DETROIT – Grayson Rodriguez got on an impressive roll today in Game 2, the kind he hasn’t experienced in his limited exposure to the majors, and he knows who provided a nudge.
Shortstop Jorge Mateo demonstrated his range and athleticism after Rodriguez allowed the leadoff batter to reach for the fifth time in five starts. An important early out was recorded, Rodriguez flummoxed the Tigers with his changeup while tossing five scoreless innings with a career-high nine strikeouts, and the Orioles earned a split of the doubleheader with a 6-4 victory over the Tigers.
The final game of the series is 1:40 p.m. Sunday, with the Orioles carrying an 18-9 record and trying again to move 10 above .500 for the first time since 2022.
Former Orioles infielder Tyler Nevin hit a three-run homer off Mike Baumann in the sixth after the right-hander inherited two runners from Keegan Akin, and after Mateo committed an error, a reminder of baseball’s fickle nature. But Bryan Baker, Danny Coulombe, Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista covered the last three innings.
The game ball goes to Rodriguez, who earned his first major league win after holding the Tigers to two hits and a walk. Six of the nine strikeouts came on his changeup, but the whiffs raised his pitch count to 91.
Rodriguez had to shower longer than usual to clean up after teammates introduced him to the traditional celebration.
"Something I've never experienced before," he said, smiling. "So, yeah, we'll leave it at that. A lot of mustard and ketchup.
"I think I'll be getting it out for a few days."
Mateo provided aid to Rodriguez in the first inning, making a play few others could think about.
Zach McKinstry led off with a double to right field on the eighth pitch from Rodriguez, and broke for third base on Riley Greene’s grounder. The ball eluded Gunnar Henderson, who tried to make a diving stop, and settled into Mateo’s glove on a backhand pick. Mateo saw that the base was unoccupied, outran McKinstry to it and applied the tag.
"That might be the only time I've ever seen a shortstop field the ball in the hole and tag a runner going from second to third," said manager Brandon Hyde. "Me and Fredi (González) were talking about it on the bench. We don't think we've ever seen that before. That's closing speed, NFL draft closing speed."
"That was pretty cool," Rodriguez said. "That was almost like a quarterback sneak or something, in my eyes. Just a backward (pitchers fielding practice), I guess, him being able to just realize a play that was going on. That speaks a lot to what kind of player he is and what kind of athlete."
Mateo said he's never done that before. It was just instinct.
"When I see that guy going, I say, 'I can get this guy,'" Mateo said.
Javier Báez struck out on a changeup and Nick Maton grounded to Mateo, who tossed to second base for the more conventional out.
Fourteen batters in a row would be retired.
"Really impressed," Hyde said. "Had all his pitches going today. The changeup was really good, dropped some curveballs in there, cutter. The slider was pretty good today and he had a really good fastball, and really kept them off balance and cruised through five. Just a lot of pitches through five innings.
"Every start's a new experience and, what's he got, four or five starts? Yeah, he's gonna learn along the way. But he's got great stuff and he showed it today."
Mateo continued to wield his influence in the top of the second, reaching on an infield hit to start the inning, moving up on James McCann’s single and scoring on Ryan McKenna’s single.
The Orioles had five of them, with Joey Ortiz and Austin Hays collecting RBIs and Matthew Boyd bouncing a pitch behind Adley Rutschman for a 4-0 lead.
Rodriguez followed a 21-pitch first with only 10 in the second, and he struck out the side in the third. The changeup was a weapon, getting Javier Báez in the first and Matt Vierling and McKinstry in the third. Andy Ibáñez swung through a 95.6 mph fastball in the third.
Greene led off the fourth by taking a called third strike on a changeup after getting ahead 3-0. Báez popped up a changeup into foul territory, where Rutschman ran it down near the screen. Maton struck out on a curveball.
Eric Haase did the same to begin the fifth, and Akil Baddoo took a called third strike on a changeup. Seven of eight batters striking out and 14 straight retired before Miguel Cabrera singled.
Vierling walked and Ibáñez struck out on another changeup.
"It's a plus pitch," Hyde said, "and it's only going to get better."
Rodriguez started throwing it in 2019 at age 19 in A ball. The Orioles helped him to develop it.
"I would say a bunch of different pitching instruments that we have to use," he said, when asked how they've assisted him. "I'm not going to give them all away, but definitely some things the organization has put in place for us."
Rodriguez got 67 percent whiffs on his curveball and 62 percent on his changeup. The Tigers were tied in knots.
"Oh man, he was super, he was great," Mateo said via translator Brandon Quinones. "Basically struck everyone out, and we know that's what he's capable of doing, so we're real excited having him here."
Rodriguez has worked five innings in four of five starts, going 4 1/3 in his second game. Length is lacking, but the stuff is electric.
"I think Adley did a good job of just putting down the right pitches," he said. "Being able to attack guys with the heater, put them away from changeups, curveballs. Yeah, we were on the same page today."
Boyd retired 10 in a row before Ryan Mountcastle singled in the fifth. Henderson walked with two outs in the sixth and McKenna hit his first home run of the season for a 6-0 lead.
Mateo had a defensive lapse in the sixth after Akin entered the game. McKinstry walked, Green singled, and Mateo was thinking double play on Báez’s bouncer and missed it. A run scored, Baumann replaced Akin, and Nevin hit his first career pinch-hit homer, breaking an 0-for-15 slump and taking advantage of Comerica Park’s new dimensions.
Baumann was charged with his second run in 15 2/3 innings.
Cano entered in the eighth and Mateo charged Báez’s grounder, made a barehand pickup and threw him out. Cano retired the side in order on six pitches and hasn’t allowed a run, hit or walk in 9 2/3 innings. He’s retired 28 of 29 batters.
Bautista recorded his seventh save.
Down on the farm, Mychal Givens began his injury rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie by retiring all three batters faced and striking out one in the first game of a doubleheader.
Cade Povich tossed five scoreless innings with only one hit allowed, two walks and 10 strikeouts. Heston Kjerstad and Jacob Teter each had two hits.