CHICAGO – Grayson Rodriguez began making the walk from the visiting dugout to the bullpen around 3:04 p.m. local time. Dressed in the black jersey and gray road pants. Wondering what normal must feel like as a major league pitcher.
There was his unexpected debut in his home state of Texas, followed by the first chance to pitch at Camden Yards, where the team celebrated by handing out orange T-shirts to fans that welcomed him to The Show.
The White Sox didn’t offer him the same warm reception.
And they made him wait.
Following a delay of two hours and 22 minutes, Rodriguez finally was cleared beneath dark clouds that brought more rain to throw the first pitch of his third game with the Orioles. He surrendered two home runs and received one mound visit.
The start lasted through the fifth, with the last four scoreless. Rodriguez managed to turn a dreary day into a bright spot, and he happily took the no-decision as the Orioles tied the game in the sixth and scored three runs in the eighth in an 8-4 victory that gave them the series.
Austin Voth retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the eighth, Félix Bautista stranded a runner in the ninth in a non-save situation and the Orioles improved to 9-7.
Cedric Mullins’ RBI single off left-hander Aaron Bummer gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead. Another run scored on Ryan Mountcastle’s fielder’s choice with the bases loaded, on a ball that fell in front of left fielder Gavin Sheets, who fired to third base to get Mullins. Anthony Santander followed with an RBI single, a more normal method of scoring.
Jorge Mateo led off the inning with a double to go with his walk, sacrifice fly and single earlier in the game. Pinch-hitter Ryan McKenna walked, Mateo stole his eighth base, Mullins drove in his third run of the day with the single, Adley Rutschman walked to load the bases and Bummer was a goner.
Mullins’ fourth RBI came on another single in the ninth inning, which began with Gunnar Henderson’s second hit.
"The fact that I was drawing a lot of walks in a short time span just means the eye was working," said Mullins, who's busting out of his slump. "It was just a matter of the bat trying to catch up, and today was able to do so."
Rodriguez retired 12 of the last 14 batters and 13 of 16. He struck out eight, six with his changeup and two with his fastball. He was done at 93 pitches, the last a changeup to strike out Eloy Jiménez for the third time, and shouted into his glove while walking off the mound.
"I'm so happy with how he settled in," said manager Brandon Hyde. "Giving up four there in the first, it really could have unraveled, and I thought he did a great job, him and Adley both, of making some adjustments after that first inning. Thought his changeup got really good, and they were aggressive early on him in the first inning and then he did a really good job of pitching after that. Great learning experience, and for him to go five innings after that first inning was massive for us."
Dylan Cease threw 113 pitches in six innings and let the tying run score in the sixth on a wild pitch after two walks and Mateo’s single. Chicago walked seven batters today and 26 in the series.
"I'm so happy with our at-bats today," Hyde said. "We hit the ball hard. A lot of really good walks, a lot of really good at-bats. Stealing bases. We didn't hit any homers today, but Mateo and Mullins, the way they swung the bat. That was probably the best offensive series I've seen Mateo have. Just how hard he's hitting the baseball and how exciting he's being. He's playing great baseball right now. And Ced had a great series, also. Nice to see Ced go left-on-left twice against two really good left-handed relievers the way he did. Just a lot of good things offensively."
Rodriguez threw 26 pitches in the first, which began with a walk to Luis Robert Jr. Andrew Vaughn singled and Sheets launched a curveball over the right field fence.
Jake Burger homered in each game of the series, including his opposite-field shot today on a 96.9 mph fastball after Rodriguez struck out Jiménez on three pitches, the last a changeup. Oscar Colás walked and Seby Zavala grounded into a double play.
Opponents have scored in the first inning in each of Rodriguez’s starts. Only one of the 10 hits he allowed before today was for extra bases, a double in his debut.
"Tough conditions today, no doubt, for everybody and not the easiest day to pitch," Hyde said. "It was cold, wet, but I just thought he did a great job of battling and competing after that first inning."
"Obviously, had some trouble there in the first," Rodriguez said. "Curveball down the middle, guy hit for the homer. And then a heater up that just wasn't high enough that caught a barrel. After that inning, really just kind of dialing it in, and attacking the zone a little bit better."
"I think the offense being able to back him up right there, put together a few runs, made him more comfortable going into the deeper innings," Mullins said. "He looked really good out there."
Rodriguez said the club will work with him on improving his pace before his next start and try to eliminate the early damage.
"Really just doing what I do best. Getting locked in in the bullpen, carrying it over to the game," he said.
"Really, just not making the bad pitches."
The changeup is a plus pitch, as the Orioles have seen in the past. Rodriguez had command of it today.
"The changeup is something that helps me out a lot," he said. "That was the first time that I felt like I had it today this year. In the spring we were working on it. These first couple starts, doing the same thing. This week during the bullpen and catch play, it was something we really focused on. Just to get back to how I was throwing it in 2019 and in '21, last year, so it was big for me to get that confidence back."
"He recognized that they were aggressive with his fastball," Hyde said, "so he had that to go to to keep them off balance."
The cutter also was important today for Rodriguez, who threw it about three percent of the time in his previous starts per STATS.
"A lot of cutters today," Rodriguez said. "Just kind of giving them a little mix up, something other than the fastball. It was a pitch that Rutsch had a really good idea today and it helped me out a lot."
As if the weather and White Sox weren’t enough trouble, Rodriguez had a PitchCom issue in the second inning. Rodriguez crossed up Rutschman and motioned that he couldn’t hear. Cease had a similar issue in the first, twice delaying the game.
The Orioles loaded the bases in the second on walks to Santander and Mateo and Austin Hays’ single, but they didn’t score. Rutschman singled with one out in the third and was stranded.
The breakthrough came in the fourth when Adam Frazier singled and stole second base, Henderson singled and Mateo flied to deep right-center field. Terrin Vavra reached on Burger’s two-out error and Mullins roped a triple into left-center to cut the lead to 4-3.
Mike Baumann tossed two scoreless innings after replacing Rodriguez to keep the score tied and eventually earn the win. Voth cruised through the eighth, his first appearance among six without allowing a home run.
"So happy for him," Hyde said. "He was coming in the game regardless of the score there. Not exactly where I want to pitch him at this moment, but it was kind of how the game dictated and the availability we have with some guys in our bullpen today. I am trying to get him going. We have a ton of confidence in him. He's got really good stuff. He showed that last year in the starter role."
Down on the farm, Drew Rom tossed five scoreless innings with two hits and five strikeouts for Triple-A Norfolk.
Shortstop Joey Ortiz had three hits, including a double, and an RBI. He did not meet up with the Orioles.
Josh Lester hit his fifth home run. Hudson Haskin went 2-for-2 with a stolen base and was removed for a pinch-hitter.
Double-A Bowie’s Garrett Stallings tossed six scoreless innings with two hits, no walks and three strikeouts. César Prieto and Gilbert Lara each had two hits. Heston Kjerstad, batting leadoff as the designated hitter, went 1-for-3 with a walk, run scored and stolen base.
High-A Aberdeen catcher Adam Retzbach hit a two-run homer. Reliever Alex Pham allowed one run and struck out five batters in four innings.
Creed Willems and Maxwell Costes hit home runs for Single-A Delmarva. Jackson Holliday played second base, went 1-for-4 with an RBI, walk and a run scored, and is batting .355 with a 1.068 OPS.