SAN DIEGO — A day after winning in heroic fashion — the Orioles needed a home run robbery and an extra-innings homer, both by Cedric Mullins, to beat the Mariners on Sunday — Baltimore traveled down the coast to face the Padres.
The team known for its dramatic comebacks tried to go simple, beating San Diego by going out front early and staying that way. That effort included an all-around strong performance by rookie Grayson Rodriguez, who pitched seven innings. But these are the 2023 Orioles after all, so some drama had to ensue. Félix Bautista, known for his steady hand, walked Fernando Tatis Jr and Juan Soto to bring up none other than former Orioles star Manny Machado with a chance to tie the game.
Bautista, though, didn’t allow it. Machado grounded into a double play, giving the Orioles the 4-1 win.
“it’s so much fun showing up to the yard expecting to win,” Ryan O’Hearn said. “From the first pitch we’ve got confidence in every guy on the field, every guy in the lineup. The pitchers have been unbelievable. When you have a lead like that late, extremely confident in the guys coming out of the pen to come in and do the job.”
It saved what was a career day for Rodriguez. He pitched a career-high seven innings, his one blemish coming in the sixth when Garrett Cooper hit a home run — the first he has given up since returning from Norfolk in mid-July. Rodriguez rebounded to strike out the next three batters to get out of the inning.
He struck out six and walked just one.
“That’s his best start of the year, hands down,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Just total command from start to finish.”
This was another step forward for Rodriguez, who was sent to the minors in May after a rollercoaster first stint in the majors. He’s not only more confident in his second go-around with the Orioles, but also has a better command of his fastball and a better understanding of how to use it. He threw five fastballs over 100 MPH on Monday.
The demotion hurt. In the long run, it may have been just what he needed to catapult his career.
“That was probably the best thing for me,” he said. “Just being able to go back down there, the minor league atmosphere, just to work on some things in games you can’t work on in the big leagues. In the big leagues it’s all about wins, the minor leagues is about development. Being able to go back to my roots, get it together, and make the trip but up here.”
He has pitched to a 3.03 ERA since returning to the major leagues on July 17, compared to 7.35 prior to the demotion, proving to be a key part of a rotation that is now reliant on its young arms. Rodriguez, with Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer, have a 3.19 ERA since the All-Star break, giving the Orioles an average of just under six innings a start. That length is proving to be even more crucial as the team moves to a six-man rotation, opting to take an arm out of the bullpen in exchange for an extra day rest for their starters.
“I’m really impressed with how everyone has been throwing the baseball,” Hyde said. “We are going to give these guys a couple more days off this upcoming week, so well deserved.”
The offense, with Aaron Hicks back in the lineup after a three-week stint on the injured list, did what it needed to do against Yu Darvish. The lineup, which will likely be similar to the one that will carry them for the rest of the season, featured O’Hearn batting cleanup. He hit a home run in the second to give him a career-high 40 RBIs. The Orioles’ three other runs came on Gunnar Henderson’s bases-clearing double in the fifth.