BALTIMORE — Entering Friday, 92% of the Orioles’ games this year had been decided by four runs or fewer. Night in and night out, they have played close games, and night in and night out, they have often won.
In their series opener at Camden Yards against the Texas Rangers on Friday night, though, the Orioles played by far their most lopsided game of the year. Grayson Rodriguez allowed three home runs — including a fourth-inning grand slam to Rangers star shortstop Corey Seager — and eight earned runs as Baltimore fell, 12-2.
Before Friday, the largest margin in an Orioles game this season was a 6-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals earlier this month.
With an announced crowd of 20,293 witnessing the Orioles debut their all-black — albeit with a colorful interior — City Connect uniforms, Adley Rutschman gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead with a first-inning home run.
But in the next frame, Rodriguez allowed a two-run homer to Leody Taveras, and in a nightmarish fourth inning, the Rangers piled it on. Josh Jung tripled on a ball misplayed by right fielder Anthony Santander, Josh Smith singled and Robbie Grossman homered. Then the damage really began.
A walk, a hit and an error by shortstop Jorge Mateo — who could have ended the inning by turning a double play — loaded the bases for Seager, one of the highest-paid players in baseball. Rodriguez left his first pitch, a cutter, in the middle of the zone and Seager tattooed it 437 feet to right-center field for the fate-sealing grand slam.
By the time another run crossed the plate, it was an eight-run barrage from the Rangers.
It was the second time in three days that the Orioles were involved in an eight-run inning, as Baltimore tallied as many against the New York Yankees in Wednesday’s win.
Friday marked the third time this month that Rodriguez has allowed at least six earned runs without completing the fourth inning. In 3 1/3 innings Friday, he allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 83 pitches. After posting a 4.07 ERA in five April starts, Rodriguez has had a rough time in his five May starts, recording an ERA of 11.14.
Austin Voth pitched in relief, allowing one earned run in 3 1/3 innings. Cionel Pérez then pitched a scoreless eighth.
Meanwhile, Rangers right-hander Jon Gray continued his strong season by pitching seven innings of one-run ball, allowing four hits and striking out eight. The Orioles mounted a mini-comeback in the eighth against reliever John King as hits from Ryan O’Hearn, Rutschman and Terrin Vavra scored a run. After a single by Ryan Mountcastle, Ramón Urias — playing in his first game in weeks after a hamstring injury — batted with the bases loaded, but grounded out.
In the ninth inning, a position player pitched for the Orioles for the first time this season. Rather than use a reliever in a one-sided game, manager Brandon Hyde opted to send outfielder Ryan McKenna to the mound.
McKenna lofted in much-slower-than-batting-practice pitches, with some of his offerings registering as low as 34 mph, allowing two runs in the final frame before inducing an inning-ending double play, much to the crowd’s delight.
Orioles debut City Connect uniforms
The Orioles played for the first time Friday in their City Connect uniforms, which have been met with mixed reviews from fans.
Ahead of the game, relief pitcher Bryan Baker described the uniforms, which are all-black but have a colorfully patterned interior, as “right up my alley” since he likes to keep things simple.
“They have just the right amount of pizzazz, I guess,” he said. “A little bit of flair. I think they look sharp.”
First baseman Ryan Mountcastle noted that the black uniforms made it easy to match and Gunnar Henderson, an Alabama native, likened the interior to camouflage. “I’m from the South, so I like my camo,” he said.
The Orioles will again wear the uniforms Saturday and each home Friday this season.
Ramón Urias returns
Urias (hamstring) was reinstated off the IL ahead of Friday’s game and entered the lineup at second base in the eighth inning, his first appearance since May 8. To make room on the roster, infielder Joey Ortiz was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Friday that Ortiz did “nothing to deserve” being sent down.
“He came up and helped us win a bunch of games both times and he’s gonna do it again,” Elias said. “He looks like he fits in the major leagues.”
Mullins back in lineup
Cedric Mullins was back in the lineup Friday after missing Thursday’s game because of personal reasons, Hyde said. It marked the first absence of the season for Mullins, who entered Friday with an OPS of .865.