California Dreamin': Orioles sweep A's to pad AL East lead

Orioles conclude the season-long nine-game road trip 6-3
Jorge Mateo hit an electric, inside-the-park homer in Sunday's rout.
Jorge Mateo hit an electric, inside-the-park homer in Sunday's rout. / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Following a frustrating series loss to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, a three-game set with the 34-87 Oakland Athletics was just what the doctor ordered. The prescription worked, and the Orioles feel a lot better. Behind a suddenly explosive offense and solid pitching, the Orioles bludgeoned the A's, sweeping them in their own park and outscoring them 28-7 in the three game series. Four touchdowns to one, for those with football on the brain.

Orioles take care of business with sweep of Oakland A's

But even with the Ravens playing their second preseason game tonight against the Commanders, baseball is dominating the Baltimore sports headlines right now. The Orioles improved to a season high 30 games over .500. The six man rotation continued to pay dividends, with Cole Irvin and Kyle Bradish combining to allow 1 run over 11 innings of work.

Gunnar Henderson could have hit for the cycle but chose not to. Jorge Mateo hit an inside-the-park home run. The Orioles continued their now two-week tradition of playing Saturday night extra-inning baseball on the left coast. All of this and more in a fun weekend trip to northern California.

1. Game 1: Orioles 9, Athletics 4

Gunnar Henderson
Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Orioles had little trouble in Game 1 of the series, beating the Athletics on Friday night 9-4. Gunnar Henderson homered, because of course he did. The Orioles snapped a two-game losing streak to improve to 75-47 on the season.

The Orioles jumped out early, scoring three in the top of the first, highlighted by Cedric Mullins' two-run double. The Athletics kept the game close early off Gibson, and it was 5-3 after two innings. But
despite an uneven start from Kyle Gibson, the big righthander earned his 12th win of the year and the bullpen put up zeroes for the remaining four innings of the game.

2. Game 2: Orioles 7, Athletics 2 (10 innings)

James McCann, Ryan McKenna
Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

Death, taxes, and Ryan Mountcastle socking a game-winning RBI single in the top of the tenth inning on a Saturday night on the west coast. Some things in life are inevitable.

The Orioles beat the A's 7-2 on Saturday night, but the game was closer than the score indicates. As he did last Saturday night in Seattle, Cole Irvin made the start for the Orioles and pitched well, his lone blemish a solo home run to Aledmys Diaz that gave the Athletics their only lead of the series. The Orioles quickly responded, with Austin Hays lining a home run down the left field line that literally got stuck in the left field foul (fair?) pole.

Irvin departed with the Orioles leading 2-1, but the enigmatic Shintaro Fujinami allowed a game-tying home run to Diaz (again) to tie the game at 2. The game would remain tied threw nine innings, with the late-inning crew of Cionel Perez, Yennier Cano, and Felix Bautista keeping the Athletics off the board.

Extra innings on a west coast Saturday night game that Cole Irvin started? That sounds familiar! The Orioles beat the Mariners in a thrilling 1-0 game last Saturday night in Seattle and sought to do the same thing Saturday night in Oakland. They did. Ryan Mountcastle socked an RBI single past a drawn-in Athletics infield, breaking the tie and giving the Orioles a one-run lead.

Unlike last Saturday night in Seattle, the Orioles would pad that lead, thanks in part to James McCann's two-run single that extended the lead to 7-2. While right-handed relief revelation Jacob Webb made things interesting in the ninth by loading the bases with no outs, he recovered to retire the next three A's and clinch another series win for the O's.

3. Game 3: Orioles 12, Athletics 1

Gunnar Henderson
Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Orioles completed the three-game sweep of the Athletics on Sunday afternoon, blasting starter J.P. Sears and the A's, 12-1. Kyle Bradish was absolutely brilliant, striking out 7 of the game's first 9 batters en route to six scoreless innings and his eighth win of the year.

The bats came out scorching, with Gunnar Henderson mashing four extra base hits and Ryan Mountcastle blasting a loud, three-run home run off of Sears en route to his own three hit day. Let's not overlook Jorge Mateo, who raced around the bases for an electric, inside-the-park home run on a ball that rolled around the cavernous Oakland Coliseum for a bit too long. It was Mateo's first home run of any kind since April.

Back to Henderson - after popping up in his first at-bat, Henderson went nuclear, hitting a double, triple, and home run in three consecutive at-bats. Needing a single for the cycle, Henderson laced a ball down the right field line in the top of the seventh, and, instead of stopping at first, raced to second base for his second double.

While his teammates gave him a hard time about passing up a milestone as unique as the cycle, I appreciate what Henderson did here. A ball into the right field corner should be a double, not an artificial single just to achieve a milestone. Henderson is 22 and he has a whole career ahead of him to get his cycle. ESPN's SportsCenter posed the question to its X followers, garnering 3.1 million views. The Orioles have made it, folks.

The incredible Henderson will have to settle for another feat: being the youngest player since Miguel Cabrera in 2005 to hit four extra-base hits in a game. Henderson was four-years old then. Pretty crazy.

Despite a bit of difficulty on Saturday sandwiched in between two blowouts, the O's swept the A's in the battle of alphabet vowels, improved to 30 games over .500, and increased their lead over idle the Rays to 3 games. The Orioles will enjoy an off-day Monday before starting a three-game series at Camden Yards against the Toronto Blue Jays.