O's fall in extras despite Rutschman's two HRs, Burnes' quality start

May 14th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- Nearing the two-year anniversary of his MLB debut on May 21, has checked off a ton of milestones, both individually and as a member of the defending American League East champion Orioles. Yet, the 26-year-old catcher accomplished another “first” on Monday night: His first two-homer game.

Does it still excite Rutschman to achieve new feats at the big league level?

“I’d just rather win,” Rutschman said candidly.

That’s always been the mindset of one of baseball’s top young stars, which is why Rutschman was more disappointed by Baltimore’s 3-2, 10-inning loss to Toronto at Camden Yards than thrilled by his own personal glory. His pair of solo home runs was nearly enough to also power the O’s to victory, but they couldn’t preserve the one-run lead Baltimore took into the eighth inning.

AL East games are never easy, and the Orioles (26-14) know that well. However, they’ve fared quite well against divisional foes the past two seasons, going 32-20 in such contests last year and opening this season with six wins in their first seven AL East matchups prior to Monday.

Baltimore has either won or split its past 16 divisional series, going 12-0-4 over a stretch that dates back to April 2023. To keep that streak alive, the O’s will need to bounce back and win the next two games against the Blue Jays (19-22), a last-place team more formidable than most.

“Obviously, their record isn’t toward the top like ours and some other teams are, but that’s a tough team,” Orioles ace Corbin Burnes said. “I think you saw it tonight.”

Burnes went head-to-head with Toronto right-hander José Berríos in a matchup of two of the AL’s top pitchers. Berríos yielded only Rutschman’s two solo blasts over seven strong innings, as the 29-year-old now has a 2.95 ERA in 15 career starts against Baltimore. But Rutschman improved to 12-for-19 (.632) lifetime against the righty.

Meanwhile, Burnes tossed six innings of one-run ball, recording his fourth straight quality start. In his first year in the AL East, the 29-year-old has a 1.89 ERA in three divisional starts.

“He looked amazing,” Rutschman said. “He’s been impressive all year.”

However, Burnes threw only 85 pitches, his fewest since his 82-pitch gem vs. the Angels on Opening Day on March 28. The Blue Jays’ perseverant hitters were the reason for that.

Toronto scattered six hits (all singles) against Burnes and worked tough at-bats. He cited an eight-pitch strikeout of Alejandro Kirk to end the fourth as a turning point in the outing. He allowed three consecutive batters to reach base with one out in the sixth -- which included an RBI single by Daniel Vogelbach -- before escaping the jam with a double play.

“After that [Kirk strikeout], I was just struggling to catch my breath,” Burnes said. “So the fatigue just set in a lot faster than it has been. That’s just due to a little bit more traffic, a lot [of] higher-stress innings.”

Added manager Brandon Hyde: “Talking after that sixth inning, it felt like he kind of emptied the tank there. So that was the end of his night, and the bottom line is we didn’t score enough runs.”

A lack of offense has been a recurring issue when Burnes has taken the mound of late. He had pitched 18 1/3 innings with no run support until Rutschman’s homer in the fourth. The Orioles’ only shutout losses this season came in Burnes’ previous two starts (May 1 vs. the Yankees and last Tuesday at the Nationals).

“He’s kept us in every game that he’s pitched, and at some point here, it’s going to turn and we’re going to score some runs for him,” Hyde said.

Baltimore didn’t score any runs for its bullpen on Monday. On the other side, Daulton Varsho hit a game-tying homer off Yennier Cano in the eighth and drove in the go-ahead run on a groundout vs. Jacob Webb in the 10th.

In the bottom of the 10th, the O’s left runners on the corners to end the game. Cedric Mullins grounded out on the first pitch he saw from Jordan Romano, finishing 0-for-4 to extend his slump to 5-for-57.

Nobody in the Orioles’ clubhouse was concerned after a quiet offensive night, though. After all, this was only the third time this year they’ve lost back-to-back games -- along with April 6-7 at Pittsburgh and April 12-13 vs. Milwaukee -- and they have yet to drop three straight.

“We want to win. Our hitters have been great all year,” Rutschman said. “We always want to win, and I think if we stay with our process, we’ll bounce back. Our guys are really good.”