CHICAGO – However the Orioles construct their starting rotation, Tyler Wells should have his own room.
Never mind the early talk of piggybacking or maybe sending him down to start in the minors. Demolish it and move on to the next project.
While Kyle Bradish pitched tonight at Double-A Bowie on his injury rehab assignment, Wells cemented his role with the Orioles by recording an out in the sixth inning. By providing more length than others before appearing to tire.
The bar has been lowered a bit, but that’s the material that the Orioles are working with this month.
There wouldn’t be another out for Wells, who left after 5 1/3 with the White Sox scoring twice in the inning. Mike Baumann issued a walk to load the bases before stranding the runners with a pair of strikeouts, Yennier Cano escaped a jam that he inherited, and the Orioles took advantage of Chicago’s wild streaks by scoring four times in the seventh to win 6-3 in the opening game of the series.
Adley Rutschman followed yesterday’s walk-off home run with a three-run double to wipe out a 3-1 deficit. He fell behind 0-2 to Reynaldo López and lined a 100.3 mph fastball into left-center field to set off the sprinklers.
Eight walks were bound to hurt the White Sox at some point. They finished with nine, as if daring the pitch clock to quicken the pace.
"I think we just stuck to our game plan," Rutschman said. "Tried to take good ABs, and when we got pitches to hit, try to make the most of it, and we were able to compete and battle back."
"Adley just doing what he's been doing, just getting huge hits for us," said manager Brandon Hyde. "Getting an 0-2 mistake and putting the ball in the gap."
Wells took it a few giant strides further.
"Adley is Superman right now," he said. "He's done such a great job for us behind the plate, at the plate as a hitter. I can't say enough good things about him. He's done an incredible job."
What is Rutschman's Kryptonite?
"We haven't found it yet," Wells said, "and hopefully we don't find it at all this season."
The Superman label amused Rutschman, who is much too modest to take it seriously. His face is more likely to turn red than a cape.
"He's a great guy," Rutschman said. "I don't know about Superman. He's like just the biggest hype man that you'll ever meet. A great supporting guy, and you can tell from that comment that he's an awesome teammate."
Consecutive two-out doubles in the eighth by Austin Hays, Jorge Mateo and Ryan O’Hearn, the last two players beginning the game on the bench, increased the lead to 6-3 and provided a much-needed cushion. Félix Bautista, pitching on back-to-back days for the first time this season, struck out three batters and recorded his fourth save.
Wells was charged with three runs and five hits with one walk and three strikeouts. He threw 85 pitches, 55 for strikes, and the Orioles rallied to improve their record to 8-6.
Fifteen of the first 17 batters were retired before Elvis Andrus led off the sixth with a double and scored on Andrew Benintendi’s single. A one-out walk to Andrew Vaughn and Eloy Jiménez’s RBI single closed out Wells’ start.
"It was a little rough around the edges, but overall I think I was commanding pitches decently, and I think that I kept guys off balance," he said. "I wouldn't say that I was very happy with the end result, but overall I would say I was happy with the way I was controlling the game."
"I thought he did a great job," Rutschman said. "He was attacking the strike zone, executed his plan well, and he was really fun to catch."
Wells didn't classify the sixth as "a bad inning."
"I just think it was a lot of soft contact," he said. "Sometimes, that's the way baseball works."
Mike Clevinger held the Orioles to one hit in six scoreless innings, but he walked five batters to force his exit after 92 pitches, only 49 for strikes. Ryan Mountcastle produced a ground ball single with one out in the fourth inning after Rutschman walked, but a popup and strikeout doused the rally.
Reliever Jake Diekman walked Gunnar Henderson and Mateo in the seventh, Terrin Vavra reached on an infield single against López for the Orioles’ second hit, and Cedric Mullins walked with the bases loaded.
Rutschman clobbered another ball, reaching base for the third time and increasing his RBI total to 12. He walked again in the ninth.
Henderson has a team-leading 12 walks after getting two more tonight, but he also struck out three times.
Cionel Pérez had another rough outing, retiring only one batter in the seventh and leaving after a double and walk. Cano, recalled today from Triple-A Norfolk, snared Luis Robert Jr.’s bouncer and started a double play, and he retired the side in order in the eighth with his sinker/slider combo.
