The Orioles had 10 stolen bases in the first two games of the season, and manager Brandon Hyde joked about all the records they could break at such an unrealistic pace.
They swiped one in the next four games.
Somewhere in between the flurry and the freeze is probably a more reasonable expectation.
The 11 steals before yesterday’s home opener ranked first in the majors, followed by the Guardians with 10. Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins had four each to tie for third. Adam Frazier, Austin Hays and Ryan McKenna each had one.
Mateo singled with one out in the sixth inning yesterday and stole his fifth base despite a pitch-out. He dived into the bag and easily beat the throw, which arrived on one hop, and he scored the tying run on Adley Rutschman’s single.
Ryan Mountcastle led off the seventh with a walk and stole second as Gunnar Henderson struck out – his first successful attempt since July 8, 2022. Catcher Jose Trevino couldn’t make a throw. And Mountcastle scored the go-ahead run on Ramón Urías’ double.
The rule limiting pickoff throws, the largest bases and the pitch clock were supposed to create more action, to turn on the green light for more runners. But the Orioles didn’t need the changes to run wild on Red Sox pitching or to burn Yankees reliever Ron Marinaccio.
“Honestly, the new rules had absolutely nothing to do with any of our stolen bases,” Hyde said yesterday morning. “The majority of those came in the first two games of the year. We just had opportunities to run. We had the lead and we had two of the fastest guys in the game on base a lot that were stealing bases in Ced and Mateo.
“The (larger) bases or the clock had nothing to do with any of our 11 steals. It was just really good timing, and the opportunity was there. The pitcher might be a little slow to the plate and we were forcing action. So, we’re not going to stop doing that. We didn’t have as many opportunities in Texas and we were behind against (Jacob) deGrom the last day, so there weren’t a whole lot of opportunities there, either. But yeah, when the opportunity arises. We have team speed and that’s a bonus with those two guys, Gunnar (Henderson) can really, really run, Adam Frazier’s a really smart baserunner, as you saw in Boston, so there’s some speed on our club that, if teams allow us to, we’re going to take advantage.”
Having a lead isn’t a prerequisite for attempting to steal, which the Orioles had done successfully in 11 of their first 12. Rutschman was caught stealing Wednesday as Anthony Santander struck out.
“You’re always trying to push more runs across, and we’re going to run when we’re down, too,” Hyde said. “It’s just that the opportunity arises. … I’m going to be probably a little bit more aggressive and be able to take a little bit more chances when we have some room to breathe a little bit and try to push a two-run lead into a three-run lead, or in Boston, try to push a four-run lead into a five-run lead. Those are important things.
“I like our guys to be aggressive. We’ve been thrown out once and that was on a 3-2 (count) with Adley the other day. But we’ll continue to take chances when the game dictates it.”
Mateo tried to build on his total in the opening series but a couple huge jumps were wasted by a foul ball and line drive double play with Mullins batting. He led off the fourth yesterday with a single and moved up on a passed ball that arrived before he could rev his engine.
“We’re not just going to run just to run,” Hyde said. “I think that’s important. We’re not going to run into outs. It’s all situational based. Now, those two guys have a way longer leash than most people because one, I trust them, and two, they’re extremely fast. I don’t want to make careless outs, but I also want to push the envelope at times.”
* The Orioles recognized Merrill Heim, also known as “Fired Up Guy,” as Mo Gaba’s Fan of the Year yesterday, which allowed him to jog down the orange carpet as the last introduction. And he savored every step.
Heim was fired up, to say the least, looking like he might tear off his shirt before reaching Hyde, who put his arm around the super fan. The crowd loved it.
So did Hyde, after realizing what was happening.
“I was fired up,” he said, much to the amusement of the media. “I had no idea the fired up guy was going to be next to me for the National Anthem. That fired me up. What a great guy.”
Asked what Heim said to him as they stood together, Hyde replied, “He had a tough time getting it out. It’s a long run. But it was emotional. It was a big deal. Cool moment for him.”
* Rutschman reached base 17 times in his first nine career games against the Yankees heading into yesterday. The only Orioles player to exceed that total was Hall of Famer Frank Robinson with 20 in 1966, according to STATS.
David Newhan (2004), Jeffrey Hammonds (1993-95) and Cal Abrams (1954) were tied for third with 16.
Also before yesterday, Yankees pitchers had the highest average fastball velocity in the majors at 95.5 mph, with the Orioles tied with the Dodgers and Marlins for third at 94.4 mph. Clarke Schmidt, who started yesterday for New York, was below average by the club’s standards at 95.3 mph.
* No two American League teams have played against each other more than the Orioles and Yankees since Baltimore got the franchise in 1954, according to STATS. Yesterday’s game was the 1,150th.
The Orioles and Red Sox are fourth with 1,141.