BALTIMORE — Orioles manager Brandon Hyde called Gunnar Henderson’s steal in the bottom of the ninth inning “a little bit of a miscommunication.”
In Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Rangers, with the Orioles trailing 3-2, Henderson hit a hit to right field off Texas closer Jose Leclerc. Hit a single to take the lead. Henderson moved into second as Aaron Hicks made it 2-1. Hicks caught the ball, but catcher Jonah Heim threw Henderson out.
Leclerc then struck out Hicks and allowed a grounder to Adam Frazier to get to third with the final two outs. Television replays showed Hyde saying “What the f—” in the break room.
Henderson told reporters after the game that he saw the interception sign.
Henderson stole 10 of 13 bases during the regular season, but the attempt was certainly unusual at the time. The Orioles have stolen just one base all season when trailing in the ninth inning. Heim is also one of the best throwing catchers in the majors, ranking in the 89th percentile in steal rate.
According to FanGraphs’ win expectations, the Orioles’ winning percentage dropped from 33 percent before the base steal to 11 percent after Henderson was caught.
“It changes the momentum,” Rangers third baseman Josh Jung said. He homered in the eighth inning, capped a crucial 5-4-3 double play, and played excellent defense with two runners on base and no one out.
Haim, who also had an RBI single, said with a smile, “I kind of blacked out on that steal attempt.”
“I was a little angry (the referee) called it a ball, but I guess it all worked out in the end.”
Heim had thrown the ball to first base before it was counted.
“He got a big lead. I saw the second lead and just tried to close him down with the ball in the gap. We know they like to run and (Leclerc) gave me a good one pitching opportunities”.