SAN DIEGO—The Orioles hope that pitcher Grayson Rodriguez has many more nights like Monday. Rodriguez seemingly toyed with the San Diego Padres, holding them to three hits in seven innings.
It was the third straight win for the Orioles, 4-1 over the Padres before an announced crowd of 38,176 at Petco Park.
The seven innings was a career best for Rodriguez (3-3), who won for the first time since May 9th. He hadn’t won in his previous eight starts.
“I think wins are nice, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really depict how your season goes,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just glad we could get some runs and get my guys off the field so they can get in there and hit. It helps them out a lot when they’re not standing around too long.”
The game was played briskly in two hours, 16 minutes, the fifth fastest of the season.
Rodriguez gave up a single to Fernando Tatis Jr. in the first, a single to Xander Bogaerts in the second, and Garrett Cooper’s leadoff home run in the sixth. He struck out six and walked one, Bogaerts, with two outs in the seventh.
“That’s his best start of the year, hands down,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Total command from start to finish.”
Rodriguez contributed to the snappy pace by retiring 11 straight between Bogaerts’ single and Cooper’s home run. His fastball touched 101 mph.
“It’s the summertime, I guess,” Rodriguez said. “Ever since 2019 and Low-A to Bowie and everywhere else, August has been my best month for velo. We’re going to keep that going and hopefully we’re going to carry that into September and when October gets here.”
Rodriguez was sent to Triple-A Norfolk in late May and returned after the All-Star break because he was struggling.
“I think that was probably the best thing for me,” he said. “I feel more like myself. That first stint in the big leagues, I really don’t like to say that was me. After going back to Norfolk and working with [pitching coach] Justin Ramsey on all that stuff, kind of getting back to being myself, making sure that makes the trip back up to the big leagues.”
The Orioles (74-45) are a season-high 29 games over .500 and lead the Tampa Bay Rays by three games. The Rays beat San Francisco, 10-2.
“The confidence is pretty high when we keep putting that lineup out there,” Rodriguez said. “As a pitcher, it makes it a lot easier seeing these guys hit. Obviously, the defense stands out.”
Ryan O’Hearn led off the second with a long drive to right field for his 10th home run against Yu Darvish (8-8). O’Hearn has 40 RBIs, a career high.
Playing first, O’Hearn had a nice view of Rodriguez’s mastery.
“Electric stuff, obviously,” O’Hearn said. “From my angle it’s cool to see how effortless it looks.”
Gunnar Henderson’s bases-loaded double scored Aaron Hicks, Jordan Westburg and Adley Rutschman in the fifth for a 4-0 lead.
When Darvish struck out Cedric Mullins to end the sixth, it was his 1,919th strikeout, passing Hideo Nomo for most by a Japanese-born pitcher.
Jacob Webb pitched a scoreless eighth and Félix Bautista pitched a scoreless ninth for his 32nd save.
O’Hearn has never played for a winning team. In his first five seasons, the Kansas City Royals, his previous team, never came close to a .500 record.
“It’s so much. I can’t really describe it other than that,” O’Hearn said. “It’s so much fun showing up to the yard expecting to win from the first pitch. You’ve got confidence in every guy in the field, every guy in the lineup. The pitchers have been unbelievable, and when you have a lead late, I feel extremely confident in the guys coming out of the ‘pen. They’re going to come in and do the job. Overall, it’s been unbelievable. I’m enjoying every night, and obviously enjoying every win.”
Notes: The win ensured that the Orioles wouldn’t get swept for their 78th consecutive series, fifth-most in baseball history. … Jack Flaherty (8-7, 4.33) will face Michael Wacha (8-2, 2.84) on Tuesday night at 9:40.
A starter in relief? Since the Orioles went to six starters on Saturday, their bullpen has been reduced from eight pitchers to seven. Hyde might consider using a starter as a reliever if the situation warrants.
“I think it’s possible if we run into a tough spot, a starter maybe goes short and we play three extra-inning games in six days,” he said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re really day-to-day with everything. It’s not easy with seven guys in the bullpen. We’ve done a good job up to this point. We really feel it’s important to get our starters, especially our young starters, to get an extra day or two of rest in between starts coming down the stretch. We’ll see how long it lasts.”
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