Ryan Mountcastle turned back toward the dugout, wondering where his teammates were.
Around Camden Yards, the modest crowd shouted for Mountcastle in a way that seemed louder than a group of 12,305 announced fans could possibly muster. Finally, as the standing ovation continued, the first of Mountcastle’s Orioles teammates left the dugout to take the field, having allowed Mountcastle to receive his moment in the spotlight.
“Everyone was just chilling in there,” Mountcastle said. “I guess I was a little excited to get out there.”
Those fans, they came for Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in the organization who made his home debut in Tuesday’s 12-8 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They left thinking of Mountcastle, a hose used for hydrating and an overall captivating offensive performance from the first baseman.
Mountcastle’s final contribution was his loudest, lambasting a baseball for a seventh-inning grand slam that traveled a career-long 456 feet. The left field wall had messed with Mountcastle over the weekend, stealing what would have been a few homers elsewhere, but there was no fence that could hold the titanic shot off his bat.
“He swung the bat really well in spring training, and he looked like for me a much more mature hitter this spring, and he’s carried it into this season,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “The power he has is incredible. ... You make a mistake and he’s ready to hit.”
That surge capped a nine-RBI display from Mountcastle that began early with a modest sacrifice fly and ended with the most jaw-dropping moment of the season thus far. With nine RBIs, Mountcastle tied Eddie Murray in 1985 and Jim Gentile in 1961 as the lone Orioles to plate nine runs in a game. He also became the first player in Major League Baseball to do so since 2020.
Mountcastle wasn’t counting his RBIs. He didn’t realize he drove in nine runs until assistant pitching coach Darren Holmes informed him when he left the field.
“I had no clue, and I was like, ‘That’s a lot,’ ” Mountcastle.
Mountcastle took over as the game’s most enthralling player, even though many of the fans cheering him on wore giveaway T-shirts celebrating Rodriguez’s promotion to the major leagues. Rodriguez was strong at times and shaky at others, displaying the high-end potential one moment and the necessity to continue learning at the big league level the next.
He threw 99 pitches and allowed five runs on six hits with four walks and six strikeouts. The main damage came in the fifth inning, when Rodriguez walked the bases full and right-hander Austin Voth quickly allowed all three to score — and then two more via a home run, his fourth allowed in four appearances.
Crossing the 90-pitch threshold for the first time in four years, though, felt as though “the reins are kind of off,” Rodriguez said. And Hyde said Rodriguez will receive at least one more start in the majors before a decision regarding the rotation is required upon Kyle Bradish’s return from a foot injury.
The obvious signs that Rodriguez is ready for this level were there throughout, from the filthy right-on-right changeup that struck out Jesús Aguilar in the third to the low-and-away slider that drew a whiff from Kevin Smith an inning later.
There were also the reminders of how he’s learning, evidenced by the four free passes and the two-strike hits. Rodriguez reached two-strike counts against 18 of the 23 batters he faced, yet 10 reached base.
Still, the former first-round pick in the 2018 draft stepped onto the mound at Camden Yards for the first time. No matter if the outing was shorter than he might’ve envisioned, it was special.
“That was probably the most awesome thing I’ve ever been a part of, to see Oriole Park at Camden Yards from the pitcher’s mound,” Rodriguez said. “That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Rodriguez, who allowed two runs across five innings during his debut last week against the Rangers, was again left with a no-decision because of a high-powered offense that sought a drink of water from the Homer Hose.
Austin Hays blasted a ball into the bullpen to level the score at seven in the sixth. Adley Rutschman continued his strong start to the season by walking, singling and doubling. Above them all, though, was Mountcastle.
Mountcastle started it off with a sacrifice fly and an RBI single, then clubbed a towering three-run homer to center. In the seventh inning, Oakland right-hander Dany Jiménez opted to intentionally walk Rutschman to load the bases for Mountcastle.
“I thought I was seeing it well today,” Mountcastle said. “For them to do that, I get it, but it gave me another chance to score some more runs and capitalize on it.”
Jiménez left a slider over the zone, and Mountcastle turned on it with an awe-inducing, crowd-rising swing. He reached the dugout, drank from the Homer Hose, then walked onto the field by himself.
He looked confused, all alone like that. But his teammates weren’t. Nor was the crowd. They gave Mountcastle his well-deserved moment alone.