TORONTO – Perhaps it is fitting that on the one-year anniversary of catcher Adley Rutschman's arrival in the majors, the Orioles have a chance to sweep the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
The day they selected him No. 1 overall in the 2019 MLB Draft - Mike Elias' first O's draft pick - greatness was predicted. Pretty much expected.
Rutschman has delivered a lot to this team and its fanbase and is one of many big reasons teams like Toronto now realize this is not close to those 115-loss Orioles anymore.
On May 21, 2022 he was called up by the Orioles and played in his first major league game. Since that day, the O's, already trending up as a team when he got there, have trended up even more.
They are a winning team, a contending team and a team that has the second-best record in all of MLB. Not bad for a club which did in fact lose 115 in 2018 and 110 in 2021.
They have made massive gains to now contend in the AL East and Rutschman has been all they thought and hoped for and maybe more. He is, said Captain Obvious, an impactful player on offense and defense. He is quickly becoming a clubhouse leader. He is a future MVP candidate, maybe winner.
On the field, through Friday, he had played in 158 games as an Oriole and the club was 92-66 (.582) in that time. He has batted .261/.375/.447/.822 in those games with 42 doubles, a triple, 20 homers, 101 walks and 66 RBIs.
He drew his 100th walk in Toronto on Friday night and by doing so in Game 158, he is the fastest Oriole ever to 100 walks.
O’s manager Brandon Hyde was asked before Saturday’s game about the Rutschman anniversary and remembering when the then No. 1 prospect in baseball played in the bigs for the first time.
“Well, I was trying to take as much pressure off him as I possibly could, knowing that there was going to be a lot of attention on that day. Knowing there was going to be a lot thrown at him. I’ve seen that before with a rookie who has been hyped up as much as he was with a few of the guys in Chicago with billboards in the town and guys are not even in the big leagues yet.
“And understandably so, I get it. You want to wrap your arms around a player and the city is excited about it. I knew all those things and I just wanted to try and have him relax as much as possible and let him go play. (I'm) sure that day was a whirlwind for him.
“I’ve said so many great things about him and rightfully so. He handled that so well and for a guy that young to handle a spotlight like that and the anticipation of what he is going to look like in the big leagues and what he is going to bring to our team, he’s just a pro.
“He’s been everything that was advertised and way, way more. The person he is as well the player that he is.”
A big weekend in Toronto: Well the Orioles have had a pretty good weekend in Toronto. Some of us pondered Saturday morning whether Friday night's win was the best of the year. If it was, yesterday topped it.
Down 5-2 in the eighth, Ryan O'Hearn smashed a three-run homer off closer Jordan Romano to tie the game. They won 6-5 in 10 as Yennier Cano and Felix Bautista combined for three scoreless at the end of the game. Bautista's last six outs came via five strikeouts and flyout and each he got in those last two frames came with a runner in scoring position. Remarkable pitching for a guy who threw 25 pitches on Friday.
The Orioles have had their share of problems catching Tampa Bay but the rest of the division has had its share of problems catching the Orioles.
O'Hearn was asked if the Orioles made a statement this weekend by winning this series?
“I think (Sunday) is the statement game. You know, we won the series. If we can come in here and sweep these guys, I think that is going to make a statement," he said.
O'Hearn was asked how he keeps his bat ready when not playing every day?
“Credit goes to the hitting coaches. We’re in the cage grinding whether I’m playing or not. Working on machines. Challenge mix in batting practice to try to simulate at-bats, so I can make quick decisions in there. And I’ve got some experience doing that. Not playing very much and when it’s my time to play I’ve got to make it happen. Any day I see I am in the lineup. I’m excited, grateful to play a major league game. Just bring that energy to the game and let if fly. Nothing to lose. Here to help this team win," he said.
Grayson's day: In need of a big outing from the rookie right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, who took the mound Saturday with an ERA of 6.57, the O's got a pretty good one. He allowed two runs over five innings in what Hyde called his best game of the year.
How did Grayson bounce back from giving up eight runs Monday?
“Really just being able to have a quick memory," he said. "You know, just being able to flush the bad ones, think back to the good ones, what we did well and getting back to using our strengths.
“Obviously that is a great team, loaded lineup. So the emotions were a little high today. Going out there having something to prove from that last outing and really going out and attacking those guys. Obviously, there were a lot of fans in the ballpark, pretty electric atmosphere. It was something that I was feeding off of.”
And he had to stay mentally tough this year during the ups and downs of this season to be able to go into Toronto and pitch well against that club. What helped him stay strong mentally?
“Really just the guys we have in our clubhouse. I have a great group of teammates that are behind me that are helping me, showing me the way. We’ve got some good veterans in there as well, Our pitching department. The whole staff is behind me. It’s been pretty easy flushing the bad outings," said Rodriguez, who allowed two runs or less for the fifth time.
Once a house of horrors for the Orioles - for instance they were 0-10 in the park in 2018 - today the O's can sweep the home team in Toronto.
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