Rutschman walk-off homer gives Orioles series win (updated)

As the rotation continues to deliver shortened starts and the bullpen fights to catch its collective breath, the Orioles must bank on their offense to keep the line moving and the team from shutting down.

Ryan Mountcastle homered again today, Ryan O’Hearn celebrated his return to the majors with two rewarded bases-loaded at-bats in the first three innings, and Adley Rutschman homered on Trevor May's second pitch in the ninth to give the Orioles an 8-7 victory over the Athletics and the series win.

A grind from beginning to end.

Terrin Vavra and O’Hearn singled off Zach Jackson to open the eighth and they moved up on a passed ball, but Jorge Mateo popped up with the count full, Cedric Mullins flied to right field with the count full, and Ramón Laureano threw out Vavra at the plate.

With his team on the verge of extras, Rutschman launched a four-seam fastball over the fence in right-center field, measured at 405 feet, for his first career walk-off.

"I think he likes to be up there when the game's on the line. He likes to be up there in RBI spots, and he's got a lot of confidence," said manager Brandon Hyde.

"I'm just looking for him to get on base. I'll take a homer, but I was looking for him to take a good at-bat and hoping we could get something going leading off the inning, get on base for Mountcastle there. But I'll take a homer."

Rutschman extended his hitting streak to a career-high seven games and his on-base streak to 10, done in most dramatic fashion.

"He's a freak, he's a beast," Mountcastle said. "Just seems like he's always on everything at the plate, and defensively, too. He's just amazing, a great player, and I'm excited to see how he grows."

A mob scene ensued at the plate. The homer hose didn't make it.

"Yeah, we messed that up," Mountcastle said. "We were supposed to do that but everybody just started going crazy. It was just chaos out there. Yeah, we'll be ready next time, though."

Rutschman relishes the Gatorade bath over the dugout hose anytime because of its significance in a game. "It means we won," he said.

"But the homer hose is unbeatable, I think."

Rutschman has two walk-off hits in his lifetime, in back-to-back nights in college, including an inside-the-park home run.

"Sorry, that's old college," he said. "Gotta close the yearbook."

Rutschman said he just wanted to have a quality at-bat today in the ninth inning. Can't help it that his skills raise the level to ridiculous heights.

"Get something over the middle of the plate and trying to do some damage," he said.

"Felt awesome. It's a first one for me, but just trying to put together a good AB there and just trying to win. I think to be able to come out and win a series, it feels awesome and I'm glad we were able to do it.

"Just trying to stay as relaxed as possible and just trying to stay with your process, whatever plan you have going into that at-bat, trying to stick with that. Make sure you're just focused on that and block out the noise."

And brace for the raucous scene at the plate as the crowd roars.

"You've just got so much adrenaline going at that point, you don't really know what's going on," he said. "Just cool to celebrate as a team. That's always a cool energy thing when we're able to walk it off."

A no-doubter in his mind?

"Honestly, I just kind of blacked out," he said. "It's one of those moments that you hit it and you just kind of start running because you don't know what's going on. Glad it went over the fence.

"I saw the outfielders kind of stop at the wall, so at that point I knew."

Cole Irvin lasted only four innings in his third start with the Orioles. He retired the first two batters in the fourth, loaded the bases on a single and a pair of walks, and allowed Esteury Ruiz’s two-run single. The pitch count stood at 80, the lead was down to 7-6 and his ERA was up to 10.66.

"I thought he mixed well today," Rutschman said. "Had a couple pitches leak over the middle of the plate. Some stuff that's unlucky. But I love the way he goes about his stuff, and he's going to bounce back. He's a competitor, so love working with him."

Austin Voth entered in the fifth and Brent Rooker hit his second home run of the game and third of the series – and the season - to tie the game. Voth has surrendered a homer in all five appearances.

"Really good after the homer," Hyde said. "He did a great job of not letting that get to him. We needed him badly to go two innings, and right away homer, but gets six outs after that without a run scored, and that was absolutely huge."

Rooker had a breakout week, delivering a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a three-run homer in the third to give Oakland a temporary lead. Mountcastle led off the bottom half with his sixth home run and 19th RBI, powering a “slurve” 416 feet to center field, and the Orioles found their stride after he rounded the bases.

Gunnar Henderson doubled, Austin Hays singled for the second time, Adam Frazier singled to tie the game, Vavra walked and O’Hearn concluded a nine-pitch at-bat with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. The last pitch thrown by Oakland starter Adam Oller.

The lead grew to 7-4 on Mateo’s fielder’s choice grounder. Frazier’s single was the last Orioles hit until Hays’ two-out single in the seventh.

The Orioles selected O’Hearn’s contract this morning and his first at-bat came with the bases full and one out in the second inning. He bounced a single up the middle on a 1-2 count to score two runs, and Mateo followed with a sacrifice fly.

O’Hearn’s last multi-RBI game was Sept. 29. Still fresh in his memory. His last three-RBI game was Aug. 4, 2021.

"He shows up right away and impacts the game," Hyde said. "Ryan swung the bat great for us in spring training and he was there with us 'til the end. Great for him that he went to Triple-A with a great attitude and made his way back up."

