While the Orioles were beginning their home series tonight against the Rays, catcher Adley Rutschman sat on the visiting bench at Truist Field in Charlotte. The Triple-A Norfolk lineup card listed him among the reserves. He stood in front of the dugout for the anthem.
Any reported sightings at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport were done in jest.
The debut remains on hold, leaving fans to press for answers, some more aggressively than others, and a team to worry only about its opponent and life inside an unforgiving division.
The Yankees carried baseball’s best record out of Camden Yards, and the Rays walked in after beating the Orioles 18 times in 19 games last season and sweeping them this year in the opening series.
They won 15 in a row against the Orioles, their longest streak against any opponent in franchise history, and their last loss in Baltimore came in 2020.
Another script was flipped tonight, with another walk-off win. And with a different debut that helped to decide the outcome.
Austin Hays threw out Wander Franco at the plate on Kevin Kiermaier’s two-out single in the top of the 13th, the initial safe call overturned upon review, and Rougned Odor hit a two-run homer off Ralph Garza Jr. to give the Orioles a 8-6 victory.
Ramón Urías bunted Tyler Nevin to third base before Odor reached the flag court. And it was loud.
This is the first time that the Orioles had back-to-back walk-off home runs, including Anthony Santander yesterday, since Aug. 14-15, 2015 with Manny Machado and Chris Davis versus Oakland.
"Credit to (Odor), when he isn't in the starting lineup, he stays ready throughout," said manager Brandon Hyde. "I think he looks for that big moment, I know he cherishes it. He had another huge hit for us tonight."
The third career walk-off home run of his career and the first in three years. It was his sixth career walk-off hit, and again, he did it after beginning the game on the bench.
"I was just ready," he said. "I was hitting in the cage, I was working to stay loose, to stay warm for when they need me, and thank God I was ready to go when they needed me.
"That's a lot of emotions right there. We win the game, I did a really good job to help my team win this game. Tonight's game was unbelievable. All our pitchers did a really good job, our defense was good, too, and we don't give up, we keep battling and fighting, and we win the game."
Nick Vespi made his major league debut to become the fourth pitcher in club history to do it in the 12th inning or later, and the first since Alberto Castillo on April 28, 2008. He didn’t let the automatic runner budge from second base in the 12th, getting a strikeout and two ground balls.
Vespi pumped his fist, subtle but visible, and teammates lined the dugout railing to greet him.
The game carried to the 13th, the longest for the Orioles since they played 15 innings on Sept. 23, 2019 in Toronto, and Vespi struck out two batters, issued an intentional walk and allowed Kiermaier’s single on an 0-2 pitch. Franco went in standing, Anthony Bemboom tagged him on the leg and the Orioles began walking off the field after the replay was shown on the video board.
"I think he did wonderful," Hyde said. "We really gutted it out out of the bullpen with guys I did not want to use tonight after a long series with the Yankees. Vespi with two enormous innings there, Haysy with a great throw.
"Vespi was outstanding. Threw a ton of strikes. He's got that cutter and curveball, and they got some bad swings on it."
Vespi received the traditional food and drink shower after returning to the clubhouse.
"I was just trying to throw strikes and try to get us back in the dugout so our offense could score some runs and we could win the ballgame," said Vespi, whose parents were in the stands.
"I knew when I got the nod I was going to go there and try my best, and that's what I did. ... I'm super excited. I'm still numb. I'm happy my parents were able to see this."
Bemboom convinced Vespi that Franco was out at the plate.
"Boom said he got him," Vespi said. "He was like, 'We're going to get out of this inning. I tagged him before he touched home."
Cionel Pérez inherited two runners from Dillon Tate in the 11th inning, Kevin Kiermaier lined an RBI single into left field and the Rays drew within an out of ending the game. Ryan Thompson issued an intentional walk to Cedric Mullins and Hays singled into shallow left field to score Urías for a 6-6 tie.
Mike Zunino hit a three-run homer off Tyler Wells in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie, the Orioles tallied three runs in the seventh to pull even, and the Rays moved ahead 5-3 in the 10th by scoring twice off Bryan Baker.
The Orioles bullpen hadn’t allowed a run in 4 1/3 innings before extras. Brett Phillips doubled to score the automatic runner, and he came home on Yandy Díaz’s single.
Think it was over? No way.
"I feel like there was something different every inning," Hyde said.
