BALTIMORE -- Following his debut just less than a month ago, Adley Rutschman was asked about the pageantry of the event, the kind of honor he felt receiving a standing ovation every time he did anything. He was wholly appreciative, but he said he was looking forward to getting to “that normal, everyday team aspect” of being a big leaguer.
It seems like he’s starting to find that.
Rutschman laced the first game-winning hit of his career in Friday’s 1-0 win over the Rays at Camden Yards, another moment that gave a peek at the breakout he’s unlocking. In the micro, it was a moment. In the macro, it was a collection of moments: RBIs in three consecutive games after none in his first 20, the continuation of an eight-game on-base streak and an enhanced boon of production that appears to be fully introduced.
“He's a special player,” said right-hander Dean Kremer, guided by Rutschman to the best outing of his career. “ … Adley’s a special player. Once his bat catches fire, he's probably one of the most fun to watch.”
That’s starting to happen. With Friday’s 2-for-3 showing, Rutschman has gone 10-for-29 across his past eight games, with six extra-base hits and an OPS north of 1.000. In that span, he has raised his .153 batting average to .212 and his .451 OPS to .628.
And add in his second baserunner thrown out in the sixth inning.
“It's just a matter of time,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde.
“I'm just going pitch to pitch, AB to AB, trying to make adjustments as I go and learn,” Rutschman said. “As long as I can do that, I'll continue to get better and just continue to work on the process.”
Along the way Friday, Rutschman guided Kremer to the first scoreless outing of his career -- regardless of length -- to trim his ERA to 2.35 across three starts. The connection within the battery has been palpable, but so has Kremer’s enhanced confidence. Hyde and the club alike see a different version of Kremer than they saw in 2021, when he ended the year in the Minors.
And one further: Rutschman was behind the dish to shepherd Jorge López to a four-out save, his fifth multi-inning save of the year to a) tie him atop the Major League leaderboard in that category with Pittsburgh’s David Bednar and b) start the Orioles’ home slate off on the highest of notes, a second consecutive win over the Rays that last year felt unfathomable.
Rutschman wouldn’t have any idea. He made his debut May 21 against the Rays, was part of the walk-off victory the next day and is now 2-1 against them in his career. The American League East is quickly learning his capabilities; in Toronto this past week, the last divisional foe Rutschman faced, he went 4-for-15, lacing his first career home run on Wednesday.
On Friday, an inning prior to his tiebreaking single off Calvin Faucher in the seventh, he threw out Rays speedster Vidal Bruján with an 85.2 mph strike to Jorge Mateo at second base. Rutschman’s pop time of 1.86 seconds would slot in just behind the MLB-leading 1.82-second average from Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto. Bruján was dashing 29 feet per second -- just under the elite 30.0 mark.
"I don't think I got the greatest jump. I think I was a little bit late,” Bruján admitted. “But he did make a good throw."
Rutschman had his fingerprints all over Friday’s win and his fist pumping with each jam escaped -- especially so after López’s game-ending whiff of Brett Phillips. That kind of emotion has been missing from this Orioles’ club, a culture of enhanced competitiveness that started to build prior to Rutschman’s arrival but has remained on an upward trajectory.
“It's a big moment just to be able to work with him. In that last inning, you get through it together, just a special moment,” Rutschman said. “It’s the reason you play baseball.”
It took the 2021 Orioles 153 games to pitch their fifth and final shutout of the season. It took these O’s 66 contests to equal that. The ’21 club had 62 losses when it won its 29th game. The ’22 Orioles have 37 -- and now a winning record at home, to boot.
Rutschman is continuing to build such good vibes. He was the star of Friday night -- and then Flo Rida took the stage built above the dirt above second base, with Rutschman and other Orioles watching from the dugout.