O's game blog: Grayson Rodriguez faces the LA Dodgers in series opener

A big stretch of games has arrived for the Orioles. A tough stretch. They started it by sweeping Miami three straight over the weekend. And now their next 17 games are against winning clubs. In order, they play the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, the New York Yankees and Toronto.

This stretch leads up to and goes through the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

The Orioles begin play tonight at 57-35 and one game behind Tampa Bay for the American League East lead, the closest they have been since the second game of the year. They are one game ahead of Tampa Bay in the loss column.

The Orioles have won eight in a row, the longest current win streak in the majors. The Orioles' plus-53 run differential is third-best in the AL, but 40 of that came during the win streak, during which they have outscored opponents 60-20. Baltimore batters went 8-for-25 with runners in scoring position over the weekend against Miami, and they are 31-for-77 (.403) with RISP during the win streak.

In the last four games alone, the Birds have scored 31 runs and hit 11 home runs.

In the bottom of the first inning on Sunday, in the 5-4 win over Miami, Gunnar Henderson doubled, Adley Rutschman doubled and Anthony Santander homered for a quick 3-0 lead. It was the first time they started a game with three straight extra-base-hits since May 10, 2018 against Kansas City (when they also had two doubles and a homer).

Right-hander Kyle Bradish improved to 6-4 and lowered his ERA to 3.05. He is at 91 1/3 innings for the year but would need 92 to quality for the AL league leaders today (one inning pitched per number of games the team has played). If he had 92 innings, his ERA would rank eighth best in the league.

Bradish, who threw exactly 100 pitches yesterday, recorded his second straight scoreless outing and his sixth career scoreless start of at least six innings. He has thrown 15 1/3 straight shutout innings dating back to July 1, the second-longest such streak of his career behind 16 scoreless from Aug. 26 to Sept. 6, 2022. He improved to 4-2 with a 1.41 ERA (6 ER/38.1 IP). He's allowed 23 hits, three home runs, eight walks, and 36 strikeouts in his last six starts since June 14. And all outings in that time are quality starts.

As a team, the Orioles rank sixth in the AL with 36 quality starts, going 28-8 (.778) in those games. They have seven quality starts the past eight games with a rotation ERA of 2.12 in that span. And they have a rotation ERA of 3.59 the last 30 games, recording 18 quality starts. Baltimore starters have thrown six innings or more nine times in the last 10 games.

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (2-2, 7.35 ERA) returns to the majors tonight for his first O's start since he allowed nine runs in 3 1/3 versus Texas on May 26. In his earlier O's outings, Rodriguez allowed 58 hits and 13 homers in 45 1/3 innings. He has a 1.743 WHIP, a 4.2 walk rate and 11.1 strikeout rate. 

Per Stats, Rodriguez ranks fifth in the AL in K rate (min. 10 starts)

11.90 - Kevin Gausman, Tor 
11.88 - Shohei Ohtani, LAA
11.74 - Taj Bradley, TB 
11.19 - Pablo López, Min 
11.12 - Grayson Rodriguez, Bal  

Rodriguez had a 4.07 ERA and .664 OPS against in five starts in April. But his ERA was 11.14 and he allowed 11 homers in 21 innings in May.

Baseball America currently ranks him as the No. 15 prospect in the top 100. His mound opponent tonight, the Dodgers' Emmet Sheehan, is No. 25.

A right-hander, Sheehan (2-0, 4.35 ERA) has made four big league starts. In his debut game, June 16 versus San Francisco, he pitched six hitless and scoreless innings. In his most recent game, July 4 versus Pittsburgh, he gave up five runs over 3 2/3 innings. 

Sheehan throws his four-seam fastball 66 percent of the time at an average velocity of 95.6 mph. He adds a slider 22 percent and changeup 12 percent.

Los Angeles (53-39) had a six-game win streak ended against the Mets on Sunday. The Dodgers lead the National League West by 1 1/2 games over the Giants. Los Angeles is 6-1 over its last seven series and 14-6 the last 20 games. They are 13-9 against AL teams, but 2-4 versus the AL East, going 1-2 each against Tampa Bay and New York. 

Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to five games Sunday, and he is now batting .394 (26-for-66) with 10 homers and 22 RBIs in his last 18 games. He made history in the first half, becoming the second Dodger in franchise history to have at least 25 home runs and 20 doubles before the All-Star break, joining Duke Snider (1955).

Rodriguez starts hot and fades by sixth in Orioles...
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