What they're saying about Grayson Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson and Orioles' 2-0 win over Yankees - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

What they’re saying about Grayson Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson and Orioles’ 2-0 win over Yankees

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE—What happened? Grayson Rodriguez pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and got a big lift from his bullpen as the Orioles defeated the New York Yankees, 2-0, to move into first place in the American League East.

The Orioles and Yankees play four games this week. They’ll play 13 times this season.

Shortstop Gunnar Henderson led off the bottom of the first with a home run, and Henderson scored the second run after he was hit by a pitch in the eighth, moved to second on a single by Adley Rutschman and tagged up to advance to third on a fly ball to right field. He scored when New York shortstop Anthony Volpe booted Anthony Santander’s grounder.

“It’s definitely a fun atmosphere,” Henderson said. “AL East rivals, it’s fun to get the first game.”

“We pitched so well against a really tough lineup,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

How good was Rodriguez? Rodriguez is 4-1 after throwing 101 pitches, equaling his career high.

“Grayson was absolutely outstanding,” Hyde said. “Really good fastball and changeup tonight. I thought he kept them off balance extremely well. He pitched out of a couple of jams, too, against the middle of the order.”

Rodriguez is a far better pitcher than the Orioles saw early in 2023.

“Better command of his pitches,” Hyde said. “More experience. When he doesn’t have certain pitches, he has other things to go to.”

In Rodriguez’s previous start, he allowed seven runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Angels.

“That last start was a strange one,” Hyde said. “It just didn’t go his way. Tonight was more of Grayson being able to front-to-back guys, being able to sit on one pitch. The fastball’s got a ton of life.

“When it gets to the top of the zone, it’s tough to hit, and the changeup, he’s got really good arm speed. He threw some nice sliders. He’s got a curveball, too. Being unpredictable and being able to throw strikes with four pitches.”

Rodriguez struck out three, a season low, and equaled his season high with three walks.

“A little wild, trying to find the strike zone,” Rodriguez said. “Any time you can face a lineup like that, especially in the division, you’re in for a dogfight, and that’s what that was.”

Henderson was impressed that Rodriguez came back so strong after getting roughed up by the Angels.

“Coming off his last start, he proved a lot right there,” he said. “Just shows the mentality he has and the type of pitcher he is.”

What’s the latest with Craig Kimbrel? Kimbrel didn’t pitch because of back soreness. Hyde called the injury “day-to-day” and hopes the 35-year-old closer will be able to avoid the injured list.

The Orioles activated left-hander Cionel Pérez, who threw a scoreless inning, from the 15-day injured list and optioned right-hander Dillon Tate to Triple-A Norfolk.

How did the Orioles manage the bullpen without Kimbrel? Pérez threw a scoreless inning. Yennier Cano retired the first four batters he faced before allowing a single to Gleyber Torres leading off the ninth, and Danny Coulombe polished off his three batters for the save.

“it’s definitely a new territory for me,” Coulombe said. “Any time you get to pitch in a leverage situation, that’s why you play this game. With Kimbrel’s down, it’s going to be a team effort.”

Coulombe had two saves last year, and knew he had a chance for another.

“Looking at the lineup, I kind of knew where they wanted to put me,” he said. “Cano had his guys. They had me ready for my situation, so it was the seventh inning. I knew if it stayed the same, it would probably be me.”

Hyde lauded the bullpen.

“Great to see Cionel Pérez back throwing the ball like we know he can,” Hyde said. “What can you see about Yenny Cano? He won us the game, pitches four of the biggest outs of the game against the biggest part of the order and great to see Danny get three quick outs.”

Hyde wasn’t sure that Coulombe would be his closer.

“I slotted certain guys in certain spots in certain part of the game, but it was how we did it in September last year,” Hyde said. “It was going to be committee and have Cano face a certain part of the lineup, give him the tough task, honesty and have some lefties there to navigate around him.”

What are the big numbers for Henderson? Henderson hit his third leadoff run of the season. Those leadoff home runs aren’t why Hyde bats him first.

“I just want to see him hit as much as possible,” Hyde said. “You put him and Adley [Rutschman] up at the top of the lineup, they’re going to get a ton of at-bats.”

Henderson is having fun getting things started offensively.

“I got to lead off a little bit last year,” Henderson said. “That was my first taste of it. I’m kind of enjoying it and trying to help the team get on the board early.”

What’s the word? “He’s 22 years old, too. It’s pretty scary how good this guy’s going to be, how good he is already.”-Hyde on Henderson

What does it mean? It’s always a measuring stick for the Orioles when they beat the Yankees.

“A lot of stacked lineups in this division,” Rodriguez said. “That’s one of the best in the league.”

What’s the stat of the day? Henderson is the youngest player in baseball history to hit 10 home runs before May 1st.

What’s next? Dean Kremer (1-2, 4.61) will face Nestor Cortes (1-2, 3.50) on Tuesday night at 6:35.

Call for questions: Each weekday, I’ll be answering at least one Orioles’ question. Please send yours to: [email protected]

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