Good evening, all you night owls! If you manage to stay up ‘til midnight for this West Coast contest, your Orioles delivered a tight, tidy, well-pitched game and the team’s 74th win of the season. Gunnar Henderson broke open the game with a three-run double off San Diego’s Yu Darvish in the fifth, and that was all Baltimore pitching needed, especially with Grayson Rodriguez tossing the best start of his young career, seven innings with one run allowed and six strikeouts.
“A Tale of Two Seasons,” our Alex Church called this O’s-Padres matchup, describing the one team whose season graph is ticking upward, and the other whose graph is ticking down. Tonight, it was a Tale of Two Very Different Pitchers. The wily Yu Darvish, entering his 11th season, approached the Orioles by mixing up speeds, sliders and sweepers punctuated by a fastball or two. Grayson Rodriguez, on the other hand, showed up to blow some Padres away—his fastball was hitting 100, and he was burying it in the top of the zone.
When the Darvish strategy works, you get lots of weak ground balls. When it fails, you hang a breaking ball and it gets crushed. When the Rodriguez “gas can” strategy works, lots of stupid-looking swings—but if not, the contact is hard.
And there was some hard contact against Rodriguez, early. In the first, Fernando Tatis drove a ball through the infielders before being erased with a double play. Xander Bogaerts smoked a double to left to lead off the second, but he was left stranded.
But just like the little season graphs, it took Grayson a sec to find his secondary stuff, but as the game went on, he found it—and his performance ticked up and up. And although Darvish started off strong, he’d blink first. The 36-year-old right hander hung a breaking ball to Ryan O’Hearn in the second, and the lefty drove it into the right-field corner. It was O’Hearn’s first home run since July 25, and the Orioles were on the scoreboard.
It took Rodriguez until the third to put up his first 1-2-3 inning, but as he did, his confidence kept growing. He needed just 11 pitches to get through the fourth: he erased Fernando Tatis Jr. with the “the old Bugs Bunny changeup” (by the way, how great is it to have Ben McDonald and Kevin Brown back in the MASN booth together?) then reversed the sequence to Juan Soto, starting with changeups and finishing him off with 100 at the top of the zone.
By that point, the second time through the order, the Orioles were starting to peck at Darvish harder and harder. They racked up three hits against him in the fourth but couldn’t score, an Anthony Santander GIDP scuttling their carefully laid plans.
But they broke through in the fifth inning. With one out, the Orioles loaded the bases: Aaron Hicks served another hanger into right, Jordan Westburg scorched a single, and Adley Rutschman walked to set the table for Gunnar Henderson.
The presumptive frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year delivered a swing he might want to consider adding to his highlight reel. He got a huge first-pitch curveball and demonstrated an incredible eye and patience as he waited, waited, waited on it, then crushed the thing the opposite way into the left-field corner.
Watching them let Gunnar get hot (It’s a canon event and we cannot interfere) pic.twitter.com/TrWXKi2oOL— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 15, 2023
It wasn’t quite the Delmon Young double, but it cleared the bases, gave Gunnar 55 RBIs on the season (third on the team), and put the Orioles up 4-0. According to the booth, this was the first extra-base hit against Darvish’s curveball all season, and on the first curveball Henderson had seen from Darvish.
After retiring 11 in a row, Rodriguez gave a run back in the sixth inning when the Padres’ newest acquisition, Garrett Cooper, sat on a first-pitch fastball and drove it over the center-field wall. The MASN booth pointed out that the third time through the order, G-Rod’s opposing average balloons to a concerning .348.
This was why it was particularly cool to see how he responded to the home run: by punching out the side. Then he went and broke his career high in innings. Pitching into the seventh for just the second time ever, Rodriguez quickly retired Juan Soto and Manny Machado. Then he started to look gassed, issuing his first walk of the game with two outs. Maybe the Chris Holt mound pep talk helped: Rodriguez summoned a well-located changeup that got Jake Cronenworth to hit a weak grounder for the third time tonight. And there it was: Grayson Rodriguez had 21 outs for the first time in his career.
Both sides then turned to their bullpens—and both bullpens did the job. In the eighth, Padres’ Tom Cosgrove allowed just a walk to Ryan O’Hearn (who quietly reached base three times tonight), while Jacob Webb faced the minimum, aided by a double play launched by a confident Ramón Urías at third and a casual warning-track catch by Cedric Mullins.
The Orioles wasted a chance to pad their lead in the ninth after Cedric Mullins manufactured a leadoff double when Padres’ CF Trent Grisham took a sloppy route to the ball. Urías moved him over to third with a warning track fly, but uncompetitive at-bats from Austin Hays (subbed in for Aaron Hicks, whom we hope isn’t hurt) and Westburg doused the rally.
On Saturday night, Félix Bautista pitched two innings against Seattle, so we know manager Brandon Hyde would have liked to avoid him tonight. But we went to the ninth at 4-1, a save situation, and that meant one thing: Mountain Time. Ha-Seong Kim popped out behind the plate before Bautista started to struggle. He walked Fernando Tatis Jr., who stole second with no throw. He fell to 3-2 to Juan Soto, then walked him, too. That brought up the tying run in Manny Machado.
Once an Oriole, always an Oriole… right? Machado drove a ground ball the way of Ramón Urías, who fired to Henderson at second, who fired to O’Hearn for the double play. Good afternoon, good evening, and good night, San Diego! Like that, Bautista had his 32nd save, Grayson Rodriguez his third career victory, and the Orioles their AL-best 74th win of the season.
See you at the ballpark tomorrow!
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Monday, Aug. 14?
This poll is closed
Grayson Rodriguez (7.0 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 6 K)
Gunnar Henderson (2-for-4, 2B, 3 RBIs)
Ryan O’Hearn (2-for-3, HR, BB, and also because I like the rule of 3’s)