BALTIMORE (AP) — Down by a run in the eighth inning and needing a win to lengthen their lead in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles had the Colorado Rockies right where they wanted them.
Gunnar Henderson hit a two-run homer off Brent Suter in yet another collapse by the Colorado bullpen, and the Orioles pulled out a 5-4 victory Friday night for their ninth win in 12 games.
Baltimore’s victory was marred by an apparent injury to closer Félix Bautista, who slipped awkwardly off the mound after delivering a pitch with two outs in the ninth.
Manager Brandon Hyde said Bautista left with “arm discomfort” and was “still being checked out.”
“When the best closer in the game leaves the game, it's never a good feeling,” Hyde added.
Danny Coulombe finished, throwing one pitch for his second save.
Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays homered for the Orioles, who moved three games in front of Tampa Bay, which lost to the Yankees.
Colorado arrived in Baltimore after dropping four straight games, all in which it was tied or held the lead in the eighth inning. The last three of those defeats came against the Rays, who won each game in their last at-bat.
Worse, the last-place Rockies' bullpen came in with a 7.77 ERA in August.
The trend continued. After Kyle Freeland pitched six innings and left with a 4-3 lead, Jake Bird worked a scoreless seventh.
But Suter (4-3) came in for the eighth and walked Hays before Henderson sent a drive over the right-field scoreboard. The rookie skipped around first base and wore a huge smile as he headed for home.
“It was really awesome. I was really happy to help the team come back in a way like that,” Henderson said. “It's what you dream of as a kid, to hit a homer like that. It was pretty cool.”
Colorado has lost five straight when tied or leading in the eighth inning, the first time that's happened in the big leagues since the Montreal Expos did it in 1970.
“These are tough. Nobody feels worse tonight than Brent," manager Bud Black said. "But these are moments when you grasp the understanding of what this means. In a way it's good stuff. It helps you win in the future.”
For a young team, the late collapses are not for naught.
“These are good baseball games. The guys are understanding the intensity of these games,” Black said. “They hurt. But they also make you tougher.”
Shintaro Fujinami (6-8) worked two innings of relief for the win.
Mountcastle gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead with a homer that was anything but ordinary. His drive to right struck the top of the wall, and Mountcastle hustled to third base before coming home on a wild throw. But it turned out that his jaunt around the bases was unnecessary — it was determined that the liner hit the top of the grounds crew shed, and that's a home run at Camden Yards.
Hays followed up with a first-inning RBI double, but the Rockies pulled even with a run-scoring double by Elias Díaz in the third and Alan Trejo's sacrifice fly in the fourth.
Colorado went up 4-2 in the fifth when Charlie Blackmon drew a walk on a 12-pitch at-bat and Ezequiel Tovar followed with his 15th homer.
By winning the opener of the three-game set, Baltimore is assured of completing its 81st consecutive series without being swept, the fifth-longest such streak in major league history.
Rockies: With an eye toward the future, Colorado selected the contract of LHP Evan Justice from Triple-A Albuquerque. To make room on the roster, LHP Justin Bruihl was designated for assignment, less than a month after being obtained from the Dodgers for cash considerations. Bruihl had a 14.73 ERA in seven appearances totaling 3 2/3 innings.
Orioles: RHP Jack Flaherty, scratched from his start Wednesday with “general soreness,” is on the mend and could be ready to return “in the next couple days,” Hyde said. ... OF Aaron Hicks (lower back strain) is running and “progressing well,” according to Hyde.
Rockies: Chris Flexen (1-5, 7.18 ERA) makes his sixth start with Colorado when the series continues Saturday night. The right-hander was acquired off waivers from the Mets on July 13
Orioles: Kyle Bradish (8-6, 3.03 ERA) looks to extend a successful August. He's 2-0 with a 1.90 ERA this month and Baltimore has won all four of his starts.
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