The Orioles led 3-1 and had a chance to tack on, but Rooker made a diving catch in left to rob Rutschman as O’Hearn was motoring home. Cedric Mullins had kept the rally alive with an infield single.

Irvin threw 16 pitches in the first inning and fell behind 1-0 on Ruiz’s leadoff double and fly balls from Laureano and Rooker. Rooker’s three-run shot came with two outs in the third after a single and hit-by-pitch. A fly ball and strikeout in the fourth almost got Irvin back to the dugout unharmed, but the next four batters reached.

Facing his former team wasn’t a cure for Irvin, who averaged 1.8 walks per nine innings last season but has issued eight in 12 2/3 innings with the Orioles. He’s failed to complete five innings in any of his three starts.

"Today, I felt like his mix was better," Hyde said. "He gave up the homer, tough time missing bats, bottom of the order there, disappointing, two outs and (four) guys get on after that. Just scuffling a little bit, command-wise."

"I had a really good work week this week, so I felt really good coming in," Irvin said. "Small adjustments. I'm just shooting myself in the foot - walks, hit by pitches, bad pitches in bad locations that I know not to go to. It's small stuff that I really need to continue to clean up.

"I'm not happy with how these first three have gone, and I'm glad the team got the win and I'm glad we're going to have a happy flight to Chicago, and there's going to be a lot of work for me going into this next start, and prepared to make some solid adjustments."

The Orioles began the day with seven errors in 12 games and a .983 fielding percentage. The numbers, as they do, only tell a portion of the story.

Two Oakland players took an extra base last night on lapses in the outfield. Hays fielded a single in left and threw to second instead of third. Ryan McKenna was late getting the ball back to the infield after making the catch in center.

Hays appeared to turn the wrong way on Ruiz’s fly ball today, stepping back to his right initially, and it sailed over his head and bounced on the warning track, just shy of the wall. It left a divot in the dirt.

Two players with solid defensive reputations.

“Both of those guys are really good outfielders,” Hyde said this morning. “They held themselves accountable. I really don’t say anything. They say it and they know.

“I think it’s a couple mental lapses early in the season and I would think we’ll start playing better.”

Hays started in left field today and McKenna was counted among the reserves, with the Athletics starting a right-hander for the first time in the series.

The Orioles have held early fielding drills this week, whether with popups, ground balls or feeds.

“We played such good defense last year, and we won because of our bullpen and our defense,” Hyde said. “Our pitchers keeping us in the game, how we defended, and gave ourselves a chance offensively. Had a lot of comeback wins and stayed in the game because of our pitching and our defense last year.

“It’s just constant conversations. There’s been a couple mental lapses, honestly, that we haven’t had in the past. Our guys are very aware. It’s not that they’re not aware. They’re very, very aware. For us to be successful, we’re going to have to play really good defense.”

Hyde won’t lay all the blame on the defense for the rotation’s lack of substantial innings. These miscues also happen after he’s gone to his bullpen. And there are other factors in play.

“It’s a game-by-game basis,” he said. “We’re not getting early contact, we’re not able to put guys away with two strikes, as well. It seems like every count right now is 3-1, 2-2, goes to 3-2. Just a lot of deep counts and now allowing them to stay in the game very long.”

Oakland reliever Adrián Martínez tossed 3 2/3 scoreless and hitless innings. The Orioles threatened to take the lead in the sixth on Mullins’ two-out walk and his sixth stolen base, leaving him one behind Mateo, but Rutschman flied to the right field wall.

Left-hander Danny Coulombe stranded a runner in the eighth, struck out two batters and extended his scoreless streak to 5 2/3 innings to begin the season. He’s walked none and fanned nine.

Félix Bautista retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the ninth, and Keegan Akin began to warm after pitching last night and taking the loss. Hyde was running out of available relievers.

A dilemma that isn’t sustainable. There must be a fix in the near future.

"Today, credit goes to our bullpen, and our offense being able to put up a bunch of runs early," Hyde said. "Happy for all those (relievers). They're all pitching and been used quite a bit, and they did a nice job sucking it up today on a day game."

Asked whether he's concerned about Irvin, Hyde said, "I'm concerned about our pitching in general right now. I feel like we're going to turn the corner. I feel like we're going to improve. We've got to get deeper in the game."

Irvin certainly agrees.

"It's going to turn around," he said. "I wanted to go back out for the fifth, had a conversation with Hyder about it, and ultimately he turned the ball over to Voth. I know the bullpen could use a little bit of a break from our end.

"Someone who prides himself on getting (deep) into ballgames, I haven't been able to do that yet. I'm not very happy with letting some teammates down and just need to get better. Keep my head down and keep working, because I know I've had a good, solid week of work, so can't really say I wasn't ready for this start.

"If we're talking about these first three starts, I wonder how the next 27-plus are going to go. And that's my objective, to make all 30. I'm trying to do my best to put my best foot forward, and that's what I'm going to continue to do. That's all I can do. Give our team the best opportunity to win ballgames every day. Just need to do my job better. That's all it is."

Note: Catcher Anthony Bemboom cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A.

Bemboom clears waivers, goes to Norfolk
O's game blog: The series finale with Oakland

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