With game on the line, Adley makes his marquee moment

July 4th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- For as captivating as the Adley Rutschman experience has been, attention has had to be seized mostly from a distance. Since Rutschman tripled for his first big league hit in his debut on May 21, marquee moments in front of the Orioles faithful have escaped him. All three of his home runs -- and better numbers overall -- have come in enemy confines.

And then came fireworks on the Fourth of July.

With the O’s down to their last out, Rutschman provided the game-tying swing in what became a 7-6 walk-off win over the Rangers at Camden Yards on Monday afternoon, marking only his second RBI and fourth extra-base hit at home since he debuted. By the time he pulled into second base, the 15-second run from home was a blurry memory, drowned out by 18,670 fans sent into utter uproar.

“I mean, just definitely a rush of emotions,” Rutschman said. “To be able to just have the game there was really cool. Two outs, big situation.”

That the Orioles won on Jorge Mateo’s walk-off plunk -- their sixth walk-off win on the year to trail only the Yankees’ mark of 10 -- was thanks only to Rutschman’s heroics with two outs in the ninth. Rangers star Marcus Semien had just homered off Orioles potential All-Star Jorge López, nicked up in his third consecutive outing, to give Texas the lead and play out a familiar story from the weekend.

And then Rutschman turned nerves to cheers, lacing a double off Rangers closer Joe Barlow just over the head of right fielder Adolis García, pantomiming the Orioles’ trademark goggles celebration to the first-base dugout after he touched second and set the stage for Mateo’s bruising contribution.

“Huge moment for him,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Huge moment for us.”

That’s for two reasons. Rutschman entered the day hitless in his 19 plate appearances since he homered near home in Seattle, following up some of his best baseball to date with a skid. The Orioles, meanwhile, saw close games slip through López’s grasp twice over the last three days in Minnesota.

One swing -- and then a hit-by-pitch -- can do much to eradicate some tough vibes.

“Just how we drew it up,” Hyde laughed. “Total team play.”

Rutschman’s home woes can perhaps be chalked up to comfort. Monday was only his 12th game at home compared to 23 on the road, many of the latter coming in his recent hot stretch. 

But the last time in Baltimore was a good table-setter. Rutschman laced doubles in two straight games against the Nationals on June 21-22 to incite a span of five consecutive contests with a two-bagger. Since June 1, Rutschman’s 11 doubles are tied with Cedric Mullins and behind just Ryan Mountcastle’s 14 within the Orioles’ clubhouse. All are among the tops in the Majors in that span.

It might not have even been the play Rutschman was proudest of on Monday.

His afternoon in the box began with a hustle down the first-base line that saw him sprint 28.2 feet-per-second -- above his own average of 27.3 and the MLB average of 27.0 -- to break his hitless skid. It continued with a walk in the sixth and was capped off with his heroics in the ninth. The only blemish perhaps was the opportunistic Rangers, with the most steals in the Majors, taking three bases off Rutschman despite his best efforts, three of his fastest-clocked throws at 86.7 mph, 85.5 mph and 87.4 mph.

But Rutschman has grown accustomed to seeing the tenacious Orioles in action. Since his debut, the club is over .500, at 21-20, and is coming off their first winning month since August 2017. He was an up-front witness to Mateo limping to first base with the help of Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Rougned Odor during the only roar on the day that was louder than his double in the ninth. It’s a sound Baltimore expects to dole out continuously in the years to come.

Does that feeling get old?

“I hope not. That's a pretty cool feeling to see and hear the fans behind you,” Rutschman said, “and behind our team.”