BOWIE — The anticipation built while the Bowie Baysox waited for the rain to stop at Prince George’s Stadium. After an hour’s delay, Grayson Rodriguez took the mound in Game 2 of the Double-A Northeast League Championship Series Wednesday night against the Akron RubberDucks.
It looked as though the rain delay might have affected the right-hander in the eventual 8-5 loss, the second straight for Bowie in the best-of-five series.
After allowing a leadoff double to Will Brennan and a wild pitch to advance Brennan to third, Rodriguez took a moment to collect himself, hoping to shake off a rocky start.
A sacrifice fly by Brayan Rocchio put Akron on the board first. An RBI double by George Valera added another run, putting Bowie down, 2-0.
“We were kind of a little out of the zone,” Rodriguez said. “I wish I’d been in there a little bit more. The heater was there, but secondary pitches were hard to find strikes.”
In the top of the third inning, the night fell apart for the Orioles’ top pitching prospect. He gave up back-to-back singles to Rocchio and Jose Fermin. However, while trying to make a play at first base, Rodriguez made a throwing error that allowed Rocchio to score.
Two more hits followed, resulting in an additional two runs. The pitcher’s night was over after just 2 2/3 innings, his shortest since tossing two innings on July 30th. For just the second time in 23 starts this season, Rodriguez was charged with five or more runs. He finished the night with one walk and four strikeouts.
“Regardless of tonight, this guy is a special talent,” manager Buck Britton said. “Sometimes these are good moments for those types of guys. You can feel Herculean, is that a word? You feel like you’re just better than everybody and sometimes when a team comes out and punches you in the mouth a little bit and brings you back down to earth … This is a special talent. One night is not going to dictate anything. Look at the course of what he’s done all year and it’s a very special. Special arm coming to Baltimore.”
David Lebron followed Rodriguez and pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run and strike out six. Akron scored two more runs against Steven Klimek.
“It’s tough when you look up there as a pitcher and see one hit on the board after getting one hit last night,” Britton said. “You have to be perfect. And when you try to be perfect, that’s when mistakes start to happen.”
It looked as though the Baysox might be held to one run for the second night in a row. Designated hitter Gunnar Henderson smacked a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning, his first since joining the Double-A affiliate on September 14th. Akron starting pitcher, Xzavion Curry held the Baysox to just two hits in five innings of work.
In the seventh, Bowie second baseman Greg Cullen drew a walk from reliever Jake Miednik. With two outs, rightfielder Shayne Fontana hit a fly ball to center field. As Akron centerfielder Chris Roller ran toward the wall to make the catch, he tripped, allowing a run to score and Fontana to reach third base.
In the ninth, Henderson led off and reached first on an error by Fermin at second. A single by catcher Chris Hudgins and a two-run double by Cullen cut the lead to 8-5. With two outs, the Baysox had two on but centerfielder Zach Watson grounded out to shortstop to end the game.
“That’s probably what I’m most proud of, how we finished that game,” Britton said. “We’ve just got to kind of find a way to use that energy we did in the last third of that game. Start off from pitch one to get us going a little bit.”
The Baysox play a win-or-go-home game in the best-of-five series in Akron on Friday night. The 6:05 start will match left-handers Drew Rom for Bowie and Konnor Pilkington for Akron.
“We came off a stretch where we won 10 in a row here recently,” Rodriguez said. “So winning three games in a row, that’s really nothing to this squad.”