ARLINGTON, Texas – As news surfaced before first pitch tonight that rookie right-hander Grayson Rodriguez was expected to make his major league debut on Wednesday afternoon for the Orioles, the club prepared to take the field against Texas. They were looking for a series win and to follow up last night’s uplifting shutout victory over the Rangers.
And they got the win and made it look rather easy, beating Texas 7-2 for their first 2023 win that did not come by either one or two runs. The Orioles improved to 3-2 tonight and Texas falls to 3-2. After sweeping defending National League champion Philadelphia to start their year, the Rangers could get swept in this series by the Orioles.
Just before the game started, multiple outlets reported that the Orioles would call up Rodriguez to make his big league debut in tomorrow afternoon’s series finale.
Rodriguez, 23, the No. 6 prospect in the sport per Baseball America, would be facing Texas right-hander Jacob deGrom, a pitcher with a career 2.55 ERA and two Cy Young Awards. He would also be pitching in his home state for his debut. The O’s drafted him in Round 1 (No. 11 overall) in the 2018 draft out of a high school in Nacogdoches, Texas.
Rodriguez was considered likely to break north with the Orioles in the Opening Day starting rotation, but late in camp was sent back to the minors after pitching to a spring ERA of 7.04 over 15 1/3 innings. He made his Triple-A season debut in Norfolk’s season opener at Durham last Friday night, allowing three runs (two earned) over four innings. He was scheduled to pitch this Thursday for the Tides at home, but now that plan has changed. Rodriguez would be pitching on normal rest tomorrow.
Rodriguez is 25-9 with a 2.49 ERA in his O’s minor league career.
The club needs a starter for tomorrow after Kyle Bradish took a liner off his right foot last night and was knocked from the game after just 1 2/3 innings. The originally scheduled starter for the Wednesday game was Kyle Gibson, but he was bumped up to start tonight as tonight’s scheduled pitcher, Tyler Wells, threw five no-hit innings last night in relief of Bradish.
All of that led the Orioles back to Rodriguez, who is now set for his major league debut in Wednesday’s matinee, one day before the Orioles home opener with the New York Yankees.
Gibson provided the Orioles a big outing tonight, throwing seven innings of six-hit ball, allowing two runs on solo homers. He walked no one and fanned five, throwing 88 pitches, 58 for strikes. The O’s rotation had covered just 13 2/3 innings, pitching to a 9.88 ERA in the season's first four games.
Gibson fanned the side in his last inning and gave up runs on solo shots by Adolis García in the second and Nathaniel Lowe in the sixth.
His fastball had some life tonight. It averaged 93.1 mph, per Statcast, after Gibson averaged just 91.2 in his first start.
The Orioles, who had nine homers from eight different players in the season’s first four games, got two more tonight in this win. The team tied a club record, first set in 1994, by producing five straight multi-homer games to start a season.
Ryan Mountcastle’s second of the year was a three-run shot that hit the right-field foul pole in the second inning. It extended the O’s 2-0 lead to 5-0 off lefty Andrew Heaney. With one out in the inning, Adam Frazier walked and Jorge Mateo reached on an infield single. Ryan McKenna’s single to left made it 1-0 and Cedric Mullins’ flared double to right hit the foul line to score the second run. That made Mullins 4-for-5 this year off lefties to that point, with a homer and six RBIs. Mountcastle's 348-homer opened an early five-run lead for Baltimore and capped a big inning.
An inning later, Mateo’s two-run homer stretched the lead to 7-1 and knocked Heaney from the game.
The Orioles (3-2) have now won eight straight games versus Texas. The last time they won eight in a row versus a single opponent was against Seattle from July 3 to Sept. 19, 2012. The Orioles were 6-0 against Texas last season and are 2-0 this year. This also provides the club its first series win of the season.
Now a matchup of hard-throwing right-handers and an anticipated major league debut await in the series finale.
No word yet officially: After the game the Orioles did not yet officially name a starter for Wednesday’s game. So word on that will wait until the morning.
Manager Brandon Hyde on Gibson's outing: “That’s the start we needed. That was the best sinker I’ve seen him throw this year, including spring training. It was a power sinker with a really good slider and changeup. Just pitched – and to both sides of the plate. Back-to-back nights of really well done pitching by us.
“That was a big-time start on the road against a really good offense. Knowing kind of where we are and what the last series took out of our pitching staff it was true veteran stuff.”
Hyde on Mateo with an OPS of 1.124 so far: “Sometimes guys can develop a little later than others. He showed flashes and swung the bat really well in this ballpark last year. When Jorgie stays closed (in his stance) and stays on the baseball he can do a lot of things. He is a real, real threat in so many different ways."
Gibson said Wells started the pitching momentum last night: “I don’t think we can say enough what Tyler Wells did for this team last night. That set us up for me not needing to go seven innings tonight. I was thankful I was able to do it, but what a job by him. When I found out he was going in they asked me if I could throw today and that’s a no-brainer. If Wellsy can step up and do that I can take my turn the next day. Anytime a starter can get to the seventh I think it’s big for the bullpen. I told Hyder I could go another one and try to save one more inning, but he said they were fresh enough down there and handed the ball off."
Mountcastle on his homer and a good game after a tough night in series opener: “Felt good today. Yesterday happens (he fanned four times), but came back today and put some good swings on it. Took some good pitches too. Felt pretty good."