Orioles crush Rays, 8-0, behind Grayson Rodriguez and Gunnar Henderson to reach verge of postseason clinch: ‘This is what you dream of’

In games like these, youth and inexperience are often referenced as negatives. Grayson Rodriguez and Gunnar Henderson flipped that narrative Saturday night.

The Orioles’ two youngest players entered the season as the club’s top two prospects and among the sport’s best. In the biggest game of their careers, the pair proved that their immense talent matters far more than their lack of experience.

Rodriguez masterfully twirled eight scoreless innings, while Henderson hit an early home run to break the offense out of its slump to carry the Orioles to a crucial 8-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

“This is what you dream of whenever you go through the minor leagues together, is playing meaningful games in September,” Henderson said. “It was really fun to be able to go out there and especially watch him do his thing right behind him.”

The win ended Baltimore’s four-game losing streak and put the club back in sole possession of first place atop the American League East. With its win and the Texas Rangers’ loss, the Orioles’ magic number to make the playoffs fell to one.

If the Orioles (92-56) win Sunday, they will clinch their first playoff berth since 2016.

Rodriguez, 23, delivered the best start of his career, scattering just five hits and no walks while striking out seven. Entering the season, the right-hander was the sport’s second-best pitching prospect, according to Baseball America, but he struggled in his first stint in the majors and was demoted to Triple-A. He returned in July and has since cemented himself as not just one of the Orioles’ most reliable starters, but one of the best pitchers in the AL.

Henderson, 22, clobbered a 428-foot home run off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow in the second inning to give the Orioles an early 4-0 lead. The shortstop was the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball before the season and is the front-runner to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

“You’ve all seen what Gunnar can do,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve gotten to watch that for a lot longer than a lot of these Orioles fans have, I guess, since being in the minor leagues together. I’m glad the world’s finally seeing what kind of special talent he is.”

The Orioles entered Saturday reeling, and they needed a way to turn around their losing ways. There Rodriguez and Henderson were to breathe life into the struggling club and deliver it a vital triumph. After it, the two youngsters did the postgame interview on the field together and shared the Gatorade bath.

“They stepped up, and we had a lot of guys step up, but those two guys for sure,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “And they’re high-character, ultra-competitive guys. They have no fear. They think they belong, and they think they should succeed.

“They’re just unbelievably competitive and really, really want to win, and it matters to them.”

The AL’s two best teams entered the four-game set at Camden Yards with the top spot in the AL East in the balance. After losing the first two games …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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