Some memorable Orioles moments in 2022

We’re only a few days away from moving past 2022, leaving behind the good and the bad. The personal and professional triumphs and the failures.

This is a time for reflection on the Orioles beat. Certain moments stick with everyone. Others might have gone unnoticed by most or happened during one-on-one interactions.

I’ll share some of mine, in no particular order, over the next few days.

* Manager Brandon Hyde revealed on March 16 that catcher Adley Rutschman was shut down with a strained right triceps, an injury that surfaced during an intrasquad game in Sarasota. On the same day that Heston Kjerstad, the second overall pick in the 2020 draft, strained his hamstring while chasing a line drive in left field that resulted in Rutschman’s inside-the-park home run.

We didn’t know whether Rutschman had a chance to break camp with the team prior to reporting, but the injury removed the drama. He was staying back at extended spring training.

Kill that question.

* Rutschman made his debut on May 21, with the club announcing his promotion early in the morning. The Orioles lost to the Rays 6-1, but the score didn’t matter. Baseball’s top prospect was in the majors.

After striking out in the second inning and leading off the fifth with a walk, Rutschman lined a triple into right field off Ralph Garza Jr. with one out in the seventh. He became the ninth Oriole to triple for his first hit and the third to do it in his debut, joining Matt Wieters and Manny Machado.

The three-bagger isn’t the part of the night that really stands out for many of us.  It’s what happened hours earlier as Rutschman jogged onto the field to a rousing ovation in the top of the first inning. How he shook the plate umpire’s hand and did a slow turn to soak in the moment.

* The Orioles got two starts out of John Means. That’s it.

All the more reason to be amazed that they finished above .500.

Means underwent Tommy John surgery and the Orioles no longer had their ace. The rotation already was lacking experience. Losing Means felt devastating.

How the Orioles responded to it is a major highlight of 2022.

* The Orioles made a rare visit to St. Louis in May, their first time playing at the new Busch Stadium and their first trip since 2003. The 2020 series was canceled after Major League Baseball reduced schedules to 60 games and allowed only regional travel as a safety measure during the pandemic.

Hyde cited the series as the moment that he began believing that this year’s team would far exceed expectations. The Orioles won two of three, taking the rubber game by a 3-2 score on a scorching Thursday afternoon after Bryan Baker started and tossed 2 1/3 shutout innings and Hyde used six pitchers.

Ryan Mountcastle was out of the lineup with a left wrist/forearm strain and eventually went on the injured list, Ramón Urías had an abdominal strain and Rougned Odor was unavailable due to a sinus infection, leaving Hyde with a one-man bench. Félix Bautista earned his second save with Jorge López on the bereavement list.

* Kyle Bradish earned his first career win in the series opener, allowing two runs and striking out 11 batters in seven innings. It was an absolute gem, and it happened in a tough venue in his third major league start.

Bradish became only the second pitcher in major league history to have an outing with no walks and 11-plus strikeouts among his first three career starts, joining the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg on June 8, 2010 against the Pirates. He was the first Orioles rookie with 11 or more strikeouts in a game since Wei-Yin Chen (12) on July 29, 2012 against the Athletics.

The next seven starts were much different for Bradish, who saw his ERA rise to 7.38. He went on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, costing him about a month of the season, and registered a 3.28 ERA and 1.164 WHIP in 13 starts after the All-Star break.

* López returned to the Orioles for the following series in Detroit, but Austin Hays couldn’t play after having his left hand spiked at first base during Thursday’s game. The Tigers were really bad, but they won all three games.

The Orioles were outscored 12-3. It was a huge disappointment after St. Louis.

The Tigers were beasts in Baltimore, too, winning the first two games by a combined 14-2 before losing the series finale 8-1.

* The cycle watch was on for Hays after he singled in the first inning, homered in the third and tripled off the out-of-town scoreboard in the fourth during a June 22 game against the Nationals. Two of the most difficult hits were out of the way.

As the rain picked up in intensity, Hays lined a double to left-center field off Steve Cishek in the sixth inning and became the sixth player in club history to achieve the cycle and first since Jonathan Villar on Aug. 5, 2019.

“Goosebumps hit me right as I was touching second base,” Hays said, “and nothing else to do but just point up to the sky and thank God for the opportunity.”

Hays was the first Oriole to hit for the cycle in six innings. The game ended after the sixth, and writers in the press box had their story angle.

* Kyle Stowers was counted among the highly touted prospects who debuted in 2023, and he had his own signature moment.

Stowers was 3-for-23 when he stepped to the plate against White Sox All-Star closer Liam Hendriks in the ninth inning of an Aug. 25 game at Camden Yards. He was hitless with 11 strikeouts in his last 13 at-bats. The Orioles were a strike away from losing. Stowers stayed in the box after left fielder Adam Engel dropped a fly ball in foul territory, and he homered to right-center field to tie the score.

The Orioles won in the 11th inning on Anthony Santander’s RBI single.

Stowers became the fourth Oriole whose first career home run tied a game in the ninth inning or later, and the first since Rich Coggins in 1973.

“I kind of blacked out a little bit,” Stowers said.

“I think he was floating around the bases,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

* Everyone knew.

Trey Mancini knew he was playing his last home game for the Orioles on July 28. Fans knew as they gave him standing ovations each time he came to the plate. The trade deadline loomed and Mancini was going to be dealt while the team was in Texas.

The inside-the-park home run in his final at-bat? OK, that was unexpected.

Rays right fielder Josh Lowe lost Mancini’s fly ball in the sun, it caromed off his left cheek, and one of the most bizarre scenes in team history unfolded before our eyes.

Mancini chugged around the bases, with Hays motioning him home. The ballpark erupted. Tyler Nevin found Mancini in the tunnel and told him that the crowd wanted a curtain call. Mancini obliged, stepping onto the field, patting his chest and raising an arm.

As if the moment wasn’t already perfect, it happened with the Orioles honoring superfan Mo Gaba on the anniversary of his death.

“I had some help from somebody,” Mancini said.

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