Orioles move within game of elimination in ALDS following 11-8 loss (updated)

Grayson Rodriguez handed the ball to manager Brandon Hyde, walked to the dugout without raising his head and bolted down the steps. Too brisk a pace for teammates to reach out to him. Nothing they could have done anyway to soothe him.

The rookie was put in a tough spot. He didn’t make it through the second inning.

Can the Orioles make it past the Division Series?

They are teetering on the edge after today’s 11-8 loss to the Rangers in Game 2, played before an announced sellout crowd of 46,475 at Camden Yards. Aaron Hicks greeted José Leclerc with a three-run homer in the ninth, but the deficit was too large to overcome.

Mitch Garver hit a grand slam off Jacob Webb in the third after Bryan Baker walked the bases loaded. Nine runs on the board. A team in distress.

“Our backs are against the wall right now and tonight wasn't our best night on the mound,” said Hyde, whose club outhit the Rangers 14-11. “Give them a lot of credit for being down 9-2 and then giving ourselves a chance, getting some baserunners, scratching away a little bit. We have to go to Texas and play well. We haven't played our two best games here. We played well on the road all year, so hopefully we can play well on the road.”

Rodriguez faced 15 batters and 10 reached base. He was finished after 1 2/3 innings, with the Rangers prying five runs, six hits and four walks out of him.

"Really just kind of struggled to get into a groove," he said. "Obviously, spraying fastballs and not being able to have that in the zone consistently wasn't working for me."

Rodriguez went heater-heavy today.

"I think we were just trying to be aggressive and induce early contact," he said. "That's really all we were trying to do. Make them put the ball on the ground, I think, was the goal.

"It's a good lineup. They've got good hitters all the way down. They've just been very good situational hitting. They did a good job taking the ball the opposite field today and working good counts."

The Orioles are known for their comebacks, 48 tying for the major league lead. They’ll need an epic one to save their season.

In every best-of-five postseason series, teams taking a 2-0 lead in games have won 78 out of 88. Under the current 2-2-1 Division Series format, 14 of 16 clubs that won the first two on the road have advanced to the next round – 10 via sweeps.

The 2015 Rangers were the last to tumble, taking a 2-0 lead in Toronto before dropping three straight.

"We're pretty confident," Hicks said. "We're out there scoring runs, we're doing everything possible to try to win these games. They outscored us today and we've just got to keep pushing forward because we can't lose again."

"We know being down 0-2 is tough, we're going to have to fight hard," said Austin Hays. "We fought really hard today. I really did feel like we were going to come back from that game the entire time. That's how this team has played all year. We just came up a little short today, but that built a lot of momentum going into the next game. Nobody laid down, we didn't give away any at-bats, we continued to fight. We were able to get into their bullpen and work on those guys a little bit.

"I feel good moving forward, but we know we've got our work cut out for us."

Gunnar Henderson became the third rookie in Orioles history to homer in the postseason, his leadoff shot in the fifth reducing the lead to 10-5 and allowing him to join Manny Machado and Ryan Flaherty on Oct. 10, 2012 in New York.

His fly ball traveled 401 feet to right and offered hope. The Orioles were about to dig into the Rangers’ less-than-imposing bullpen. But they stayed down.

Jorge Mateo doubled twice, singled twice and drove in a run in his first playoff start, the first Oriole with four hits in a postseason game since Kiko Garcia in Game 3 of the 1979 World Series in Pittsburgh. Hyde’s platoon attitude paid dividends but couldn’t influence the series.

Rangers reliever Cody Bradford did his part with 3 2/3 scoreless innings and only three hits allowed, two coming with two outs in the eighth on Mateo’s single and an Adley Rutschman double. Ryan Mountcastle grounded out on Josh Sborz’s first pitch.

Yennier Cano allowed a run in the ninth while Kyle Gibson warmed. Corey Seager drew his fifth walk to set a playoff record. The Orioles walked a season-high 11, tied for the most in their postseason history. The 11 runs against them set a record.

“It's a good offense, and it's been a really good offense all year,” Hyde said, “but we also walked 11 of them. Not doing yourself any favors.”

"We had a tough night tonight," Hays said. "It's unfortunate it was tonight, but that happens. Just got to move on from it, move forward and flush it down the drain and get after it these next three games. I have a ton of confidence in our bullpen and our starting pitching. I think they're going to pitch great the next three games."

Rodriguez hadn’t allowed four earned runs since July 17 against the Dodgers in his return from a Triple-A reset. The last time he surrendered more than four was May 26, when the Rangers scored eight earned runs and nine total in 3 1/3 and the Orioles optioned him.

