PITTSBURGH — As the thick precipitation began again at PNC Park in a mix between rain and snow, Grayson Rodriguez spun around. The Orioles right-hander had just unleashed his slowest fastball of the day, a tick shy of 92 mph, and Jared Triolo lifted it out to center field for a solo homer.

Rodriguez’s day would end soon after with his seventh strikeout, and he walked to the dugout to get warm with a lead intact.

The perfectionist in Rodriguez rued the 93rd pitch of his outing, left middle high on the inside corner for a homer. But the realist in Rodriguez will see the bigger picture, too.

When Rodriguez left the mound late in Baltimore’s 5-2 win on a damp, cold day, he did so in rarefied air. Forget the late homer. Rodriguez is only the second Orioles pitcher in team history to strike out 16 or more hitters and allow three runs or fewer over his first two starts of a season, and he’s the first to do it since Bob Turley in 1954.

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“He’s got big-time starter stuff, and you see the command is so much different than it was in the first half last year,” said manager Brandon Hyde, who added that Rodriguez’s mid- to upper-90s fastball and curveball often cover for the absence of a crisp third pitch in difficult conditions.

Rodriguez didn’t have his entire arsenal working against the Pirates, yet he still produced a quality start. He reinforced his place near the top of Baltimore’s rotation and continues to show the growth that began in the second half of his rookie season last year.

He dealt with unpredictability when he arrived on the scene in 2023. But, after returning from a midseason stint in the minor leagues, his consistency between each start improved. Down the stretch, Rodriguez posted a 2.58 ERA in his final 13 starts, and he’s carrying that success into 2024.

“To me, now it’s just another baseball game,” Rodriguez said. “Being in the big leagues for a little bit, this is normal. Now that I’m just kind of relaxed, I go out there and get the ball and hopefully put my team in the best chance to win.”

The Nacogdoches, Texas, native joked after his start that pitching through hail was a first for him. “I’m from Texas,” he said. “I don’t see that a whole lot.” But he produced anyway.

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That, as much as anything, shows the maturity of a pitcher — to ignore the weather, to adjust one’s arsenal midway through a start and still rack up outs.

“He’s starting to throw everything for strikes, and if one pitch isn’t working, he has three others that he can get in there,” shortstop Gunnar Henderson said. “He’s been finding that and sticking to it, and he’s done really well.”

The Orioles behind Rodriguez produced the offense required to support a pitcher in fine form, with Ryan O’Hearn and Henderson homering in the second and third innings off hard-throwing 22-year-old Jared Jones.

Adley Rutschman and Anthony Santander drove in runs in the seventh, and Cedric Mullins’ solo shot in the eighth provided the three-run lead for closer Craig Kimbrel to secure (earning his first save as an Oriole).

“That was dominating,” Hyde said of Kimbrel before giving props to every reliever who braved the elements.

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A week earlier, Rodriguez carved his way through the Los Angeles Angels. He struck out nine and his changeup sparkled as he allowed one run in six innings. The 24-year-old wasn’t as sharp early Friday, but he worked around two walks and five hits to pitch 6 1/3 innings with two runs against him.

As Rodriguez develops, this is where he has made the most strides. He can search for his command early in the game and still strand runners. He can get better as his outing continues, grinding through 97 pitches despite the snow flurries, hail and frigid temperatures that befell at PNC Park.

Rodriguez didn’t miss any bats with his changeup, a surprising development after that pitch drew nine whiffs in his 2024 debut. But he leaned on his four-seam fastball to force nine swings-and-misses. He located his two-seamer inside against right-handed hitters. His curveball complemented the two heaters.

“Sometimes the third pitch isn’t going to be there for him,” Hyde said. “He did a great job of recognizing that — him and Adley — and still getting outs.”

While Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz lifted a changeup for a homer in the fifth — the third changeup from Rodriguez that Cruz recorded a hit against — Rodriguez stayed in the game for the sixth. In that frame, Rodriguez struck out the side.

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Even with Triolo’s homer in the seventh, Rodriguez handed a lead to a bullpen that put up zeroes to secure a series-opening win.

The Pirates tried their best against Rodriguez, with two solo shots accounting for their offense. The hail and the rain and snow — which fell periodically Friday — also tried their best against the Texan. But the cold and wet didn’t stop a second strong start to begin Rodriguez’s second year.