"That was awesome. The Cano Show," Hyde said.
"It's a tough spot, middle of the order, good right-handed hitters. And he's got such a heavy, really good sinker. Last year he struggled throwing strikes up here, and he's been throwing strikes in spring training and in Norfolk, and that's huge for us right now, to get a guy who can get right-handers to put the ball on the ground the way that he did. And go back out and do a great job the next inning, too. Fantastic job by him."
"It was really fun," Rutschman said. "He looked really good tonight. His stuff was electric. It was fun seeing him do his thing and coming out with all the confidence in the world."
"I've known him while we were in the Minnesota Twins organization," Wells said, "and it's great to see him go out there, get into such a big spot and succeed. Same way with Baumann, especially with Baumann. I've trained with him in the offseason, and picking me up, it was incredible to see from both of those guys."
The insertion of Cano into a high-leverage situation illustrates how the bullpen is running on fumes.
The six runs showed again that the offense can be potent, if also slow to get cranking at times.
"For us it's, we're down but not out, and we did a lot of that last year," Rutschman said. "To be able to do it tonight speaks volumes to the guys we've got in this locker room, their character and the way they're able to compete and not give up."
Henderson made a diving stop and throw from shortstop to rob Jiménez leading off the bottom of the second inning, but Jake Burger had no beef with the Orioles, homering on the next pitch for a 1-0 lead.
Burger launched a cutter 404 feet to left-center field, the only White Sox batter to reach among the first 14. Yasmani Grandal singled with one out in the fifth, but Lenyn Sosa flied to center and Oscar Colás lined a changeup to right-center that Mullins ran down.
Wells and Kyle Gibson have each recorded outs in the sixth inning in two starts. No one else in the rotation has done it.
Robert flied to center after Benintendi’s RBI single, nudging Wells to 5 1/3 and allowing him to match Gibson.
"I thought Tyler Wells threw the ball outstanding," Hyde said. "He only gave up a couple hard hits. Kind of a bad cutter to Burger for a homer, and then the double from Andrus in the sixth. Besides that, I thought he mixed extremely well, kept the ball off the barrel. Even in that sixth, a couple soft hits there ended his night, but I thought he did a good job competing and I thought he had really good stuff."
The Orioles had three baserunners in the first three innings, but Clevinger faced the minimum number of batters. Rutschman walked with one out in the first and Mountcastle grounded into a double play. Henderson walked with one out in the second and was picked off. Ramón Urías reached on a strikeout/passed ball with one out in the third and Vavra hit into a double play.
Rutschman walked with one out in the fourth and Mountcastle pulled a slider into left field at 107 mph off the bat. But Anthony Santander popped up the first pitch and Henderson struck out on Clevinger’s 60th of the game.
Clevinger walked Vavra and Mullins back-to-back to begin the sixth, but Benintendi sprinted toward the left field line and made a diving catch to deny Rutschman – with Vavra tagging and going to third base – Sosa raced into foul territory to grab Mountcastle’s popup, and Santander lined to center.
Walks and Rutschman spun the game in the Orioles’ favor in the seventh. Two-out two-baggers in the eighth made it easier to climb two above .500.
The next start for Wells would come the following Friday night against the Tigers at Camden Yards, if manager Brandon Hyde keeps everyone in turn. Gibson and Grayson Rodriguez start this weekend, and Dean Kremer and Bradish could handle the series in D.C. after Monday’s off-day.
* Bradish threw 82 pitches in five innings tonight in Bowie and allowed four runs (three earned) and three hits with one walk, five strikeouts and a home run. All of the Akron scoring came in the fourth.
Heston Kjerstad hit his fourth home run tonight at Bowie and Zach Watson hit his first. John Rhodes had a single, double and three RBIs.
Noah Denoyer made his first Triple-A start tonight after the Orioles promoted Norfolk’s Spenser Watkins, and he tossed five scoreless innings with two hits, no walks and six strikeouts. He retired the first 12 batters.
High-A Aberdeen’s Dylan Beavers had two hits, including a triple.