It was supposed to be better than this. The Orioles were making their triumphant return from a 5-1 road trip that saw them win consecutive series against other AL East teams. They were debuting the brand new City Connect uniforms on the field. The weather was nice for the first day of a holiday weekend. A decent-sized crowd was there. Grayson Rodriguez was on the mound. It should have been fun. It wasn’t.
A number of the starts that Rodriguez has made up to this point that weren’t very good have at least had things about them where you could look at them and feel like there were signs of progress. There is nothing good to say about this Friday start. He was thoroughly destroyed by the Rangers. If you are an extreme silver lining kind of person, you might note that a number of pitchers have been destroyed by the Rangers this year. They now lead MLB in runs scored. This was always going to be a tough assignment.
Even so, there is no lipstick to put on the pig that has this game stat line branded into its midsection: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 9 R (8 ER), 3 BB, 6 K, 3 HR. We are talking U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly. The shelling elevates Rodriguez’s ERA to 7.35 after ten big league starts. The only thing there is to say about that is it sucks.
An agonizing question presents itself: What is to be done about this? People in the comments of this website and in my Twitter replies every time I mention Rodriguez have been out of patience with him since his first bad start. Banishing him back to the minors after one or two bad outcomes was not a wise perspective to hold. The sample size, while still small, is bigger now and improvement does not feel like it is one tweak away from occurring.
The Orioles, trying to keep pace with a Rays team that won again on Friday night, cannot give away games while trying to sort Rodriguez out. There’s the practical matter of saving the bullpen workload, too. There’s not a regular long reliever on the roster right now and any short start taxes a group that’s borne a heavy load up to this point. The falcon cannot hear the falconer, you know? The centre cannot hold.
A further frustration for Rodriguez’s outing is who it was in the Rangers lineup who was teeing off on him. Yeah, the big blow was Corey Seager hitting a grand slam, but he had plenty of problems before that. They started as early as the second inning, as Rodriguez was spared Josh Jung hitting a leadoff home run only by Cedric Mullins committing a home run robbery.
Later in the same inning, Rodriguez walked Robbie Grossman, who entered the game with a .657 OPS on the season. He promptly gave up a home run to Leody Taveras. Prior to this game, Taveras had hit one home run in 140 plate appearances in 2023. Grossman homered himself a couple of innings later, giving Texas what was then a 5-1 lead. It was bad right then and it got worse.
This is hardly the first start where Rodriguez has been plagued by command and control issues and where batters were able to sit and tee off on the mistakes. Until something changes, it will not be the last. The grumpiest about Rodriguez may be interested to know that tonight’s Norfolk starting pitcher was Bruce Zimmermann.
As the Orioles once led the 30-3 game by a 3-0 score, they also once led this one, 1-0. Adley Rutschman homered for the eighth time this season in the bottom of the first to open the scoring. Rutschman took Rangers pitcher Jon Gray deep onto the flag court. He was pretty much the only highlight for the Orioles offense. Rutschman had three of the team’s hits, and drew the only walk. Rutschman hit .120 in the prior six games, so that’s a welcome sign in the blowout loss. The bulk of the team’s hits came after it was well into garbage time. Yay.
Gray is good. He entered the game with a 3.02 ERA and a 1.164 WHIP. Both of these numbers improved after a game where he allowed a run on four hits and a walk in seven innings. Even so, the offense other than Rutschman also sucked. Again, a small bit of silver lining: If there was a game for the offense to suck, this is the one. It did not matter very much. Do better tomorrow when the scoreboard turns back to 0-0.
Austin Voth did the yeoman’s work of long relief for Friday night, adding 3.2 innings after Rodriguez came out of the game to get the Orioles at least through seven innings with only two pitchers used up. Voth walked the first batter he saw and gave up a run in the same inning, but that was it. Two hits, two walks, one run in that 3.2 innings of long relief. He did his job too.
Ryan McKenna was brought in to pitch in the top of the ninth inning. He did not throw a pitch faster than 39 miles per hour. He gave up two runs, increasing his career pitching ERA to 15.43. They can’t all be Chris Davis.
This game sucked, and it sucked all the more because it’s a shock when the Orioles get blown out this year. This was only the second time with a 5+ run margin of defeat in their 51st game. The O’s can even out the series simply by winning tomorrow’s game. It’s a 4:05 start on Saturday afternoon, perhaps to accommodate the free post-game concert by Andy Grammer. Andrew Heaney and Dean Kremer are the scheduled starting pitchers.