Orioles crush Rays, 8-0, behind Grayson Rodriguez and Gunnar Henderson to reach verge of postseason clinch – Boston Herald

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 among the sport’s best prospects. 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.

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.

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.

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 of the series, the Orioles dropped into a tie with the Rays — the first time Baltimore hadn’t been in sole possession of first place since claiming it in Tampa Bay in July.

Each game this series is twice as meaningful as a normal game given the stakes for the division. But the Orioles winning just one game this weekend was even more critical, as it would give the club the season series over the Rays for the first time since 2016. That head-to-head record is used as the tiebreaker, so Baltimore’s one-game lead over Tampa Bay (92-58) is effectively two. Given that, the Orioles’ magic number to win the division fell from 15 to 12.

The win gives the Orioles 40 more wins this year than they had in 2021 when they won just 52 games, making them just the fifth team in MLB history — and the first since 1963 — to achieve the feat in a two-year span.

Around the horn

  • Before the game, the Orioles recalled right-handed reliever Mike Baumann and optioned Bryan Baker to Triple-A. Baumann was one of the club’s most reliable relievers through the season’s first four months before struggling in August.
  • Manager Brandon Hyde said first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, who hasn’t played since Wednesday with left shoulder discomfort, felt “just OK” after taking swings Friday. Hyde hoped Mountcastle would be available off the bench Saturday, but he wasn’t needed in the blowout victory.

This story will be updated.

Rays at Orioles

Sunday, 1:35 p.m.


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