Monday was the first day of school for many in the Baltimore area, but for Orioles starter Grayson Rodriguez, class has been in session all season.

Even his good outings have their learning objectives. On Monday, against the White Sox, he had to teach himself through a grueling sixth inning. He had given up just one hit until that point, and, if he could get through that inning efficiently, had the possibility of getting through seven for the second time in his career.

That wasn’t the case. He needed 23 pitches and faced four batters, walking one. But he survived, and will learn from that inning like he has all the others in his rookie season. He walked off the mound after the sixth with his head down, the fans who made it out on the first school night of the new year giving him a standing ovation.

The Orioles went on to beat the White Sox 9-0, the bullpen combo of Jacob Webb, DL Hall and Shintaro Fujinami building off Rodriguez’s strong start. Baltimore is now 82-49, guaranteeing a winning record on the season.

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“We got off to a great start in this series after we didn’t play our best baseball yesterday,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Happy with how we swung the bat tonight, really happy with how we pitched. We normally play really good defense. We have a long way to go, but to have 82 wins up to this point is a real credit to a lot of people in that clubhouse.”

Rodriguez may have had to labor a bit to get through the sixth, but he’s shown, since his return to the majors eight starts ago, that he can provide the length the Orioles need, a feat that will be even more important as the playoffs near. He’s pitched to a 2.83 ERA in that span, getting through at least six in his last four games.

Next on his syllabus is fastball command. He wants to eliminate wasted pitches at the top of the zone, which will not only get rid of potentially costly misses but also help him with his efficiency. He’s closer now than he was in his first stint in the major leagues earlier this season, but plans to spend his next bullpen focused on it.

“I think we still have a long way to go with that,” he said. “That’s something we are going to keep working on.”

On Monday, Rodriguez allowed just one hit — a double from Luis Robert Jr. in fourth — as he retired his first 11 batters and 18 of 20 for the day. He threw 17 pitches over 99 mph, including five over 100.

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Webb followed Rodriguez in the seventh, but made it just 2/3 of an inning. He was hit by a line drive, remaining in the game initially before exiting after walking the next batter. DL Hall replaced him, just his second appearance since returning to the majors on Aug. 26. He got them through the rest of the seventh and the eighth, with Shintato Fujinami rounding out the ninth.

The Orioles offense gave them all plenty of cushion to work with, driving out White Sox starter Michael Kopech after four innings. In the third, Ryan O’Hearn had a RBI single to bring in two runs. An inning later, Ryan McKenna walked, stole second, advanced to third and then scored on a wild pitch. Ryan Mountcastle and McKenna added RBI singles later in the game, with Anthony Santander hitting a three-run homer in the eighth as the final boost.

danielle.allentuck@thebaltimorebanner.com