Kyle Stowers let out a roar and pumped his fist as he reached second base. While rounding third to face the Orioles’ dugout, he yelled “Come on!” and flexed, doing so again as he stepped on home plate.
His excitement after his first major league home run matched those who remained of the announced 13,905 at Camden Yards on Thursday night. The solo shot, coming in an 0-2 count with two outs against Chicago White Sox All-Star closer Liam Hendricks, tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.
“I kind of blacked out a little bit,” Stowers said.
Chicago had retired 12 straight Orioles when Stowers came up, the rookie himself hitless in his past 13 at-bats. He lofted Hendricks’ first pitch down the left field line and into foul territory, but outfielder Adam Engel, brought into the game as a defensive replacement an inning earlier, was unable to complete the catch after a long run, keeping Stowers’ at-bat alive. He swung through an elevated fastball to leave Hendricks one strike away from completing the save, but Stowers powered the next pitch, a curveball that hung over the middle, out to center field for a home run.
Two innings later, Anthony Santander laced a line drive to center field to score automatic runner Cedric Mullins — who moved to third after a single by rookie catcher Adley Rutschman — as the Orioles won the three-game series with a 4-3 victory. It wouldn’t have been possible without Stowers, who became the first Baltimore batter since 1973 to have his first home run tie a game in the ninth inning or later, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
“I think he was floating around the bases,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He came in the dugout so fired up, and the team was fired up for him and for us. We were so empty offensively for so long in that game, and we finally got a little bit of life there in a timely spot, two outs and two strikes off one of the best closers in the game.
“He’s got huge power. There’s no doubt about it.”
The victory ensured the Orioles (65-59) their third straight winning month after going nearly five years without one. They remain 2 1/2 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the final American League wild-card spot.
Between Santander’s two-run home run in the first inning and Stowers’ game-tying solo shot, the Orioles managed only four base runners. Despite that, they took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning, only for the White Sox (63-62) to strike for an unearned run in that frame and the go-ahead run in the eighth.
Stowers, Baltimore’s No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America, came to plate having largely scuffled in his two major league stints, going 3-for-23 with 11 strikeouts. The 24-year-old led Orioles minor leaguers in home runs when he was promoted last week, having also paced the farm system in that category a year ago to share the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year honor with Rutschman.
On Thursday, both members of the Orioles’ 2019 draft class — who bookended the selection of No. 1 overall prospect Gunnar Henderson — played key roles in the victory, with Rutschman’s single coming after catching all 11 innings. The final two came with fellow rookie Félix Bautista on the mound, and the Orioles’ closer continued his run of dominance since inheriting that title. All of the career-high six outs he recorded came with a runner in scoring position by virtue of Major League Baseball’s extra-innings rule that automatically places a runner at second base. Chicago’s free runners never advanced past second in Bautista’s two innings.
Rutschman is among the favorites for American League Rookie of the Year. Hyde said Bautista should draw votes, too.
“Definitely should be in the consideration with our catcher,” Hyde said. “There’s no doubt about it for what these two guys are doing.”
But Thursday night’s rookie star was Stowers, who was able to get the ball from his first major league home run thanks to reliever Keegan Akin tracking it down.
“I’m learning every single day,” Stowers said. “It’s been really good as far as getting settled in. I always view myself as having room to grow and room to improve. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and just do whatever I can to help the team win. And it’s been a lot of fun to be in this clubhouse.
“I haven’t necessarily been swinging it my best last few days, so to have a moment like that was really special.”
After giving up a home run on his first pitch, Orioles starting pitcher Jordan Lyles settled in to give the Orioles seven innings, only their third start of that length since early July. He’s responsible for two of them.
“I think he’s exceeded our expectations and what he’s done for us in every way,” Hyde said before the game. “I think putting up the numbers that he’s put up in this division, to be able to really be the rock in our rotation and somebody for our really inexperienced rotation guys to look up to, I think he’s been everything and more of what we asked. He was a great sign because he really has been a huge help this year and a big part of what we’re doing.”
Lyles didn’t record a clean inning until the fifth, with a slick sliding play by shortstop Jorge Mateo closing another in the sixth.
But a bloop hit to center and an infield single off first baseman Ryan Mountcastle’s glove put Lyles in trouble in the seventh. He got a ground ball for a potential double play, but second baseman Terrin Vavra’s throw to first got past Mountcastle, who then bobbled an attempt to pick up the ball. That allowed Romy Gonzalez to score the tying run from second.
Lyles gave Vavra a second chance with another double-play grounder, and although he one-hopped another throw, Mountcastle picked that one, giving Lyles his fifth seven-inning start. All other Orioles pitchers have three combined this season.
“Just showing up to the ballpark late in the season knowing you’re playing for something is special,” Lyles said. “It makes your — I don’t like to use the term job, but it makes it very, very fun and easy to come to the ballpark every day. You can’t wait to get there. But even more so, these guys are just so enjoyable to be a part of. We keep having exciting series and wins like tonight.
“It’s a good time to be an Oriole fan.”
Around the horn
>> To get a fresh arm in the bullpen, the Orioles optioned Louis Head to Triple-A Norfolk and recalled Rico Garcia in an exchange of right-handers. Phoenix Sanders, claimed on waivers Wednesday from the Tampa Bay Rays, was also optioned.
>> Tyler Wells threw his second bullpen session as he works his way back from the left oblique strain that has him on the injured list, with the next step being a live batting practice session. The Orioles are still determining what role the right-hander will have when he returns, Hyde said. Wells had a 3.90 ERA in 20 starts before the injury but pitched exclusively in relief last year, briefly serving as Baltimore’s closer. It would take longer for Wells to build back up as a starter, while the Orioles were already cautious with his innings after he missed 2019 and 2020 and spent last year in the bullpen.
>> Hyde said he appreciates that each team gets an extra two major league roster spots beginning Sept. 1, but he would prefer to be able to carry extra pitchers through the season’s final month.
>> Henderson played third base for Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday, his first game on the left side of the infield in more than a week. He had made four straight starts at second base after two games at first base, his first starts anywhere other than shortstop or third base as a pro.
Friday, 8:10 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM