A single shy of the cycle, Gunnar ... doubles!

O's wrap 3-city road trip with sweep of A's, extend AL East lead to 3 games over Rays

August 21st, 2023

OAKLAND -- Had he been so inclined, could have become the first Orioles rookie in franchise history to hit for the cycle. But he chose not to.

After doubling in the third, tripling in the fourth and homering in the seventh, all Henderson needed was a base hit. The 22-year-old stepped in against A's right-hander Zach Neal with one out in the eighth inning on Sunday and laced a ball down the right-field line for … a double.

After the Orioles recorded the final out of their 12-1 rout of the A's at the Coliseum, sealing a three-game sweep and a 6-3 record on their three-city West Coast road trip, Henderson admitted that the thought of stopping at first had crossed his mind.

But that's not the way he plays.

"If that situation happened, then I'd just sit on the fact that if it was meant to be, it would be a true single," Henderson said. "I just play the game hard and a double opportunity was there, so I feel like that is just the way I play."

Instead of a cycle, Henderson settled for the second four-hit game of his career, becoming the first big leaguer with two or more doubles, a triple and a home run in the same game since David Wright in 2013. He's also the youngest player in franchise history with four extra-base hits in a single game. Next on the list? Cal Ripken Jr.

It's not the first time that Henderson has been mentioned in the same breath as the Hall of Famer and Orioles legend, and it probably won't be the last.

The American League Rookie of the Year Award candidate's latest feat helped the Orioles extend their lead over the Rays in the AL East to three games. Baltimore (77-47) sits 30 games over .500 before September for the first time since 1997, per the Elias Sports Bureau. The last time the club reached that high-water mark, period, was 2014, when the then-AL East champs finished the season at 96-66.

While Henderson was satisfied with his decision to continue on past first base in his final at-bat, the allure of the cycle would have proved too powerful for many of his teammates.

"Well, if it was me, I would have fallen at first base and just stayed there, you know?" Jorge Mateo cracked, speaking in Spanish through interpreter Brandon Quinones. "But he has every right to make his own decision, and he chose to go to second."

When Henderson trotted into second, his teammates in the visiting dugout were seen gesturing toward him in mock disappointment, and they apparently gave him an earful afterward.

"Yeah, about 95 percent of 'em," Henderson said. "There's a few that agreed with me."

But when it comes down to it, Henderson's unrelenting competitive mindset is what the Orioles have come to expect.

"There were some guys that were teasing him about it, but maybe he's working on his OPS," manager Brandon Hyde said. "He plays the game a million miles an hour, and it'd be hard … for him, I'm sure, to pull up."

Henderson's big day led the Orioles' 17-hit attack that backed a near-pristine performance from Kyle Bradish.

The right-hander faced the minimum his first time through the order and held the A's to two hits and a walk across six scoreless innings, striking out eight.

There was no shortage of energy, but Baltimore got a major jolt when Mateo snapped his 0-for-7 start to the road trip in style, hustling for an inside-the-park home run in the second inning -- his first homer since April 30.

Facing A's lefty JP Sears, Mateo launched a fly ball to deep left-center field, where it dropped in front of A's center fielder Lawrence Butler.

"Once I saw that the ball hit the dirt, then I really started to take off," said Mateo, who rounded the bases in 15.5 seconds at 29.5 feet per second -- even after slowing down as he approached second base.

He then kicked it into high gear and came all the way home, sliding across the plate just after left fielder Tony Kemp hauled the ball into the infield. Mateo called it one of the best moments of his career -- second only to his big league debut -- and his teammates were just as into it as he was.

"The whole dugout was yelling to send him, send him," Hyde said. "He is so fun to watch run. … He's had his struggles, and to see him contribute the way he did today, really happy for him."