Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg are the Orioles’ two youngest position players. Aaron Hicks and James McCann are their two oldest.
That quartet combined for five home runs, two by McCann, in a 13-12 victory over the Boston Red Sox, an offensive output that helped cover for another poor start from trade acquisition Jack Flaherty and a shaky night for the Orioles’ bullpen and defense. Baltimore allowed a season-high 23 hits, leaving multiple runners on base in each of the final three innings as a four-run lead entering the bottom of the ninth nearly vanished.
Winning their seventh straight game and series, the Orioles (90-51) reached the 90-win mark for the first time since 2014, the last time they won the AL East. Saturday’s victory at Fenway Park held their division lead on the Tampa Bay Rays at four games and dropped their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to six.
During each game of their winning streak, the Orioles have recorded double-digit hits, and nine of Saturday’s 14 came from Henderson, Westburg, Hicks and McCann. The rookies are prized products of the Orioles’ rebuild, selected with their second pick in the 2019 and 2020 drafts, respectively. Baltimore got the two veterans off the relative scrap heap; the New York Yankees released Hicks amid his slow start to the season, and the New York Mets traded McCann to the Orioles this offseason for a low-level minor leaguer while eating most of the money left on his contract.
The foursome fueled the club’s 45th comeback victory. Put in an early 2-0 hole after Flaherty allowed a first-inning home run, Baltimore got a run back in the second thanks to a double from Hicks, a single from Westburg and a throwing error from Boston shortstop Trevor Story.
The Orioles went ahead with four runs in the fourth as Hicks followed an RBI double from Anthony Santander with a three-run home run by Hicks, who flipped his bat almost immediately after contact. Baltimore’s lead grew to 7-2 when the fourth began on a double by Westburg before McCann walloped a center-cut changeup from Chris Sale for a two-run homer.
But Flaherty could not capitalize on the support. He opened the bottom of the fourth with a walk, then allowed two hits before a sacrifice fly that required a diving catch from left fielder Austin Hays chased him from the game after 3 1/3 innings. An error at third by Henderson resulted in two unearned runs, one credited to Flaherty and the other to reliever Cionel Pérez, that cut Baltimore’s lead to 7-6.
A pending free agent, Flaherty allowed a run over six innings in his first start for the Orioles after they traded three prospects Baseball America ranked among Baltimore’s top 20 — though all outside the top 10 — to the St. Louis Cardinals to acquire him. He hasn’t made it through six frames in any of his five starts since, allowing 21 earned runs over 21 2/3 innings while allowing a batting line of .326/.393/.589.
After ranging far to his left at second base to record the final out of the fifth and prevent Boston (72-70) from tying the game, Westburg homered with one out in the fifth. In the next at-bat, McCann went deep again, the 10-year veteran’s second career multi-home run game coming on the three-year anniversary of his first.
Henderson seemed to break the game open with a three-run home run in the seventh, Santander walking in from third base and pumping a fist in the air as the AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner broke into his trot. But the Red Sox answered with three runs in the bottom half off Jacob Webb, though Danny Coulombe left the bases loaded in the frame. Jorge López stranded two more runners in the eighth, and Yennier Cano did the same despite surrendering three runs in the final frame.
Both Westburg and Hicks finished a triple shy of the cycle. After Westburg flied out to end the seventh, Adam Frazier replaced him at second base, with Ramón Urías delivering a pinch-hit RBI single in Frazier’s place in the top of the ninth.
Around the horn
Left-hander John Means seemingly cleared his final hurdle before a return from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, throwing a bullpen session Saturday at Fenway Park that manager Brandon Hyde said “went well.” Asked whether it’s possible Means starts one of the Orioles’ three games during their upcoming home series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Hyde said, “We’ll see.”
All-Star closer Félix Bautista, who was placed on the 15-day injured list two weeks ago with an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, “felt good” after playing catch before Friday’s game, Hyde said.
The game began after a 1-hour, 32-minute rain delay.
This story will be updated.
Orioles at Red Sox
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM