Adley Rutschman launched a 3-0 pitch from Jon Gray onto the flag count in the bottom of the first inning to give the Orioles a quick lead. Cedric Mullins made a leaping catch to rob Josh Jung of a home run to begin the top of the second, prompting rookie Grayson Rodriguez to raise a fist in the air, and then his cap.
This is the exact kind of start that the team wanted after returning home from an exhilarating road trip. Hoping that it would escalate and allow them to coast instead of slipping into crisis mode.
And then, of course, Rodriguez surrenders a two-run homer to Leody Taveras with two outs in the second inning and the Orioles are forced into chasing their 20th comeback win. They live in an unusual comfort zone.
The Rangers turned it into a miserable spot, refusing to stay within reach and to play along.
The final images of Rodriguez include how he placed a hand on his hip and stared at the outfield as Corey Seager rounded the bases after hitting a grand slam in an eight-run fourth inning. And how he shouted into his glove after entering the dugout.
The idea of mounting another dramatic rally fizzled in a 12-2 loss, their largest margin of the season, before an announced crowd of 20,293 at Camden Yards.
Rodriguez allowed a career-high eight earned runs and nine total in 3 1/3 innings, with three walks and six strikeouts - the first with his slider, the next four with a fastball clocked between 98.2-98.6 mph, and the last on a changeup to open the disastrous fourth. His ERA is 7.35.
"Just kind of let it snowball there in the (fourth)," he said. "Obviously, got some guys on, didn't make good pitches, and had to pay for it."
Josh Jung tripled to right field and scored on Josh H. Smith’s single for a 3-1 lead, and Robbie Grossman followed with a home run to right-center field. Taveras walked, Sandy Leon singled, Jorge Mateo dropped to one knee to field Marcus Semien’s ground ball and booted it for an error, and Seager launched a first-pitch cutter 437 feet.
Rodriguez was done. The Rangers were not, tagging Austin Voth with a run on Jung’s RBI single.
That was the lone run allowed by Voth in 3 2/3.
"His stuff was good," manager Brandon Hyde said of Rodriguez. "Just, for me, had a tough time commanding the ball tonight. The first two innings, two-out walks there. ... Just a lot of spray up misses. Just didn't really have his fastball command tonight."
Rodriguez held the Blue Jays to two runs in five innings last weekend. He theorized tonight that he relied too much on his fastball and cutter.
"Good hitters, just made some mistakes. I think there were a lot more mistakes made today than there were my last start," he said.
"Just kind of the inconsistencies are a little bit frustrating. We know it's there, just got to go out and do better than that."
And stop the bleeding.
"Just making pitches when it's most important," he said.
Grossman walked in the second before Taveras lined a changeup onto the flag court for a 2-1 lead. And it was going to get a whole lot worse.
"What's disappointing for me, his last start was so competitive, attacking in the strike zone," Hyde said. "Even his misses were just off. Tonight, there were a lot of ball out of hand, a lot of fastballs up to left-handed hitters. You can out-stuff people below us, but here you have to be able to command the baseball. He's just had a few appearances where he wasn't able to do that."
The Orioles are 33-18 and four games behind the first-place Rays, who beat the Dodgers at Tropicana Field. The Rangers, with the third-best record in baseball, are 32-18.
"I was trying to remember the last time I felt like there wasn't an opportunity. I couldn't remember one," Hyde said.
"Nights like tonight happen. We'll flush it, come back tomorrow. These things, it's baseball, this happens."
Gray retired 15 of 17 batters after Rutschman’s eighth home run of the season. Rutschman walked with one out in the sixth and Anthony Santander grounded into a double play.
Austin Hays singled with two outs in the seventh and hustled to second base on an error, but he was stranded. Gray lowered his ERA to 2.81 by holding the Orioles to one run and four hits, with eight strikeouts, in seven innings.
The former first-round pick of the Rockies has allowed three runs in his last four starts over 27 innings.
Rutschman reached base four times, and his single off John King with two outs in the eighth was followed by Terrin Vavra’s single that scored Ryan O’Hearn. The Orioles had four hits in the inning and loaded the bases before Ramón Urías, reinstated from the injured list today, grounded out.