"He's been phenomenal for us," said Hicks, whose five RBIs tied Paul Blair's club postseason record on Oct. 6, 1969 in Game 3 of the Championship Series in Minnesota. "This is kind of something you don't expect. He's such a good pitcher. He's been good for us down the stretch. It's just unfortunate."

Texas sent 10 batters to the plate in the second, with Danny Coulombe getting the final out on a strikeout. Leody Taveras had a two-run double before Rodriguez retired his first hitter. Seager walked and Garver reached on a run-scoring infield single after Rodriguez fielded a tapper and lobbed his throw to first base.

Adolis García and Jonah Heim delivered RBI singles, the latter on a two-strike pitch, and Hyde made the move. Rodriguez registered the shortest postseason start for the Orioles since Dennis Martinez lasted 1 1/3 innings in Game 4 of the 1979 World Series in Pittsburgh.

Rodriguez escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first but threw 27 of his 59 pitches. He got back-to-back strikeouts on a changeup and 99.6 mph fastball after Marcus Semien’s leadoff single and Seager’s walk. Evan Carter worked a full-count walk with an assist from plate umpire John Libka, who didn’t give Rodriguez the strike on a 99.6 mph fastball in the zone. Heim fell behind 0-2 and flied to left field.

The crowd roared. Hyde probably wondered how long Rodriguez could go before the first call to the bullpen.

Not long.

"Definitely getting out of the first inning was a huge confidence boost," Rodriguez said. "Ran into trouble there again in the second. Trying to get early contact and get out of the inning."

Baker, placed on the ALDS roster with John Means unavailable due to elbow soreness, threw only five of 19 pitches for strikes. Webb tried to blow a fastball past Garver, who drove it 419 feet to left field.

Semien raised his arms at second base while Garver stood at the plate and watched. The Rangers were headed to their fourth road win in the playoffs.

The only other grand slam against the Orioles in the postseason was Albert Belle’s shot off Armando Benitez in Game 3 of the 1996 ALDS in Cleveland, per STATS.

Webb also served up Josh Jung’s solo homer yesterday. Webb struck him out today to end the fourth, and a handful of fans stood and waved their orange towels. Trying to generate energy that the slam had drained out of the ballpark.

Garver was given a chance at a second one in the fifth after Jack Flaherty loaded the bases, including Seager’s fourth walk, but he grounded into a 5-3 double play.

The Rangers’ nine walks through the fifth set a club record.

"They worked the zone well today, a lot of close pitches that they didn't swing at," Rodriguez said. "That was just a good job on their part."

Hicks gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first with a two-out, bases-loaded single on a curveball that he poked into right field. Leclerc replaced Brock Burke in the ninth after Henderson walked and Austin Hays singled, and Hicks sent a 97 mph fastball 411 feet into the center field seats.

Miss a sign and make amends.

Hyde called for the hit-and-run yesterday in the ninth inning, Hicks failed to see it and Henderson was thrown out at second base. Hicks was more on his game tonight.

“Hicks is coming to play, did a great job,” Hyde said. “Huge three-run homer there. … We did give ourselves a chance, we just came up short.”

Jordan Montgomery threw 32 pitches, and he didn’t record an out in the fifth. The entire first inning lasted 29 minutes.

The Orioles scored twice in the fourth, beginning with Jordan Westburg’s leadoff double with a 109.4 exit velocity that Carter misplayed in left. Mateo singled into center field, advanced on a wild pitch and Seager fielding error and scored on Mountcastle’s sacrifice fly to reduce the lead to 9-4 and get the crowd back into the game.

Getting the lead back wasn’t going to happen. And a team that hasn’t been swept in 91 consecutive series is trying to avoid going three and out against the Rangers.

"Just being resilient," Hicks said. "We've got to keep scoring runs, we've got to keep putting pressure on them. Getting into the bullpen deep. Keep doing what we do.

"We're scoring runs. I think we scored eight runs today. We're just going to keep pushing the envelope. That's about all we can do."

"I think you can see how the guys swung it tonight," Rodriguez said. "There's really no quit in this team. The offense has had success all year and I think that's what they can do coming up."

The Orioles have lost their last seven playoff games to extend the franchise record. An eighth would end their 2023 season.

"That's baseball: Anything can happen," Hays said. "We were very confident we were going to win the first two. Just not how the cards played out. Now, we have to win three in a row."

A 4 p.m. workout is next for the Orioles on Monday afternoon. A chance to regroup.

If only clear heads could wipe clean the first two results.

"Enjoy their time with their families tomorrow," Hays said, "Just focus on what we need to do the next three days and come out playing with our hair on fire like we have all year."

A few quick takes as the O's fall into an 0-2 hole...
O's game blog: Looking to get even in ALDS Game 2 ...

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