Gunnar goes deep in 4th straight with MLB-leading 16th HR

May 21st, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- Brandon Hyde has emptied his vocabulary. The Orioles’ manager can’t even verbalize his amazement at what is doing this season.

Words like “impressive,” “incredible” and “astounding” don’t feel strong enough at this point.

"I'm running out of adjectives, honestly. I need to start bringing a thesaurus when I'm getting interviewed about Gunnar,” Hyde said. “It's unbelievable what he's doing and how good he is -- in every single way. There’s not one thing that he’s not really good at, and he’s 22 years old.”

Henderson has been especially good at hitting home runs. The defending American League Rookie of the Year belted his MLB-leading 16th homer in Baltimore’s 6-3 loss to St. Louis at Busch Stadium on Monday night, extending his career-long homer streak to four games after going deep in each of the O’s contests vs. Seattle over the weekend.

It’s the longest homer streak for an Orioles player since DJ Stewart went deep in four consecutive games from Sept. 5-9, 2020.

Through 45 games, Henderson is on pace to hit 58 home runs, which would break Baltimore’s franchise record of 53, set by Chris Davis in 2013. Only two players age 22 or younger in AL/NL history have hit more homers at this point in his team’s season than Henderson -- Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew (18 for the Twins in 1959) and Alex Rodriguez (18 for the Mariners in ‘98).

“I feel like I’ve just been making some good adjustments in the cage,” Henderson said. “Didn’t really feel right, to me, in the cage, and the hitting coaches and I, we just kind of went to work and worked on a good process and just keeping that going.”

It’s been nearly a two-month tear for Henderson. He leads the Orioles in homers, triples (four), RBIs (34), slugging percentage (.610) and OPS (.961).

And he’s saying there was a point during this torrid stretch a few weeks ago that he didn’t even feel his best?

“Internally, something didn’t feel right. Just worked it out with the hitting coaches, and I feel like we’re making strides in the right direction,” Henderson said. “I’m a perfectionist, so I like to feel a certain way. I’m very fortunate to be in the position I’m in.”

Henderson’s latest long ball was a three-run blast that ended a no-hit bid for Cardinals starter Sonny Gray in the sixth inning. After Cedric Mullins and Jorge Mateo reached via consecutive errors by St. Louis shortstop Masyn Winn to open the frame, Henderson jolted a Statcast-projected 417-foot home run to center field.

Over the first five innings, Gray retired 14 of 16 Baltimore batters. His only runs allowed over 5 2/3 frames came on one swing by Henderson.

The Orioles never feel out of any game, and this wouldn’t have been the first time they rallied back from a 5-0 deficit after five innings (if they could have done so). On April 10, they erased a five-run Red Sox lead to come back to win, 7-5, at Fenway Park.

So when Henderson’s homer cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-3, it felt like a late-inning comeback could again be brewing.

“He’s an unbelievable player, and it only takes one swing with him,” said starter Dean Kremer, who allowed five runs in four innings. “I know that the rest of the guys feed off of him, and all the other guys in the lineup. He’s a fun player to watch.”

The jolt of energy in the sixth -- when Baltimore recorded all three of its hits, including a pair of singles by Ryan O’Hearn and Jordan Westburg -- wasn’t enough to power the O’s to a 14th come-from-behind win this season.

Nine of the Orioles’ final 11 hitters were retired by the Cardinals’ bullpen.

“I just think we were really undisciplined at the plate,” Hyde said. “We were just chasing balls on the black of the plate. You’re not going to win getting three hits, and one being an infield single. We’ve just got to take better at-bats than that.”

There is one player already taking good at-bats of late, though. (Clearly, it’s Henderson.)

“He’s just staying on the ball so well,” Hyde said. “He’s taking good at-bats.”