CHICAGO – Starter Tyler Wells referred to Adley Rutschman last night as “Superman” after the young catcher cleared the bases with a double in the seventh inning that gave the Orioles a lead. The latest hero turn following Thursday afternoon’s walk-off home run.
However, it’s the activity on the basepaths that’s transforming the Orioles into the men of steal.
They almost went the entire game last night without a stolen base, but Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle swiped bags in the ninth to raise the club’s total to 21 and keep it tied with the Guardians for most in the majors.
Mullins dived into second to beat Yasmani Grandal's throw after a leadoff single. Mountcastle had it much easier after reaching on a fielder’s choice and breaking with two outs. Barely got noticed.
The Orioles have been thrown out once, on a strikeout-caught stealing with Rutschman running on the pitch. Maybe that’s his Kryptonite.
The Guardians are 21-for-23, and the Diamondbacks are 18-for-19.
Heading into last night, no other Orioles team swiped 19 bases in the first 13 games. The 1989 “Why Not?” group had 17 and finished with 118.
Sixteen players registered steals that season, led by Mike Devereaux with 22 in 33 attempts. Phil Bradley was 20-for-26, Steve Finley was 17-for-20, and Brady Anderson was 16-for-20.
The outfield had wheels.
Catcher Bob Melvin, now the Padres manager, was one-for-five.
Did everyone have the green light?
The 2000, 2004 and 2008 teams collected 15 steals in the first 13 games. Delino DeShields was 37-for-47 in 2000, and Brian Roberts was 29-for-41 in 2004 and 40-for-50 in 2008.
Roberts’ season high was 50 in 2007, third on the Orioles’ all-time list behind Luis Aparicio’s 57 in 1964 and Anderson’s 53 in 1992.
Mullins and Jorge Mateo are tied for the major league lead this month with seven. Mountcastle and Adam Frazier, lacking sprinter speed but faster than advertised, have two each. Austin Hays, Gunnar Henderson and Ryan McKenna have one each.
They come as advertised.
Steals are up throughout the majors. The Orioles are equipped to stay in the race.
“We have team speed and we like to be aggressive in the right situations,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I think we’ve done a good job of being smart on when to run and the time of the game. We’re just not going to force things to force things, but we’re going to be as smart as we can.
“You’ve got two guys who are really fast in Cedric and Jorgie, and they haven’t got caught yet. They’ve done a great job of picking the right spots. But we also have some smart baserunners, too. Adam Frazier is a smart base stealer a good baserunner, Gunnar’s got big-time speed. He just hasn’t had the opportunity yet. I don’t really think the new rules are affecting our stolen base totals. It’s more for us, we’ve had some opportunities, especially those first two games. We had a lot. It allowed us to run. And we’re going to continue to be aggressive. I love our team speed and I hope we can keep pressure on the defense.”
* The command that was lacking from reliever Yennier Cano following the Aug. 2 trade with the Twins returned in spring training. It didn’t get him onto the Opening Day roster, but his time spent at Triple-A Norfolk was brief.
The Orioles recalled Cano yesterday morning after his three scoreless appearances with the Tides. They used him in three games last year, and he allowed nine runs and nine hits with five walks over 4 1/3 innings.
A much different version of Cano stood on the mound last night at Guaranteed Rate Field. He inherited two Cionel Pérez runners in the seventh inning, reached above his head to glove Luis Robert Jr.’s bouncer, and started a 1-4-3 double play that stood upon review.
The side was retired in order in the eighth after the Orioles stretched their lead to 6-3. Andrew Vaughn grounded out on a 96.6 mph sinker, Eloy Jiménez struck out looking at a 96.3 mph sinker, and former Orioles infielder Hanser Alberto rolled an 86.8 mph slider to Cano.
Hyde called it “The Cano Show.” A friend texted me and said that, if Cano becomes the eighth inning setup guy leading to Félix Bautista, he’s coining the phrase “Twin Peaks.”
Double your pleasure, double your fun.
Cano struck out 10 batters and walked none in seven exhibition innings. He impressed to the point where he was the choice when Keegan Akin went on the paternity list.
“I think spring went really well,” Cano said yesterday via translator Brandon Quinones. “I think I had maybe only one bad outing, which was my second time out. But other than that, I think I did really well. Just focusing on throwing strikes, my command, and I think I did a really good job after that.”
Cano rode that wave to the Tides, and now he’s joined the Orioles in Chicago. Akin can be away from the team a maximum of three days.
“Coming in with a different mindset,” Cano said. “Focus on throwing more strikes, attacking the zone. I think I have pretty good pitches, and I think when I’m working in and through the zone, good things come out of that.”