BOWIE - The Double-A Bowie Baysox have had such a good season that the first three times they were held to two runs this year, they won by a 2-1 score. But last night, they lost 3-2 to the Akron RubberDucks to open a six-game series and spoil the home debut of their top pitching prospect, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez.
Bowie began the night with the best record in all of the minors, but is now 25-10 (.714). That ranks third now, behind low Single-A Tampa (27-10, .730), a Yankees affiliate, and Triple-A Omaha (26-10, .722), a Kansas City affiliate.
Can we say Rodriguez had an off game because he gave up two runs?
That would be pretty harsh, but we can say Akron was the first team this year to get two runs off him. He had allowed one run or less in all five previous starts for high Single-A Aberdeen and in his first two for Bowie.
But with a big and enthusiastic crowd of 4,963 cheering him and the Baysox on, Rodriguez allowed four hits and two runs over 4 2/3 innings with one walk and six strikeouts. He threw 83 pitches, 58 for strikes. Akron did produce some well-struck balls in play including a double in the third that led to their first run and a double and single an inning later that scored their second.
But when Baysox right fielder Doran Turchin hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth - his fourth for the Baysox - Rodriguez was off the hook for taking what would have been his first loss of the year. So now through eight starts, he is 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. His ERA in three Double-A starts increased from 0.90 to 1.84.
Hardly worth beating himself up over, but on a postgame Zoom interview, Rodriguez was indeed tough on himself last night. Just like he’s been tough on opponent hitters all year.
“You know that wasn’t up to standards for myself,” said Rodriguez, ranked by Baseball America as their No. 11 prospect and top pitching prospect. “Little disappointed tonight. Obviously, could have done a better job and stayed in the game longer. Got into some deep counts with some guys and kind of had a problem finishing guys off there. Definitely not what I had in mind. I think they fouled off a lot of pitches. The three or four hits I gave up were hard contact. That is just leaving the ball over the plate a little too much but they battled well.
“So far it’s definitely been a great year. Started there in Aberdeen the first month and we were able to throw a lot of good ballgames there. Trying to keep it rolling here in Bowie. The first two starts I had here were nice. This one was a little different, but we’ve had a great season so far.”
Rodriguez was asked if he faces pressure being a player that fans are hoping will make the majors and be part of an Orioles turnaround.
“I’ve always said that there is only about as much pressure on yourself that you put on,
he said. “Tonight, there were a lot of fans here, but it was my job to go out and throw the ball. When gametime rolls around, I’m really not worried about that. If anything, it was more of a positive tonight.”
And it was a positive night at Bowie, seeing top prospects play in front of a big crowd, even if the home team suffered a rare home loss. Bowie is now 10-2 at Prince George’s Stadium.
Rodriguez touched 100 mph on several pitches during his outing and one even registered 103 mph on the stadium gun. While that was probably in error, the 100s were confirmed and were legit. Rodriguez was throwing into the high 90s throughout his start. Fans brought empty gas cans to support their ace and he was filling them up with gas from 60 feet, six inches.
Before the game, during an in-person interview at the ballpark, Baysox pitching coach Justin Ramsey praised Rodriguez for his work ethic and great personality. It all plays into and is a part of what makes Rodriguez one of the best pitching prospects in the sport, if not the best. It’s all there and a lot of boxes are checked. Then you watch him strikeout a batter with a backdoor breaking ball and get swings and misses on a changeup at 87 mph.
“It’s pretty good. It’s all upper-echelon stuff,” Ramsey said. “When you stack it up with what the best of the best are doing, you are going to see some similarities. Which is obviously fun to dream on for a 21-year-old.”
With his move up to Double-A, Rodriguez knows he’s closer to Baltimore. Geographically, he’s not far away and Double-A is not far away either.
“Definitely, you can see it in the talent level that is here, on our team and other teams,” Rodriguez said. “But being close to Baltimore, that’s the goal. In a way, we are close, but there’s still a lot of work left to do.”
The big and boisterous Bowie crowd was settled in for a win last night. Their team has won every series they’ve played thus far, all six. They didn’t get it. But they had fun and cheered Rodriguez and his teammates on. He got a standing ovation when he was taken out of the game.
There was hype and buildup leading into this night on the O’s farm. Rodriguez noticed it and appreciated it.
“That was a lot of fun,” he said. “I had kind of seen some stuff on Twitter about it. To see that here in Bowie at a minor league game, that was a lot of fun. Lot of Orioles fans came out to support us. Ultimately we didn’t get the win but it was great showing and cool to see.”
Grayson walks off to a standing ovation!-- Bowie Baysox (@BowieBaysox) June 15, 2021
Final line: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K pic.twitter.com/J4PE6Bi8bq
Thank you SO much to the 4,963 fans who made tonight incredibly fun! ⛽️⬆️ pic.twitter.com/0np41S0hSu-- Bowie Baysox (@BowieBaysox) June 16, 2021