Tyler Wells needed four pitches to dispose of Royals leadoff hitter Nick Pratto last night, getting a swing and miss on his fastball for the game’s first out.
Félix Bautista began his quest for a 17th save by striking out MJ Melendez and Maikel García with 101 mph heat, the latter frozen by it.
The final team tally was seven strikeouts, a decent total that fell short of the staff’s recent production.
Before last night, Orioles pitchers had struck out nine or more batters in seven consecutive games since May 31, and at least 11 batters in six of seven. The 84 total strikeouts were the most in any seven-game stretch in club history.
This sudden transformation to whiff wizards occurred after the Orioles struck out 40 over six games from May 25-30.
The 39 strikeouts in the past three games before last night tied for most in any three-game stretch in team history, equaling the 1996 Orioles from Sept. 6-8.
Sixteen of these strikeouts were recorded in the series opener against the Brewers. The Orioles fanned 15 Tigers on April 22.
The current staff was on pace to strike out 1,522 batters before last night, which would shatter the club record of 1,248 in 2016 and 2019.
The bullpen is doing its part, leading the majors with 281 strikeouts.
* Catcher Adley Rutschman has batted second in the order in all 59 of his starts this season and in 117 during his young career. He’s hit sixth in 21 career starts, fifth in 19, fourth in seven, and third and seventh in one each.
Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t moved Rutschman into the leadoff spot, even with Cedric Mullins on the injured list.
Has he thought about it? Sure. But has the temptation been too intense to resist?
The last Orioles catcher to bat leadoff in a game was Chance Sisco on Aug. 19, 2020 against the Blue Jays. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and strikeout.
Blame the pandemic if you forgot or didn’t know.
An Orioles catcher batting first has happened six times in club history, per STATS.
Floyd “Sugar Bear” Rayford led off in a July 30, 1984 game against the Rangers and a June 26, 1985 game at Yankee Stadium, going a combined 0-for- 8 with three strikeouts.
Curt Blefary did it in three consecutive games from April 17-19, 1968 and went 3-for-14 with two walks and a strikeout.
Blefary led off on April 20 but started in right field. Andy Etchebarren caught Tom Phoebus in a 10-1 victory over the Angels.
* Triple-A Norfolk resumed its season Thursday after back-to-back postponements in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre due to the poor air quality from the Canadian wildfires. Outfielder Colton Cowser, in his third game since his reinstatement from the injured list, drew three walks in four plate appearances before Ben DeLuzio pinch-hit for him in the eighth inning with a runner on base and two outs.
Odd timing on the surface considering Cowser’s prowess at the plate.
The speculation started on Twitter that Cowser was removed to get a head start on joining the Orioles. Except that he also came out of the other games as scheduled to ease him back into competition following his recovery from the quadriceps injury.
Cowser went the distance last night as the designated hitter, going 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts. He’s batting .336 with a 1.052 OPS.
* Baseball America released its third mock draft, also known as “3.0,” and the Orioles are projected to take Texas Christian University third baseman Brayden Taylor.
Here’s what the publication wrote about Taylor:
“This feels like the lower end of outcomes for Taylor, who slumped in the middle parts of the season, but has been on a tear lately. He has one of the better offensive approaches you’ll find in the class, with a solid ability to hit for power to the pull side. His biggest critique entering the season was that he didn’t have enough impact for a third baseman, but he’s quietly been an excellent home run producer throughout his career, with 48 career home runs, including 23 this season. I would not be surprised to see Taylor off the board inside the top 10 picks. Bryce Eldridge could make some sense with the Orioles as well.”
The 2.0 version had the Orioles selecting Florida prep shortstop Arjun Nimmala. The 1.0 version had Georgia prep shortstop Colin Houck.
MLB.com’s Jim Callis ran his first mock draft in May and had the Orioles selecting Florida prep third baseman Aidan Miller. A month later, he linked the Orioles to University of Florida right-hander Hurston Waldrep.
In other words, there isn’t a definitive No. 17, and that fact shouldn’t surprise anyone.
There’s a consensus No. 1, however. LSU outfielder Dylan Crews seems assured of going to the Pirates.
* In case you missed it in last night’s updated game story:
Tyler Wells’ streak of five starts with at least seven strikeouts that ended last night tied Erik Bedard in 2007 for second-longest in club history behind Connie Johnson’s eight in 1957.
Gunnar Henderson became the first Orioles rookie with two stolen bases in a game since outfielder Matt Angle in the nightcap of a Sept. 19, 2011 doubleheader in Boston.
Also, Austin Hays’ leadoff homer was the first of his career, the first by an Oriole since Mullins on Sept. 26, 2022 in Boston, and the first at Camden Yards since Mullins on July 26, 2022 versus the Rays.
It was the first leadoff homer on the first pitch since Mullins on Sept. 1, 2022 in Cleveland and the first at home since Mullins in that July 26, 2022 game against Tampa Bay.