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Grayson Rodriguez dominates as Orioles crush Rays, 8-0, to retake first place

The Orioles victory also seals the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Rays in the O’s favor.

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles
Double Gatorade bath? Double Gatorade bath.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Grayson Rodriguez took one look at the possibility of the Orioles having their first five-game losing streak of the season and said, “Not today.” He stared down the idea of falling behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East and dismissed it with naught but a stony gaze. He took a 107mph line drive off the calf and showed no pain but only annoyance, pushing on to eight shutout innings of dominance that allowed the O’s to seize back control of the AL East with an 8-0 win.

The offense finally showed back up too. The team got a first inning hit for the first time in eight days and a first inning run for the first time in nearly two weeks. The team equaled its total runs from the previous four games in the first four innings of this game. After a week of struggle, these guys showed up against a tough starting pitcher in Tyler Glasnow and they knocked him around. Friday’s sellout crowd may have left disappointed, but those folks at a near-sellout on Saturday night could go home mighty happy.

The win is a significant one. On top of guaranteeing that the Orioles will at least finish this series tied with the Rays for the division lead, it also secures the head-to-head tiebreaker for the O’s. At worst, they will finish 7-6 against the Rays this year, meaning that if these teams did finish with the same regular season record, the O’s would get the edge for the division and the Rays would have to settle for the top wild card spot.

And speaking of that wild card business: Coupled with a Texas loss to Cleveland, the O’s Saturday victory reduces their “clinch anything” magic number to 1. With a win tomorrow, the Orioles will be guaranteed a playoff spot. What a difference a day makes.

After a game the previous day in which the Orioles were no-hit into the sixth inning, that monkey was banished promptly as Gunnar Henderson struck a line drive that bounced in front of the center fielder. This was not, on its own, catharsis, but it sure didn’t hurt. Adley Rutschman followed with a walk and these two consecutive Orioles picks in 2019 advanced on a wild pitch.

Anthony Santander struck out for the first out, keeping the possibility of disappointment alive. Then Ryan O’Hearn hit a dying quail that was falling to earth as left fielder Randy Arozarena closed in on it. Arozarena got the ball into his glove but it fell out as he dove and rolled over his glove. Henderson scored. The Orioles had a chance for a big rally, but the recent Austin Hays slump continued with an inning-ending double play.

As it turned out, the one run was all that Rodriguez was going to need. Fortunately for those of us invested in the outcome of the Orioles game, they did not stop there. A three-run Orioles second inning saw Adam Frazier deliver an RBI single and was punctuated most righteously by Gunnar Henderson hitting his 27th homer of the year:

You knew that he knew it off the bat. If that’s not swag, I don’t know what is. Henderson’s homer set a 4-0 lead for the O’s that never got truly uncomfortable. Glasnow was socked by the Orioles yet again; they wrecked him for six runs in 4.1 innings on June 20. Nearly three months later, Glasnow recorded one fewer out and still gave up the same six runs. Reeling from the two prior losses to the Rays and the stumble to close out the Cardinals series, the O’s needed this statement.

In the middle of all of this offensive firepower, Rodriguez plowed through a Rays lineup that teed off the previous day. Rodriguez equaled Friday’s starter Jack Flaherty by putting three scoreless innings on the board. He did Flaherty one better as his first three innings were perfect. The Rays snapped the perfecto leading off the fourth with Yandy Díaz’s leadoff double. The first baseman was nearly, but not quite, thrown out at second base.

With one out, Arozarena slipped a grounder through the 3B-SS hole that was hit too hard to score Díaz. This could have turned into trouble, except Rodriguez induced a ground ball from Josh Lowe that turned into an easy 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.

Rodriguez was great, allowing just five hits across an eight inning start (really!) in which he also did not walk a batter. Even so, the Rays had their innings where they had chances, and he shut the door on them. That included the very next inning, the fifth, with the Rays picking up consecutive one-out singles to get another potential rally going that might have cut into what by then was a 6-0 lead.

The second one of these singles, a hard shot right back up the middle by the designated hitter Jonathan Aranda, hit Rodriguez in the left calf. This might have been a double play ball if it hadn’t hit Rodriguez. Instead, it bounced off towards the third base line and two men were on base. If he felt any pain, he channeled it into productive quiet rage. Rodriguez struck out the next batter and saw the inning end as Henderson made a slick play and Ryan O’Hearn stayed on first base just long enough to field a nearly-errant throw successfully.

There were two Rays on base again in the sixth to try to cut into what had climbed to an 8-0 lead. Ramón Urías whiffed on fielding a two-out grounder that would have easily ended the inning. Lowe followed with a 113mph grounder past a diving Frazier. Rodriguez had no concern. He got another ground ball that turned into the third out.

The only real question about Rodriguez’s outing is how long the Orioles would let him pitch. Would they lift him before the seventh when his pitch count was only around 70? No. What about before the eighth, with the game in hand and a pitch count in the 80s? No! If he was at fewer than 95 pitches, they might have let him try for a complete game, but at this point it was sensible to lift him. Recently-returned reliever Mike Baumann walked the first batter he saw before getting two groundouts and a strikeout to finish off the 92nd Orioles victory of the 2023 season.

Saturday’s win did not answer every recent problem with the Orioles offense. Hays and Santander each took an 0-4 in the game, but every other O’s starter had a hit. Scoring eight runs while getting nothing from those two guys is a fine outcome. Henderson led the way with three hits, with Aaron Hicks and Urías each collecting a pair. After several days of futility, the team went 6-11 with runners in scoring position.

The opportunity to split this four-game series still remains to the Orioles heading into Sunday afternoon’s finale. Dean Kremer and Zack Littell are the scheduled starting pitchers for the 1:35 game. The Rays have yet to win a Littell start in September, though he allowed just four runs in 15 combined innings between his previous two starts.


Who was the Most Birdland Player for September 16, 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    Grayson Rodriguez (emotionless destroyer of certain marine wildlife and/or sunlight)
    (969 votes)
  • 5%
    Gunnar Henderson (three-hit night including obliterated home run ball)
    (54 votes)
1023 votes total Vote Now