The Orioles’ struggles against left-handed pitchers have stumped manager Brandon Hyde. For much of his tenure, Baltimore’s roster has been largely right-handed, meaning his club would have the platoon advantage in those matchups.
“I feel like in the past few years,” Hyde said, “that was our best shot.”
That led to a reshuffled lineup Tuesday as the Orioles tried to break out of those troubles. Rookie sensation Gunnar Henderson, the club’s lone consistent offensive force since he was promoted on the last day of August, landed in the leadoff spot, with the 21-year-old becoming the youngest major leaguer to start atop a lineup since San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. in 2019 and youngest Oriole to do so since Manny Machado in 2013.
“We’re just giving it a try,” Hyde said. “I’d like to see him be at the top of the order to get as many at-bats as possible.”
It proved a sound strategy. Henderson’s single in the third inning off Detroit’s Joey Wentz prevented a Tigers left-hander from taking a no-hit bid into the late innings for a second straight night. His seventh-inning two-run home run off right-hander Joe Jiménez, his first at Camden Yards, spoiled the Tigers’ pursuit of consecutive shutouts. But as has been the case for much of Henderson’s time in the majors, the Baltimore lineup around him failed to produce. With a 3-2 defeat, the Orioles ensured a series loss to a Tigers team at the bottom of the American League Central and risked moving as many as six games back of an AL wild-card spot with 15 games left in their season, pending the Seattle Mariners’ result late Tuesday. Detroit is 5-0 against the Orioles and 52-91 against everyone else.
Henderson’s home run, the Orioles’ first sign of life in the series after Tyler Alexander kept them hitless into the seventh Monday, gave him 14 RBIs since joining the team Aug. 31. The team has scored 67 in that time, meaning Henderson has driven in more than a fifth of its runs.
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But even Henderson was not impervious to the struggles with runners in scoring position that have plagued the Orioles (76-71) this month. Baltimore went 0-for-4 in those situations Tuesday, with Henderson’s fifth-inning groundout being the lone at-bat without a strikeout, and is hitting .205 in them in September.
The Tigers (57-91) didn’t need a hit with a runner in scoring position for their victory, with Akil Baddoo’s two-run shot in the third off Austin Voth and Kerry Carpenter’s seventh-inning solo shot off Joey Krehbiel providing their offense. Baddoo came close to one in the top of the ninth, but a ranging catch from shortstop Jorge Mateo on a flare with an expected batting average of .900 ended the frame and kept Baltimore’s deficit at one. But Mateo struck out looking to open the bottom half, Henderson grounded out and Ryan Mountcastle flew out to the right field wall to end the game.
This story will be updated.
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