BALTIMORE -- There was a palpable buzz around Camden Yards early Friday evening. The red-hot Orioles were back in town following a 5-1 American League East road trip through Toronto and New York. Plus, Baltimore was set to debut its new City Connect uniforms.
In the first inning, Adley Rutschman homered off Rangers starter Jon Gray. The O’s, owners of the second-best record in MLB, were off and running again ...
Only the night took a sharp, unexpected turn. The anticipation turned to frustration. And likely nobody came out of a disappointing lopsided loss more frustrated than Grayson Rodriguez.
The 23-year-old right-hander, making his 10th MLB start, continued to endure some big league growing pains in a 12-2 loss to Texas. Rodriguez allowed nine of those runs (a career high, although one was unearned) and lasted only 3 1/3 innings, matching his shortest outing yet.
It came after Rodriguez pitched well in Toronto last Saturday, when he struck out six and allowed two runs over five innings in a start that manager Brandon Hyde thought was the former top prospect’s best showing in the Majors.
“The inconsistency’s a little frustrating,” Rodriguez said. “We know it’s there, just got to go out and do better than that.”
The high-octane stuff was certainly again there for Rodriguez. In fact, his velocity was up on all of his offerings. That included his four-seam fastball, which he threw 49 times among his 83 pitches. The heater averaged 98 mph, a 1.5 mph increase from his season average, per Statcast. It also induced 10 whiffs, as Rodriguez racked up 13 overall.
But when the Rangers weren’t swinging and missing, they were making lots of loud contact. They deposited three of Rodriguez’s pitches over the fence -- a pair of two-run homers by Leody Taveras (in the second) and Robbie Grossman (fourth) and a grand slam by Corey Seager that ended Rodriguez’s night in the fourth.
Texas sent 13 batters to the plate during its eight-run rally in the fourth. Rodriguez likely should have gotten out of it after only half of those runs had scored, as he got Marcus Semien to hit a tailor-made double-play grounder with one out, but shortstop Jorge Mateo committed an error that loaded the bases. Seager went deep on the next pitch, which was Rodriguez’s last.
Rodriguez felt the tough results stemmed from poor execution and a lack of command.
“Just putting it on the plate a little bit too much when I need to stick to the edges,” Rodriguez said.
For Hyde, it was “disappointing” that Rodriguez couldn’t build on his previous outing. It’s been a constant battle for the righty, who has allowed two or fewer runs in half of his 10 starts and given up four or more in each of the other five.
This isn’t like the Minor Leagues, as big league hitters better capitalize on mistake pitches. Especially those on a team such as the Rangers (32-18), who rank first in MLB in runs scored (322) and second in OPS (.797).
“You can out-stuff people below us, but here, even though your stuff’s good, you’ve got to be able to command the baseball,” Hyde said. “He’s just had a few appearances where he hasn’t been able to do that.”
It wasn’t the first time Hyde has removed Rodriguez from a game in the fourth, but the skipper did experience a first for the year on Friday night: Inserting a position player to pitch. With the game out of hand and Hyde wanting to rest a bullpen that has pitched the fifth-most innings in the American League (194 2/3), outfielder Ryan McKenna took the mound for the ninth.
Early in Hyde’s tenure, such a move was much more common. Not this year, when 46 of the Orioles’ first 51 games have been decided by four or fewer runs and they’ve come from behind to win 19 times. And he hopes to not have to do it again anytime soon.
“I was trying to remember the last time, really, I felt like there wasn’t an opportunity [to come back], and I couldn’t remember one,” Hyde said. “There hasn’t been a real lopsided win or loss for a long, long time. Nights like tonight happen. We’ll flush it, come back tomorrow. These things, it’s baseball, this happens.”