Holliday's first career hit powers winning rally vs. Brewers

April 14th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- As 35,085 fans rose to their feet for a roaring ovation, the weight was finally lifted off 's shoulders. His dad -- former All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday -- stood in the front row at Camden Yards and clapped. In nearby seats, Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. high-fived Jackson’s wife, Chloe.

It may have taken a little longer than anticipated, but the first big league hit is in the books for MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect.

After an 0-for-13 start to his big league career, the 20-year-old Holliday recorded his first MLB knock in the seventh inning of the Orioles’ come-from-behind 6-4 win on Sunday afternoon vs. the Brewers, as he singled to right field off Milwaukee right-hander Abner Uribe. Holliday reached first, removed his right elbow pad and took a visibly large breath. He flashed a smile.

“That’s what you dream of,” Holliday said later.

Not many people have likely felt the type of pressure that Holliday had on him this week, especially at such a young age. Recalled from Triple-A Norfolk prior to the O’s game at Fenway Park on Wednesday, the 2022 No. 1 overall Draft pick was met with cameras everywhere he stepped while also enduring repeated blitzes of media.

Holliday handled it like a seasoned pro. But he admittedly started to press as the hitless plate appearances piled up. He collected an RBI in his Wednesday debut, then scored a pair of runs on Thursday. But still no hit, or even a walk.

In his Camden Yards debut on Friday, Holliday went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, helping to prompt an off-day for him on Saturday. After striking out in his first two plate appearances Sunday, he had fanned nine times in 13 plate appearances, including five consecutive K’s.

It had to have been a difficult introduction to Major League Baseball.

“Not so much difficult, just a lot, you know? It’s a lot. It’s been fun. It’s quite an experience. I don’t think I’d ever take it for granted, the experience that I’ve had,” Holliday said. “If you go 0-for for three or four games, I mean, it’s going to happen in baseball. I prefer it not to be at the beginning of my career, but it’s going to happen.”

It’s also going to end, as it did for Holliday shortly after he stepped into the batter’s box against Uribe. The flamethrowing Brewers reliever has a sinker that touches 100 mph and a wipeout slider, so Holliday and his teammates knew a go-ahead rally wouldn’t be easy to achieve during that seventh inning.

“Someone made a joke that [Holliday] just had to face someone with 100, I guess,” said Colton Cowser, who hit his fourth MLB homer (all coming in the past four days).

Once Uribe threw a slider that landed below the strike zone for a ball, Holliday knew he had the advantage. He anticipated a sinker and figured it would be coming a bit higher, likely within the strike zone.

Holliday was correct, connecting with the pitch and sending it into right at an exit velocity of 101.4 mph off the bat, per Statcast. The knock moved Jordan Westburg to third and was followed by an RBI single from Gunnar Henderson that tied the game at 4.

Adley Rutschman then grounded into a double play that allowed Holliday to come home from third and score the go-ahead run.

“I’m just happy for the kid,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Just to see the look on his face after he got that hit -- and a huge hit for us at the time, too. Happy for him. Happy for his family. It’s a special moment he’ll never forget.”

While Holliday surely wanted a hit, he wanted to win, too.

“We still haven’t gotten swept, right? I was kind of thinking of that, I’m like, ‘OK, we’ve got to get something rolling,'” said Holliday, who became the first Baltimore player to record a hit while wearing No. 7 since Billy Ripken in 1988.

He’s right. With the finale win, the Orioles have still not been swept in 96 consecutive multi-game regular-season series, the third-longest such streak in AL/NL history.

During Holliday’s challenging first week, he’s remained confident and optimistic. So have his teammates, including ace Corbin Burnes, who noted he was still in college at Holliday’s age and understood the high expectations the youngster has faced.

“It’s not from a lack of trying. He’s been trying his [butt] off to try to get a hit,” said Burnes, who tossed five solid innings vs. his former team. “So I was happy to see him do it.”

Through four big league games, Holliday is 1-for-15, as he grounded out to first base in his final at-bat in the eighth on Sunday. Now, the numbers could start to climb closer to the ones he put up in Triple-A earlier this year (.333/.482/.595 with two homers and nine RBIs in 10 games).

Not only should the spotlight get a little less bright -- at least for a bit -- but Holliday has gotten some valuable reps. He’s mostly eager for things to feel more like normal baseball.

“Looking forward to tomorrow to just settle in,” Holliday said. “Looking forward to settling in, getting a few more hits under my belt and really getting comfortable.”