BALTIMORE—Monday was the night that the Orioles signed their No. 1 draft pick from this year, outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr., that their No. 1 pick from 2018, pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, returned to the major leagues, and that their top pick and overall No. 1 in 2019, catcher Adley Rutschman, homered.
It was also the night that a horrid sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers turned the game around and ended the Orioles’ eight-game winning streak. The 6-4 loss before an announced crowd of 21,956 at Oriole Park was particularly difficult because the Orioles played so well up until Rodriguez allowed three straight baserunners and reliever Bryan Baker gave up a game-changing grand slam to Chris Taylor.
The Orioles also missed an opportunity to move up in the standings but remain a game behind first-place Tampa Bay in the American League East because the Rays lost to Texas, 3-2.
For the first five innings, everything seemed to go the Orioles’ way. In the top of the fifth inning, the Orioles successfully challenged a safe call on a grounder to third by Taylor, and Mookie Betts was thrown out at second by centerfielder Aaron Hicks as he tried to stretch a single. In the bottom of the inning, Rutschman hit his 13th home run to give the Orioles a 4-1 lead behind Rodriguez , who had allowed a run on five hits through five.
“I thought he threw the ball really well,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I thought the command has improved. I thought the stuff was excellent. Just had a tough time there in the sixth, but besides that, I thought he threw the ball really, really well. Really excited about him.”
After Rodriguez was sent to Norfolk in late May with a 7.35 earned-run average in 10 major league starts, he began pitching well, and was the International League Pitcher of the Month for June.
“Kind of gather myself and get back to the pitcher that I know I am, and that’s throwing real hard fastballs,” Rodriguez said. “That was something we were able to do tonight, Left a few over the plate there in the sixth, but other than that, it was a little bit better than when I was up here before.”
Ryan Mountcastle’s first-inning RBI double, an infield out by Adam Frazier and Gunnar Henderson’s triple in the second, and Rutschman’s home run against Dodgers starter Emmet Sheehan (3-0) gave the Orioles their three-run lead.
In the sixth, though, Freddie Freeman tripled, Will Smith singled and Max Muncy walked, and Rodriguez was replaced by Baker (3-3) with two on and nobody out.
“I was excited to get back in front of the fans, especially throwing in Camden Yards again,” Rodriguez said. “The fans helped me out a lot there early. I could have done a better job in the sixth. I let them down there.”
Rodriguez eventually was charged with four runs on seven hits in five-plus innings.
“I felt a little more confident coming in the game tonight,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. There are some pitches that I want back, but it happens.
“That’s a loaded lineup. A lot of veterans in it. I’m glad I got to see that. Obviously, it was a challenge … I’m glad that I had that experience.”
After J.D. Martinez and David Peralta each filed to center, Baker walked Jason Heyward to load the bases. He then allowed a grand slam to Taylor on an 0-2 pitch.
“He was throwing the ball well, then he lost Heyward and just made an 0-2 mistake to Taylor there with the lead,” Hyde said.
“Just got a fastball up and didn’t seem like he was really on time with it,” Baker said about Taylor’s at-bat. “Trusted it and tried to get it up and it just didn’t get there. It probably could have been in a better spot. Just a little bit too far out over to give him time to get to it.”
The Orioles (57-36) had just three baserunners after Sheehan, who pitched five innings, left the game.
Yency Almonte, Alex Vesia, Caleb Ferguson and Ryan Brasier combined to allow two hits and a walk in four scoreless innings. Brasier earned his first save with the Dodgers (54-39).
“A lot of guys with big stuff,” Hyde said. “We had four innings to catch up and we didn’t score against their bullpen.”
Rodriguez should get an extended opportunity to start with the Orioles in a playoff push.
“When I was in Norfolk watching all the games, still feel like I’m a part of the team,” Rodriguez said. “Now that I’m back, I’m just trying to help the team win some games. It’s going to be a fun stretch here in the second half.”
Notes: Tyler Wells (7-4, 3.18) will face Michael Grove (1-2, 6.89) on Tuesday night. The game will be available nationally on TBS but won’t be shown in Baltimore or Los Angeles. … Pitcher Austin Voth, who’s on the 15-day injured list with right elbow discomfort, is expected to start on Tuesday in the Florida Complex League.
Horvath signs: Along with Bradfield, the Orioles signed second-round draft choice, University of North Carolina outfielder Mac Horvath, who was the 53rd overall pick.
“I think I’m very athletic and I feel like I’m kind of able to let that play and show in the games,” Horvath said. “Whether that be tracking a fly ball down, throwing a guy out at the plate or stealing a base.”
Question time: I’ll be answering Orioles questions next week. Please email them to: [email protected].