Years ago, when I was a little kid, my dad explained to me that when inherited runners score it’s charged to the starting pitcher. I was furious. Like, I get the concept of shared responsibility but… couldn’t we go splitsies on the starter’s ERA or something?
Well, I’m still mad about it. In his second career start, Grayson Rodriguez struck out six in 4.1 innings but walked the bases loaded in the fifth and got pulled with the Orioles up 3-2. Who do you think Brandon Hyde put in in relief? Austin Frickin’ Voth, he of the 10.38 ERA in three appearances and a homer allowed in each. Does Hyde hate Rodriguez or something? Voth gave up two straight RBI singles and then the pièce de résistance, a three-run home run to clear the bases. I do think Brandon Hyde has some questions to answer about why he felt it was proper to blow up G-Rod’s ERA that way.
But you know what? It’s hard to feel mad about it after what the Orioles bats did tonight. Down in a hole four times in this game—1-0, 2-1, 4-3, then 7-3—the Orioles kept digging their way—no, I mean, blasting their way out. It was silly on Tuesday night. It was raining runs at the Yard.
The Top 3 Orioles hitters were monsters. Austin Hays went 4-for-5 with four runs scored and two RBI. He was barreling up every ball in sight. Adley Rutschman reached base four times, going 2-for-3 with two walks. The only way to stop this guy is to walk him. And of course, there was Ryan Mountcastle. The big first baseman with the scraggly mustache has been heating up lately, but today was another level: Mountcastle came into this game with a team-leading nine RBI. Now he leads the team with 18.
With the Orioles suddenly down 7-3 in the fifth inning, it sure felt like the Voth meltdown would be the defining moment of this game. But it wasn’t. This was:
It’s almost (almost!) a shame to obscure what King Mounty had done the at-bat before, which was to launch this gorgeous blast:
Have yourself a game, Ryan Mountcastle! The 26-year-old slugger’s nine RBIs tie an Orioles single-game record for RBIs, alongside Jim Gentile in 1961 and Eddie Murray in 1985.
Now, I am aware that I am also contractually obligated to report to you about Grayson Rodriguez. I kid, it wasn’t all that bad. Ignore the earned runs (again, I mostly blame Voth) and there was still lots to like. Rodriguez’s fastball is a beast, living all game at 98-99-mph in the corners. It was a big reason he struck out six batters in less than five innings. Had he commanded his stuff a little better it probably would have been eight or nine K’s.
Yes, Rodriguez has lots of homework right now. Assignment No. 1 is to keep polishing his slider and changeup. Those two pitches kept trickling into the strike zone and, although the A’s aren’t the Bronx Bombers, they barreled up those mistakes. Oakland also showed a patient approach against the youngster, 18 of 23 hitters he faced going to a two-strike count, ten of them reaching after that (on 6 hits, 4 walks). At some point Ben McDonald announced, “For me Grayson is controlling the strike zone, but not quite commanding it quite yet.” Rodriguez has to figure out the put-away pitch and that, I think, means better command. If he finds it those long at-bats will turn into quick K’s.
But again, tonight’s main story was how Orioles hitters kept their cool facing a deficit, and how the top of the lineup, especially, kept hammering Oakland pitching. Their rally down 7-3 was the big one. In the fifth, Hays and Rutschman smoked singles off starter Kyle Muller’s fastball. Oakland’s pitching coach made a visit to the mound, but now maybe he’s wondering if they should have just yanked Muller. Muller threw Mountcastle an inside fastball, and the result was that gorgeous bomb into the O’s bullpen. Boom! An Earl Weaver Special for Mounty, his third, fourth and fifth RBIs, and now a manageable 7-6 game.
Again, the Birds kept coming, and Oakland couldn’t stop them. Austin Hays, who seemed to square up every ball thrown in his direction tonight, hit this “stone cold stunner” (credit to Kevin Brown) over Walltimore to tie the game at 7.
The eighth inning saw a new pitcher, Sam Moll, but the offensive onslaught didn’t abate. Gunnar Henderson and Jorge Mateo kicked off the rally with a walk and a HBP. With two outs, Austin Hays singled to center, his fourth hit and second RBI of the day, putting the Birds up 8-7, their first lead since the fourth inning. Woo-hoo! Could things get any better?
Would you believe that they could?
New reliever Dany Jiménez intentionally walked Adley Rutschman to get to … the hottest hitter on the team? Then he fed Ryan Mountcastle a hanging slider? Foolish. Very foolish! It was now 12-7, and it was now a party in the Yard.
From the point of view of Brandon Hyde, this was a good time to send in two inexperienced relievers. Lefty Danny Coulombe, perhaps fired up at the Orioles’ heroics, pitched the best inning I’ve seen from him, a three-up, three-K eighth. Logan Gillaspie had his struggles, allowing old Oriole Jace Peterson to double home an eighth run, but his fastball had zip and this one didn’t get too stressful.
On most nights, a team will need better pitching than this to win. Tonight, though, it was alright to just swing for the fences.
Who Was the Most Birdland Player on Tuesday, April 11?
This poll is closed
Austin Hays (4-for-5, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI)
Ryan Mountcastle (3-for-4, 2 HR, 9 RBI, Salami)
Adley Rutschman (2-for-3, 2 R, 2 BB, still hitting .395 on the season)