ST. PETERSBURG -- Now at Triple-A Norfolk, Adley Rutschman is one step away from the big leagues. And he isn’t wasting any time.
Baseball's top overall prospect continued introducing himself to Triple-A on Wednesday, hitting his first home run in his sixth game with the Tides during their 9-5 doubleheader opener loss to Charlotte. Rocketing a first-inning solo shot off right-hander Kade McClure, Rutschman hit his 19th homer in 86 games overall this season, his first full season in pro ball. It left the bat at 107 mph and traveled 423 feet, per the Knights.
Rutschman also singled twice and scored twice as part of a three-hit day, his fourth multihit effort since joining the Tides on Aug. 10. In six games at Triple-A, Rutschman is hitting .440 with three extra-base hits and 16 total bases. This after Rutschman hit .271/.392/.508 with 18 homers and nearly as many walks (55) as strikeouts (57) in 80 games at Double-A Bowie.
Rutschman also caught a one-hit shutout during what’s been an excellent first week-plus in Norfolk. How many more does he need? That’s the big question. Rutschman isn’t on the Orioles’ 40-man roster and won’t have any competitive reason to start his service clock down the stretch this season, making a 2021 callup unlikely. But what he does in Triple-A this year could well factor into his timeline come 2022, when speculation over Rutschman’s debut is likely to be the dominant storyline come Spring Training.
Meanwhile, in the Majors
The big league club’s current run of futility is now reaching historic proportions.
The Orioles on Wednesday became only the third team in the modern era (since 1901) to endure multiple losing streaks of at least 14 games in the same season, after dropping their 14th straight, 8-4, to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
The 1911 and '35 Boston Braves are the only other teams in the modern era to have two losing streaks of 14 games or more in the same season (it was done four other times before 1900). Baltimore has been outscored 131-40 during its current streak, which has come against the Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox and Rays.
“We’re trying to go day to day and get the confidence up, try to create some momentum but stuff isn’t going our way, and we’re not helping by creating our own problems out there,” said Cedric Mullins, who led off the game with a homer. “It’s a matter of us trying not to focus on the negative, try to pull positives out and take it into the next day.”
Ryan Mountcastle also homered but after the Rays pulled away against the Orioles’ struggling ‘pen in the middle innings. They’ve dropped 14 of 15 games to the Rays this season, with Tampa Bay outscoring them 121-55 in the season series.
“We’re just not in many games right now, and that’s very, very hard,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’re trying to win. Our guys are not quitting. I give our guys credit for that, because this is challenging. We’re facing really good teams, too. We’re not facing .500 teams from other divisions. We’re facing teams that have added. We’ve subtracted for three years.”
Their schedule doesn’t get any easier from here. The Orioles close out their four-game series in St. Petersburg with a matinee finale Thursday, then welcome the first-place Braves for three games this weekend at Camden Yards. They then have three against the Angels and nine against the Rays, Blue Jays and Yankees, including series at Toronto and New York.
Wednesday’s loss put the Orioles on a 109-loss pace. Their 38-81 record is now the worst in the Majors, falling behind the D-backs in recent days.
“All of these guys have something to play for, and they’ve been reminded of that,” Hyde said. “They have a lot to play for these last 40 games, and our players are very aware of that. I don’t think you’ll see any quit in them the last month-plus, because everybody in there has something to play for.”
Mountcastle matching history
Serving a solo shot off former Oriole reliever Shawn Armstrong in the eighth, Mountcastle became the first O’s rookie since Trey Mancini in 2017 to reach 20 homers, and eighth in team history. Cal Ripken Jr. owns the club rookie record for homers in a season with 28 in 1982.
Mountcastle also extended his hitting streak to 10 games in his second game off the concussion injured list. He ranks second among MLB rookies in homers, behind Rangers outfielder Adolis García’s 26.
“He looks really good at the plate,” Hyde said. “It’s not easy to take a week-plus off and get back in there … it’s good to see him back in the lineup.”