* Outfielder Ryan McKenna made his third career appearance on the mound after replacing Cionel Pérez in the top of the ninth with the Orioles behind 10-2. He allowed two runs and four hits, with an RBI double by Brad Miller and an RBI single by Taveras.
Leon grounded into a double play.
The stadium gun clocked McKenna’s pitches, identified as sliders and curveballs, in the mid-30s. Looked a lot like slow-pitch softball, but fans cheered every strike.
McKenna pitched twice last season and allowed two runs and five hits with a walk in 1 1/3 innings.
"It's the last thing I want to do," Hyde said. "Everybody hates it. But I didn't want to pitch (Bryan) Baker, and I didn't want to pitch anybody else, either. So, down eight, if we score there in the eighth inning, then Bake's going to pitch. And the new rule, too, is it's eight runs or more. So, brought in the flame-thrower. Throwing the shot put up there."
* The Orioles optioned rookie Joey Ortiz for the second time to create room for Urías.
The decision on Ortiz wasn’t easy. He’s a plus defender and had five hits in his last 11 at-bats, but the Orioles like Vavra’s left-handed bat and versatility, and they don’t want Ortiz subjected to sporadic starts.
“I never like sending anyone down,” said executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. “He did nothing to deserve that. He came up and helped us win a bunch of games both times and is going to do it again. I think it’s great. He looks like he fits in the major leagues.
“We’ll do it again when we find the right spot for him. I think this is what happens when you’ve got a really healthy organization. And he’s still in development in Triple-A, so this will be good for him. He gets to go get some regular playing time and at-bats rather than be basically a bench player up here. I think it’s evolved this way this year where we have a 40-man roster, there’s a lot of young prospect-type guys on it, and we need them from time to time at the major league level. So, they get to come up, be part of the fun here, win some games, see what the major leagues is like, ease themselves in, and then go down and get their regular playing time in Triple-A when we need another profile on the team.”
“That’s what happened right now, but he could be back any day now. We trust him out there. It was tough telling him that, but I think he understands. And the group down there in Triple-A, by and large, feel like a part of what’s going on here in Baltimore. They know this is like a whole effort of the 40-man roster and it’s a long season.”
Hyde said this afternoon that Ortiz had a positive impact on the club.
“He played extremely well in the opportunities that he got,” Hyde said. “Just really good at-bats, played great defense at third the other night in New York, played well in Toronto, also. A guy who can really defend in three spots, and really happy with his at-bats, but when you start improving as a club, you start getting a lot of good players. Sometimes, you have tough decisions with other good players. It means that you’re a good team, and Joey’s going to be a really good player.”
* Former Orioles pitcher David Hess is continuing his fight against a rare form of cancer, detected after a battery of tests in the fall of 2021 revealed a cantaloupe-sized tumor inside his chest that pressed against his heart and lungs.
Hess tried to make a comeback and had to leave baseball again to resume treatments. Nothing much has been said about his current condition, but it’s alarmed people throughout baseball.
Elias concluded his dugout media session today with his thoughts on Hess’ plight.
“I want to express our deepest support possible for our teammate, David Hess, and what he’s gone through and what he’s going through with his cancer battle right now,” Elias said. “This whole group is talking about him and thinking about him all the time, and the team is working on ways to lend our support to him.
“I want him to hear that from the Baltimore Orioles, that he’s at the forefront of our thoughts right now, and our group’s prayers.”
Caroline Means, the wife of Orioles pitcher John Means, helped to create a GoFundMe page for Hess and wife Devin to ease the burden of their medical bills.
“No one should ever have to go through this, but with fervent love and support we can help make sure this isn’t something they go through alone,” it says on the site. “The Hesses have hearts of gold, and are facing this unthinkable journey with unending faith, grace and strength. It’s on our hearts to do anything we can to help, and we appreciate everyone’s support!”
Update: Hess posted on his Instagram account that inside his tumor is a very rare and aggressive type of cancer called "angiosarcoma." Also, lung nodules have appeared that potentially could be angiosarcoma or inflammatory and much less concerning.
Hess, drafted by the Orioles in the fifth round in 2014, will undergo multiple surgeries to remove and biopsy the nodules and remove the tumor. The first procedure is Tuesday. Further chemotherapy treatments are coming.