Orioles bats awaken just in time in Milwaukee

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Thursday’s 6-3 win in Milwaukee had to feel great for the Orioles, who avoided their first series sweep of the season to finish a respectable 3-3 road trip.

A third straight loss to the NL Central-leading Brewers hardly would have qualified as a crisis for a team whose record remains among the best in baseball, but it’s no secret that the Baltimore bats have struggled in recent weeks, a trend that continued much of Thursday as Brandon Hyde’s club trailed 3-0 through six innings. The Orioles began the day ranked 21st in the majors in runs scored since May 8 and 22nd in batting average over the same time period, and they’d scored three or fewer runs in nine of their previous 12 games. Even counting Sunday’s eight-run output in San Francisco, Baltimore had plated just 16 runs over the first five games of the road trip.

But that changed with two outs in the top of the seventh when Ramon Urias — who entered Thursday just 3-for-26 since returning from the injured list in late May — homered to right field to put the Orioles on the scoreboard. It was the third hit of the game for Urias, who is one of several Baltimore hitters to really scuffle in recent weeks.

The comeback continued in the eighth with Adley Rutschman reaching on an infield hit and Anthony Santander — who had been hitless for the entire trip — doubling him home to make it a one-run game. With two outs, Gunnar Henderson — baseball’s former No. 1 prospect who’s been flirting with really breaking out of his early-season slump for a few weeks now — drove a 93 mph fastball from Brewers right-hander Peter Strzelecki over the left-field wall for the go-ahead homer. It was the second clutch long ball of the trip for Henderson, who hit the go-ahead blast in the seventh inning of last Friday’s 3-2 win over the Giants.

Adam Frazier added a two-run double in the top of the ninth to help steal a win that felt like it would be a listless defeat for much of the afternoon.

The Orioles now hope those awakening bats make it on the plane ride home to Baltimore to open a three-game set against hapless Kansas City on Friday. Still, Thursday was the latest example of this club finding a way to course correct whenever looking like it’s on the verge of a more pronounced slump, which is the mark of a good team. As Hyde simply noted after the game, a 3-3 road trip sounds a lot better than going 2-4.

Of course, the Orioles aren’t perfect with long-term questions about their pitching persisting despite a 38-24 record. In addition to the aforementioned struggles of hitters who contributed to Thursday’s comeback win, shortstop Jorge Mateo has batted .147 with a .354 on-base plus slugging percentage since the start of May while first baseman Ryan Mountcastle’s on-base percentage has dipped to an awful .264. Such dramatic struggles can’t continue for two everyday infielders, but both are known for being streaky performers at the plate.

Flaws and all, the Orioles keep finding a way just like they did Thursday when it would have been easy to start thinking about the post-game flight home after Kyle Bradish allowed three runs in the first inning. But the Baltimore starter settled in after that 32-pitch opening inning to strike out 10 over five frames to keep his team within striking distance, and the bats finally came alive when it mattered most.

Once again, the Orioles reminded it’s better late than never.

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