In Texas, Wells saved the day, Rodriguez arrived and O's pitching took a turn for the better

ARLINGTON, Texas – During a series when they lost a pitcher to injury, the Orioles added a rookie flamethrower from the farm and restored some order on the mound.

It was a nice step forward for a pitching staff that had given up 27 runs at Fenway Park and had a staff ERA of 8.42 after the season’s first three games. The O’s staff ERA was just 2.42 in the Texas series. There, against a Rangers team that had scored 29 runs with a club OPS of .966 in sweeping the Phillies, the O’s allowed just seven runs, 17 hits and just three walks to 24 strikeouts.

They threw a one-hitter on just 108 pitches here Monday night. That win was big for the Orioles as the bullpen stepped up, especially Tyler Wells, after Kyle Bradish got hurt. They shut down the Rangers and put back-to-back losses in Boston in the rear-view mirror. Kyle Gibson followed that with an outstanding outing, and then Grayson Rodriguez had a solid big league debut yesterday at Globe Life Field.

Even after the Bradish injury, suddenly the pitching is showing more promise. And Bradish, who manager Brandon Hyde said had great stuff before he took a liner off his foot Monday night, could be returning as soon as his stint on the injured list is up.

The bullpen was much better here, even if Austin Voth did allow three runs yesterday after inheriting a 2-2 tie in the Rangers' 5-2 win.

Now the Orioles return home at 3-3 and await the rain-delayed home opener tomorrow afternoon.

Grayson Rodriguez, the club's top pitching prospect, had an uneven performance in spring training and was at Triple-A to begin the year, and would likely still be there if not for the liner that sent Bradish to the IL. But what we saw from Rodriguez yesterday – as he allowed two runs in the first and then threw four scoreless innings – was much closer to the expectations for a pitcher ranked by Baseball America as the No. 6 prospect in the majors.

After he walked seven in 15 1/3 spring innings and four in four innings in his season debut Friday for Triple-A Norfolk, he walked just one batter yesterday. That was the first batter he faced, and Marcus Semien would score. But after Josh Jung singled in the second run of the game in the home first, as Texas went ahead 2-0, the Rangers then went just 2-for-15 against the rookie.

He needed 30 pitches in the first inning, but just 53 in the next four frames.

“That was nice. You know, I think there were just nerves, honestly, that first inning,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “But from the second inning on, the fastball command was a lot better. Wasn’t yanking his slider as much. Did a nice job of keeping guys off balance and attacking the strike zone.”

Rodriguez had a large and loud cheering section from his hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas.  

“Having my friends and family here that will be the special part,” he said when asked what he would take away from his debut.

It happened fast. He was in Norfolk, he was on his way to Texas and then he was throwing 97 by Corey Seager. Hyde would not commit to Rodriguez staying in the rotation, saying “we’re not there yet,” but that doesn’t mean Rodriguez won’t be pitching when this turn comes up again. It’s TBA for the moment, and we don’t get starters that far out in advance most days in the big leagues anyway.

But Rodriguez flashed his big-time talent. The Orioles had to be not thrilled to lose, but pretty thrilled with how well he threw.

Now, with some order restored to the pitching, they await the Yankees and their first American League East home game of the season.

Check out some tweets about Rodriguez's debut that are pretty cool here and here and here.

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