O's notes on Adley, Gunnar, Bautista's whiff rate and more after Oakland series

Orioles' pitching allowed 23 runs in the last three games of the Oakland series, but the Baltimore offense was such that they were able to win two of those games by 12-8 and 8-7 scores.

But the Orioles know they are going to need to tighten up the pitching and fast. Somehow they are 7-6 and they did take three of four against Oakland despite the leaky pitching. The starters the last three days combined to allow 15 runs in 12 2/3 innings. And in those games, the bullpen was used for more innings than the starters, needed to cover 14 1/3 innings.

The O’s have already had two streaks of three straight games allowing seven runs or more this year. They didn’t have one such streak in 2022.

O’s starters have thrown five innings or less 10 times in 13 games, including in each of the last three games. That won’t be good enough to stay over .500 over the long haul. But right now the Baltimore offense is making it work and the Orioles have scored seven runs or more six times.

In the Oakland series, the Orioles scored 29 runs on 38 hits and hit eight homers. They batted .351 with runners in scoring position (13-37) and got some clutch hits against A’s pitching.

That included Adley Rutschman’s walk-off homer to lead off the bottom of the ninth on Thursday afternoon. It was a nice way to end a day in a game where the O’s blew a 7-4 lead but still won. It was the first career walk-off hit for Rutschman, who has an OPS of 1.094 right now. He has a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .458/.581/.875 (11-for-24) in that span with one double, three homers, seven runs, seven walks and five RBIs.

How does Rutschman stay composed in such key moments?

"I mean just trying to stay as relaxed as possible and trying to stay with your process. Whatever plan you have going into that at-bat, try to stick to that and focus on just that and try to block out the noise.

“It felt awesome (to have that moment). I mean, it’s the first one for me. Just trying to put together a good AB there and just trying to win. To be able to win this series feels awesome. Glad we were able to do it," he said.

Ryan Mountcastle hit another homer yesterday, connecting for a solo shot that he blasted 416 feet in the third inning. He leads the majors with 19 RBIs. In the series he went 5-for-16 with four homers and 12 RBIs.

Austin Hays’ hot bat stayed hot on Thursday as he went 3-for-4 with three singles and scored twice. Through 13 games, Hays is batting .340/.380/.638/1.018. He went 9-for-17 with two homers, three RBIs and eight runs scored in the four-game series.

He is the first Oriole to score at least eight runs in a series since Jonathan Villar scored nine from July 25-28, 2019 at the Los Angeles Angels. He is the first to do so at home since Chris Davis from July 26-28, 2018 against Tampa Bay.

Gunnar doubles: Gunnar Henderson began the game batting .147 and went 1-for-3 with a double – his first extra-base hit since April 7. He had gone four games without one.

Henderson’s teammates say they are very confident the kid will be ringing hits around the ballpark very soon.

“He’ll be all right,” Mountcastle said. “I haven’t talked to him about performance since early in the season, but I did the same thing. I had a great first year when I came up and then struggled the first month and a half (hitting .198 in April of 2021). And we’re only a week or so in and he’s got all the talent in the world. I mean he will be all right, the numbers will be there at the end of the year. Just for him, he seems like he’s handling it well and been taking some better at-bats lately. Once he gets his feet wet a little bit and gets going, he’ll be all right.

“He’s a great kid with a good head on his shoulders. It will be all good.”

Added Adam Frazier: “I think it has tested his confidence for sure. Anytime you have some struggles – he’s still 21 – and he has probably never struggled in his life much, it will test your confidence. It will test your mental ability. It’s the major leagues, so it’s not easy. There are very few in the game where the game comes easy to them every day. Even those players face tough stretches. He’ll be fine. Still learning. Just that those learning curves will come here in the big leagues, instead of the minor league. Everyone knows he has the talent. As soon as it clicks, we won’t be talking about it anymore.”

Bautista was dealing again: Closer Félix Bautista pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth with two strikeouts to get the win yesterday. A pitcher with what was a very strong whiff percentage of 33.6 last year has a whiff percentage of 56.0 in his first six games of this year with a win, two saves and a 1.59 ERA.

“The split (watching) from the side is devastating,” manager Brandon Hyde said after the game. “He is just getting more and more confident. He was really good last year obviously and in the second half took off, and it’s really carried into this year. It’s tough to hit 99 with a 91 mph split. And it goes straight down. Left one up a little bit to (Esteury) Ruiz (who flied deep to center) and that made you a little nervous, but was nasty after that.”

Said Rutschman: “He looks great. There are not too many words to describe what he is doing. He does what he does and he does it well. Obviously very tough for people to hit him.”

Bautista got four swings and four misses against his split-finger pitch yesterday and his whiff percentage against that pitch right now is a crazy 87.5 percent. His whiff percentage for that pitch was 53.3 last year when he had one of the best splits in the game. That pitch has been fantastic for him to start off the new season. 

Bautista’s K percentage (percentage of batters he faces that he strikes out) was 34.8 last year and is 47.6 now as he has 12 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

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