Gunnar's homer caps O's comeback against Crew

Rookie's seventh blast of season helps Baltimore avoid sweep, finish .500 on road trip

June 8th, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- 's back is feeling better. So are the Orioles after more late heroics from the 21-year-old, who is proving that no moment is too big to handle during his rookie season as he provided an encouraging end to the team’s tough road trip.

Henderson, who missed two games earlier this week due to lower back discomfort, swatted a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning to power Baltimore’s 6-3 win over Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon at American Family Field.

The O’s (38-24) notched their 21st comeback victory and finished their National League swing at 3-3 after previously winning two of three in San Francisco.

It was the second time during the trip that Henderson delivered a game-turning moment, as he also hit a tiebreaking solo homer to lift the Orioles to a 3-2 win in Friday’s series opener against the Giants.

“That’s what you dream of as a kid,” Henderson said, “is being in those situations and coming through.”

Henderson is practically still a kid in Baltimore’s clubhouse as the youngest member of the roster.

Manager Brandon Hyde has often cited Henderson’s inexperience as a reason for the former top prospect’s early struggles in 2023, during which he’s batting .206 through 54 games (although that mark was down to .170 on May 12).

There continue to be encouraging signs that Henderson will reach his massive potential in the big leagues, with several occurring on Thursday alone.

In the fourth, Henderson made a great diving stop up the middle to rob Brian Anderson of a hit. It was the first time Henderson was playing shortstop since May 7, as he’s mostly been starting at third base -- where he made several nice defensive plays in his return to the lineup on Wednesday.

Then, Henderson helped change the course of the finale in Milwaukee with one swing.

Henderson jumped on a first-pitch fastball from right-hander Peter Strzelecki and sent it a Statcast-projected 366 feet over the left-field fence, giving Baltimore a 4-3 lead in the eighth with his seventh homer of the season.

“Just shows you the power he has,” Hyde said. “Doesn’t need to try to pull the ball, doesn’t need to try to do too much. He’s so strong and has got so much leverage that he can take a ball out over the plate and drive it the other way.”

None of Henderson’s teammates are surprised when the athletic 6-foot-3 infielder leaves his mark all over a game, like he did in this one.

“He’s a really good player. I think we all know he’s going to turn it on here,” said right-hander Kyle Bradish, who struck out a season-high 10 over five-plus innings. “He’s been swinging well. And he does that in the field regularly.”

But it took more than Henderson for the Orioles to get back into a game they trailed, 3-0, in the first -- the same deficit they faced heading into the seventh. Several slumping bats started to heat up first.

Ramón Urías belted a solo homer for Baltimore’s first run in the seventh, his first home run since going deep on Opening Day in Boston. He went 3-for-4 (and has four hits in his past five at-bats) after previously falling into a 2-for-25 slump upon his return from a left hamstring strain on May 26.

Two batters before Henderson’s homer in the eighth, Anthony Santander snapped an 0-for-25 skid with an RBI double that cut the Brewers’ lead to 3-2.

Prior to plating six runs over the final three frames, the Orioles had scored only two runs over their previous 18 innings (dating back to Tuesday), and those were both scored in the ninth inning of a lopsided 10-2 defeat to the Brewers on Wednesday night.

“We knew it was only a matter of time. You’ve seen what our offense can do, and everybody goes through it,” Henderson said. “I feel like it just shows that we don’t give away any games. We’re going to fight no matter what the score is.”

Baltimore was nine outs away from getting swept for the first time since May 13-15, 2022, at Detroit. That was prior to Henderson’s arrival in the big leagues, and even before Adley Rutschman (another player who was once MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect) made his debut.

“To be losing the entire game and bounce back and win the game, it’s huge for us and gives us the confidence back to go home and have another good series,” Urías said.

As the Orioles get set to open a three-game series against the Royals on Friday night, their flight home was sure to be a much happier one than it seemed like it was going to be earlier on Thursday.

“Going 3-3 on the road feels a lot better than going 2-4,” Hyde said. “Especially the way we came back today, too.”