Matt Wisler walked Hays and Trey Mancini in the bottom of the 10th to load the bases with no outs. Santander singled into right field to tie the game, but Jorge Mateo bounced out, pinch-runner Ryan McKenna was thrown out at the plate on Nevin’s grounder to short and Urías flied out.
Randy Arozarena reached on an infield hit against Tate with one out in the 11th, putting runners on the corners. Pérez entered - he warmed four days in a row and won't be available Saturday - and the Rays took another lead.
It didn’t hold up.
The Rays didn’t maintain their hold on the Orioles.
"I'm really proud of our guys the way they bounced back and continued to play," Hyde said.
"Total team effort."
"This is a long season, this is just the start right now," Odor said. "I believe in myself and I believe I'm going to be really good at the end of the season. I've just got to keep playing and keep trying to help my team win and keep playing hard.
"I'm just trying to be the same guy I am everywhere. I like to win, I like to have fun and I like to play hard, and that's what I try to tell everybody on this team. Let's play hard, and when we play for the team, a lot of good things happen."
Two inherited runners scored for the Orioles in the seventh with Brooks Raley pitching, J.P. Feyereisen entered and Mancini lined a two-out single into center field to bring home Robinson Chirinos.
Nothing else materialized until the game moved past regulation. Then, it got hyper.
Wells didn’t allow a hit until Arozarena reached on an infield single leading off the fifth inning and raced to second base on the first of Mateo’s two throwing errors. Franco walked with one out in the first inning – the first issued by Wells in six games - and the former Rule 5 pick retired 11 in a row.
A one-out walk to Isaac Paredes was followed by Zunino’s 383-foot fly ball to left field that bounced high off the foul pole. Phillips struck out on Wells’ 79th pitch and Logan Gillaspie entered the game for his second major league appearance.
The two hits in 4 2/3 innings impressed, but unfortunately for Wells, Zunino had a loud one.
"I'm going to be honest with you, I didn't like the way it was trending at all," Wells said. "That was probably the worst I've felt on a major league mound, and that kind of comes with going back to starting from coming out of the bullpen. There's a lot more room for error in starting and there are going to be days when you don't feel your best and there are going to be days when you feel incredible, and there are going to be a lot of starts that are kind of in between. I just didn't have my stuff."
Left-hander Jalen Beeks, making his fifth major league start and first since 2019, handled the first two innings and didn’t allow a run. He walked Santander in the second inning and Nevin singled after Mateo grounded into a double play.
Nevin’s hit was his sixth in his last 11 at-bats. He led off the seventh with a double – making it seven hits in 13 at-bats – moved to third base on Urías’ single and scored on Raley’s wild pitch.
Chirinos lined to Arozarena, who let the ball pop out of his glove for a two-base error that cut the lead to 3-2. Raley hit Chris Owings, Mullins flied out and manager Kevin Cash went to his bullpen again.
Mancini reached for the third time to tie the game.
Lefty Ryan Yarbrough replaced Beeks in the third, as manager Brandon Hyde anticipated, and left after Urías’ single. He misplayed Mancini’s tapper to the right of the mound leading off the fourth and retired the next three batters. Owings doubled with two outs in the fifth and Phillips easily threw him out at the plate on Mullins’ single into right field.
Mancini singled with one out in the sixth and was stranded.
Gillaspie allowed one hit in 1 2/3 scoreless innings, Arozarena’s bloop single down the left field line leading off the seventh. Mateo raced to the ball, spun and threw out Arozarena at second base, and Keegan Akin replaced Gillaspie, who hasn’t surrendered a run in 3 2/3 innings since the Orioles recalled him.
Akin threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings, leaving with Arozarena on second base and two outs in the ninth. Akin is the first Orioles reliever in history to work two innings or more in his first 11 relief appearances, passing Jimmy Haynes (1996).
Notes: Pitcher Travis Lakins Sr. had his option to Norfolk reversed and he’s been placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to May 12, with right elbow inflammation.
Norfolk’s DL Hall allowed four runs and five hits in three-plus innings, with three walks, three strikeouts and a home run. He threw 69 pitches, 42 for strikes.
Kyle Stowers homered, doubled twice, singled and had three RBIs and three runs scored through the seventh inning. Rylan Bannon had two hits, including a triple.
Jordan Westburg hit his seventh home run with Double-A Bowie, and it was a three-run shot.
High Single-A Aberdeen’s Carlos Tavera struck out nine batters in 4 2/3 innings and allowed only one run and two hits.
Moises Ramírez went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs for Single-A Delmarva. Darell Hernaiz doubled and had two RBIs.