The 2023 Orioles simply refuse to win easy. It could have been a cruise control kind of game in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, with Grayson Rodriguez plowing through the Tigers lineup in his rematch of Sunday’s game at Camden Yards. Thanks to scratching together mostly singles in convenient order, the Orioles held a 6-0 lead into the sixth inning. Things got messier from there but they still ended up in the win column with a 6-4 triumph to avoid being swept on the doubleheader day by Detroit.
Let’s start with Rodriguez, because he had what was easily the best start of his big league career to date. After allowing a leadoff double, Rodriguez went on to retire the next 14 Tigers batters, many of whom could not even put the ball in play at all. The only problem for Rodriguez was a couple of innings with elevated pitch counts, which ended up limiting him to five innings.
Yes, it’s a bad Tigers lineup, but that doesn’t guarantee success, as we saw with Dean Kremer earlier on Saturday. Rodriguez pitched well to keep these guys off the board and hopefully that’s something he can build on. He held Detroit to just two hits and one walk over his five innings, in which he struck out nine batters. It was a great game.
While Rodriguez was rolling, the Orioles built him what should have been a comfortable lead, if this team did comfortable leads. In the second inning, they turned a parade of five singles off of Tigers starter Matthew Boyd into three runs, with a fourth scoring on a wild pitch. Ryan McKenna, Joey Ortiz, and Austin Hays drove in a run each in the rally.
That 4-0 lead is where things stayed until there were two outs in the sixth inning. Gunnar Henderson worked a walk, his greatest specialty in the 2023 season to date. The Tigers tried to push Boyd to get one more batter - that was McKenna. It did not work. The O’s fourth outfielder launched a pitch into the seats in left field to make it a 6-0 lead for the Orioles. This proved critical. McKenna’s homer was the first he’s hit this season.
A six run lead going into the bottom of the sixth ought to be a stress-free kind of game. Keegan Akin had other ideas, walking the first batter he saw and allowing a single to the next. To Akin’s credit, he induced a ground ball by Javier Baez that ought to have been harmless. It ought to have been, except when it went to Jorge Mateo, he looked away at the last second as if anticipating turning a double play, and the ball bounced into left field entirely. A run scored on the play and Akin was done, having gotten no outs.
With things having turned a bit more interesting, the Orioles deployed one of the good-to-date relievers, Mike Baumann, to face former Oriole Tyler Nevin. Baumann, uh... he gave up a three-run homer to Nevin and suddenly it was 6-4. Bummer. This was the first hit Nevin has gotten off of his former team this season and it came at quite an opportune time. Baumann finished up the inning without any more damage, but it wasn’t going to be a stress-free coast to victory.
In the seventh, the top of the O’s lineup, Hays and Adley Rutschman, each walked to create a chance to get some insurance runs back on the board. Nice idea, except this was followed by Ryan Mountcastle striking out and Anthony Santander grounding into a double play. It must be said, the 3-4 spots in the Orioles lineup are not getting it done. They are 18-9 in spite of this fact. Better teams await.
Bryan Baker allowed a leadoff single in the bottom half of that inning to bring the tying run up to the plate. Baker, at least, did not melt down any further, getting the next two outs before giving way to Danny Coulombe for a lefty-lefty matchup, since the Tigers had used up all their right-handed pinch-hitters already. Coulombe got Riley Greene to hit an easy ground ball to Joey Ortiz, the rookie who’s looked mighty smooth as advertised in the field so far.
One guy who did not participate in the drama was Yennier Cano. Three Tigers faced Cano and three Tigers were sent back to the dugout in a total of six pitches in the eighth inning. Cano has now tossed a combined no-hitter to begin his season, with 9.2 innings pitched and only that one hit by pitch the other day as a blemish. Might it have been better to let it roll with Cano on that small pitch count, letting Félix Bautista get another day of rest? That’s not the choice manager Brandon Hyde made.
We all know when it’s Bad Bautista in these early games this season because he comes in and the first couple of pitches he throws are nowhere close to the strike zone. That’s who showed up on Saturday’s nightcap too; only half the pitches he threw were strikes. Five strikes in ten pitches was still enough. He whiffed Akil Baddoo, got a harmless lineout by Miguel Cabrera, then a foul flyout from Game 1 standout Matt Vierling ended the game in an Orioles victory.
A win is a win. The Orioles held on. They’ll need to play better against better teams, but they don’t have to give these games back. Rodriguez picked up his first MLB career win in the process, which he told O’s reporters after the game led to a postgame celebration involving “a lot of ketchup and mustard.” He has no reason to feel bad about today’s outing.
Sunday afternoon’s finale to this four-game set still awaits. It would behoove the Orioles to leave Detroit with a series victory. The 1:40 fourth game is set to have Spencer Turnbull (owner of a 7.25 ERA so far this season) pitch for Detroit, with Kyle Bradish looking for a bounce-back outing for Baltimore.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for the second game of the 4/29 doubleheader?
This poll is closed
Grayson Rodriguez (five shutout innings, new career high with 9 Ks)
Ryan McKenna (sixth inning homer for game’s decisive runs)
Austin Hays (two hits and also a walk)
Adley Rutschman (same as Austin Hays)