Few offenses in the major leagues have had its starter’s back more than the Orioles’ for Kyle Gibson.
The veteran starting pitcher struggled again Friday night against the Oakland Athletics, allowing nine hits and four runs in five innings, but Baltimore’s bats backed him up with nine runs in the first five frames en route to a 9-4 win.
The offense, which totaled 16 hits, delivered Gibson his team-best 12th win of the season despite the 35-year-old owning a 4.97 ERA. Friday was the sixth time this season Gibson’s offense has given him seven or more runs of support while he was on the mound — the most of any Orioles starter.
“They did exactly what we needed ’em to do against a team that’s been reeling a little bit,” Gibson said. “They go out and put up runs early and give the starter, myself tonight, a chance to just go out there and work and fill up the zone. It’s a good feeling when you can go out there and give up a run early, a run here or there and still be able to fill up the strike zone and try to get through a few innings.”
Eight Orioles batters either recorded an extra-base hit or an RBI as the lineup came out hot after Thursday’s day off, scoring three in the first inning and two more in the second, fourth and fifth. The Orioles’ top-of-the-order duo of Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson — the organization’s first two picks in the 2019 draft — each recorded three hits. The latter led the way with three RBIs, including a 438-foot two-run blast in the second inning.
Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Adam Frazier and Rutschman all hit doubles, while Ryan O’Hearn hit his first triple of the season and just the sixth of his six-year career. Mullins and Jordan Westburg each tallied two RBIs, while Frazier and Mountcastle each recorded RBI hits.
“It’s always a good time when we come out and get that many hits in a game and give our pitchers a little bit of a lead to work with,” Henderson said.
“Whenever we get people on, just keep the train rolling,” he added. “It feels like that’s when we score a bunch of runs and put up a lot of hits. I feel like that’s when we’re at our best, just the pass the baton mentality.”
A rested bullpen kept Oakland’s bats at bay, as Mike Baumann, Cionel Pérez, Jacob Webb and Yennier Cano each delivered scoreless innings.
The Orioles are 75-47 with a two-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays atop the American League. The win over the MLB-worst Athletics — the only team with a payroll lower than the Orioles’ $60.8 million entering the season — is Baltimore’s fourth this year after taking three of four from Oakland (34-88) in April.
The first two innings in front of an announced crowd of fewer than 9,000 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum didn’t go as Gibson hoped. After his offense gave him a 3-0 lead, the 6-foot-6 right-hander gave up an RBI double to Seth Brown in the first and another to Tony Kemp in the second. The latter marked the fifth straight frame Gibson allowed a run going back to his start against the San Diego Padres last week when he surrendered 12 hits and nine runs in 5 1/3 innings.
After tossing a scoreless third and fourth, Gibson allowed two more runs in the fifth, an RBI double to Brent Rooker and an RBI single to Brown.
“I think pitch execution tonight was better,” Gibson said, noting he didn’t allow a homer or a walk after surrendering three and two, respectively, last week.
The Orioles have scored 107 runs during Gibson’s 150 1/3 innings this season for a run support per nine innings of 6.41 — the fourth-highest among MLB starters. His 4.97 ERA is the second highest in Baltimore’s rotation, behind only Grayson Rodriguez’s 5.44.
“I thought Kyle really battled,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I just think it wasn’t as sharp as he has been, but he gave us five good innings.”
Mountcastle drew first blood with a bloop single to score Henderson in the first to spark a three-run rally off Oakland opener Francisco Pérez. The knock extended the first baseman’s on-base streak to 24 games as he’s been one of the majors’ best hitters since he returned from the injured list after a bout with vertigo. Mullins then roped a two-run double to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead.
Henderson’s homer off bulk man Luis Medina in the second was his 20th of the season, making the 22-year-old shortstop the ninth rookie in Orioles history with at least that many in a season. The last rookie to do so was Mountcastle in 2021 when he hit 33. Trey Mancini, Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray also achieved the feat.
“I feel like it’s pretty cool to reach that point in the season,” Henderson said. “I’m hoping a lot more come along, but it’s pretty cool that I hit that in the first big league season.”
Westburg hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth to score Hays, who went 2-for-5 with two doubles. Henderson then hit an RBI single for his third knock in as many plate appearances to open the contest.
“Really good night by him and Rutschman at the top of the order,” Hyde said. “But, yeah, Gunnar, nothing is surprising at this point. He has so much ability. He’s going to be a really, really, really good player in this league for a long time.”
In the fifth, Frazier doubled home O’Hearn, who went 2-for-5 to boost his average to .303, and Westburg singled home Frazier for the Orioles’ final run.
“They’re versatile,” Gibson said of Baltimore’s offense. “When you’re out there and there are no [at-bats] that are free, there’s no outs that are free, man, you just constantly feel like you’re working. It’s a constant mental grind, and as a starting pitcher or a reliever even, that’s tough. Facing lineups that have this kind of identity are really tough as a starting pitcher, because there’s just not a moment you feel like you can take a breath and get yourself out of an inning by making one pitch.”
Webb’s three-up, three-down eighth extended his scoreless streak since he joined Baltimore earlier this month. After posting mediocre numbers with the Los Angeles Angels this year, Webb has allowed just one hit and struck out seven in six sparkling innings with the Orioles, bolstering a bullpen that needs help with one fewer arm since the club moved to a six-man rotation.
Cano’s scoreless ninth was his first appearance since Sunday against the Seattle Mariners. The sinkerballer hasn’t given up a run of his own in 6 1/3 August innings.
Around the horn
- Hyde said after the win that outfielder Anthony Santander was removed in the fifth inning for “general soreness.”
- Before the game, Hyde said outfielder Aaron Hicks’ sore lower back “keeps getting better.” Hicks left Monday’s game with lower back soreness against the San Diego Padres in his first contest back from an injured list stint with a left hamstring strain. Hyde said he isn’t sure if Hicks could need to go on the IL again, but he’s “hoping” the veteran outfielder continues to improve and can return soon.
- Left-hander John Means will start his third minor league rehabilitation assignment game for Double-A Bowie on Sunday, the Baysox announced. Means, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery he underwent in April 2022, allowed four runs in his first 3 1/3 innings across two starts earlier this month. The club has said an early September return is possible for a pitcher who was the team’s best starter during the rebuild.
- Hall of Famer and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network broadcaster Jim Palmer announced on social media that he was released from the hospital Friday after being admitted with COVID-19. “Thank you Birdland for all your well wishes and prayers,” Palmer posted.
Orioles at Athletics
Saturday, 9:07 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM