Grayson gives O's ace-like performance in series-evening win

Right-hander continues his breakout campaign with 7 strong frames against NL leaders

June 16th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles spent Saturday morning bracing for the loss of another key pitcher, with right-hander Kyle Bradish joining John Means, Tyler Wells, Danny Coulombe and Félix Bautista on the club’s growing list of important arms lost for the foreseeable future to elbow issues.

In Bradish, the club is losing its top pitcher from a year ago, when he emerged as one of the best arms in the American League in his second big league season.

If only the Orioles had another guy like that.

Oh yeah, they do: . And he may be emerging right before our eyes.

The former top overall prospect gave the O’s exactly what they needed in lieu of the Bradish news, twirling seven innings of two-run ball to pace their 6-2 series-evening win over the Phillies at Camden Yards.

Backed by two Anthony Santander homers and a pair of defensive gems from Cedric Mullins, Rodriguez fanned six and worked around seven hits in efficient fashion, throwing 73 of his 99 pitches for strikes.

“I didn’t know how we were going to respond, honestly,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Seeing what happened with Kyle last night, people are down thinking about him and hoping for the best. Grayson Rodriguez today, that was an amazing performance.”

The effort continued a very strong run of starts for Rodriguez since returning from the injured list last month. It came amid a backdrop of adversity, against one of the best teams in baseball and in a charged atmosphere, in front of a sellout crowd of 44,555 rife with raucous Phillies fans.

“It felt like a playoff game,” Rodriguez said. “It was a pretty hostile environment. Having all those Phillies fans, that helped me a lot. Obviously, you want to see the stadium packed out in orange, but there was some animosity in there and it made pitching fun today. Man, that was a fun game.”

Said Hyde: “He continues to do what he’s done the last few starts. Not walking people. Fastball command. He made a couple mistakes on a couple sliders. But besides that, that’s a great lineup over there that he held in check for seven innings, so awesome job.”

Somewhat quietly, the 24-year-old Rodriguez is growing into the kind of frontline starter everyone predicted he would be. He’s now 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA and 77 strikeouts through 12 starts this season -- but that doesn’t fully speak to how dependable he’s been or for how long.

“This year, I’ve done a little bit better job not letting things snowball,” Rodriguez said.

Take into account Rodriguez’s past 22 regular-season starts dating back to last Aug. 2, and he’s a stellar 13-4 with a 2.84 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and a 136-38 strikeout to walk ratio across 130 innings. He’s struck out 9.42 batters per nine and allowed only 0.69 home runs per nine over that stretch.

For most teams, that’s not an in-house replacement. Or a No. 3. That’s an ace.

Few teams have as many in the hole as the O’s do.

“This is a fun development story up here,” Hyde said. “We see him making huge strides and figuring things out, getting a little better every start. … He’s really starting to understand how to pitch. He’s come a long way. He’s come a long, long way in a year.”