpest, but Shintaro Fujinami was. The offense was having trouble putting the pieces together, so Gunnar Henderson pushed the Orioles over the edge.

That formula is what’s made this team so successful: The players pick each other up when they need it most. On this night, it led to a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Rockies to open the three-game series.

The Orioles have now not been swept in 81 consecutive series.

The team, though, will be holding its breath until it finds out the condition of Félix Bautista. The All-Star closer departed the game with a trainer with two outs in the top of the ninth after he felt discomfort in his arm. Bautista is undergoing tests. The severity of the injury is not known, but any time without Bautista, who has 33 saves, would be a big loss for the Orioles.

“When the best closer in the game leaves the game, that’s never a good feeling,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Hopefully he’s OK tomorrow.”

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It seemed, for most of the game, that this one would go in Colorado’s favor, even though the Orioles started the night strong. Ryan Mountcastle had one of the most confusing home runs of the season in the bottom of the first. He hit it out of the park, but the ball bounced back in and Mountcastle thought it was in play. He ran around the bases as such, sliding into third and advancing home on an errant throw.

No matter how it happened, it was an early lead for the Orioles. They added another run later in the first, off a sac fly from Henderson.

But the Rockies, who have the worst record in the National League, seemed like they had it from there. They taxed Irvin for four runs, two of which came off a home run from rookie Ezequiel Tovar. Irvin wasn’t as sharp as his two previous starts, but he managed to get through six innings, striking out five and walking one.

“It was nice to get into that sixth. Definitely had more in the tank to go a little bit further if I needed to,” Irvin said. “Definitely feel really good. Leadoff guy getting on was probably the story of the outing there, happened three or four times. Take note of that and just try to limit the damage early and make the adjustments.”

Baltimore's Anthony Santander scores a first-inning run as the throw eludes Rockies catcher Elias Diaz. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Fujinami took over for Irvin in a one-run game, a big spot for the flamethrower who has been inconsistent in his first major league season. This test turned out to be a breeze for Fujinami, who provided two scoreless innings.

“Fuji was the pitcher of the game for me,” Hyde said. “He won us the game there. Great stuff in the seventh and eighth. ... I love the strike-throwing ability he’s showing right now and how aggressive he’s being. He’s trusting his fastball more, which is great.”

The Orioles offense, though, couldn’t get anything going again against Rockies starter Kyle Freeland until the sixth, when Austin Hays hit a solo home run to put the Orioles within one. They attempted rallies in the sixth and the seventh but came up empty-handed, leaving three men on base.

In the bottom of the eighth, Hays walked leading off, setting up a perfect opportunity for Henderson to provide some magic. He did just that, homering to right field to give the Orioles the lead.

“It seems like it’s a different guy every night,” Henderson said. “We all have each other’s back.”

They moved on to the top of the ninth, confident that Bautista would get them the final out. He got to two outs and two strikes before he landed awkwardly, leading to his immediate removal. Danny Coulombe came out to finish the game, needing just one pitch to get Michael Toglia to strike out swinging to end the game.

Postgame, the team tried to stay positive, not wanting to react until it knew the full details on Bautista.

“He’s been electric all year,” Irvin said. “I know the fans love him. You want one of your best guys to still be pitching for you. Hopefully it’s nothing negative and he just needs a little bit of time. I don’t know what’s going to happen and what to expect, so just praying for him.”

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