BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles are one game away from playoff elimination, but they can perhaps take solace in one of the most impressive aspects of their 101-win season: They weren’t swept in a series all season. Indeed, they haven’t been swept in a series since catcher Adley Rutschman was called up in late May of 2022.
“It’s a pretty significant feat to go that long without it happening,” outfielder Austin Hays said following Sunday’s 11-8 loss to the Texas Rangers in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. “I think it’s a byproduct of us being able to always turn the page and move on from what happened the day before. Just reset and focus on the next game.”
Of course, the Orioles will not need to just avoid a sweep. They’ll have to win three games in a row to move on. They’ll also have to do it after a poor pitching performance on Sunday. Orioles pitchers walked 11 batters, including Corey Seager a postseason-record five times. Eight pitchers combined to throw 206 pitches. Rookie starter Grayson Rodriguez, who had been so good in the second half with a 2.58 ERA, struggled with his fastball command and got knocked out in a five-run second inning, issuing four walks and six hits while recording just five outs.
Mitch Garver added a third-inning grand slam to give the Rangers a 9-2 lead, and a late Baltimore rally in the ninth inning fell short.
“Our backs are against the wall right now, and tonight wasn’t our best night on the mound,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “We haven’t played our two best games here. We played well on the road all year, so hopefully we can play well on the road.”
The odds are against the Orioles mounting a series comeback. The Rangers are the 32nd team to win the first two games of a best-of-five series on the road; 28 of the previous 31 went on to win the series.
“There is no tomorrow. I feel like that’s how our team played all year, honestly,” Hays said. “We’re just going to play with our hair on fire and win three in a row.”
Rodriguez came out firing: His first pitch was 100 mph. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, but his inability to get ahead of hitters came back to bite him in the second inning.
“I was just spraying fastballs and not hitting the zone consistently, so it was just not working for me,” Rodriguez said. “We were trying to be aggressive and induce early contact, make them put them on the ground, that was the goal.”
Hyde brought in reliever Bryan Baker to start the third inning. Baker had last pitched for the Orioles on Sept. 15 — after which he was sent down to Triple-A. He made two appearances there, allowing seven runs over 1⅔ innings. He faced four batters and walked three of them. Jacob Webb, who served up a home run in Game 1 to Josh Jung, entered to face Garver, and Garver slugged a 3-1 fastball for the grand slam.
“In the third inning, I had a lot of game left,” Hyde said. “Started with Baker against the bottom of the order there, I was hoping he’d give us an inning. That didn’t work out.”
Also not working out: solving Seager, the Rangers’ best hitter, who hit .317/.390/.623 and walked twice in Game 1 and went 4-for-8 with two walks and three doubles in the two-game wild-card sweep of the Rays. Seager walked on six pitches against Rodriguez in the first inning, walked on another full count in the second, walked on five pitches against Baker in the third, walked on five pitches against Jack Flaherty in the fifth and drew his hard-earned record-breaking fifth walk after a nine-pitch battle against Yennier Cano in the ninth inning.
Seventeen times in postseason history a player had drawn four walks in a game — including David Ortiz twice — but Seager became the first with a five-walk game.
“He’s a really good hitter, so we’re trying to be careful,” Rutschman said. “We want to try to execute our game plan, but it probably just has to be a little more precise with him, so that probably led to more walks.”
Seager isn’t normally known for his patience.
“We know he likes to swing the bat,” Garver said. “I think it was his fifth at-bat and he chased a 2-0 heater that was above his eyes. So I think at that point he kind of wanted to hit.”
As impressive as the Rangers have looked in their four postseason games — they’re hitting .272/.376/.456 and have scored 25 runs — those four games were all on the road. They return home for the first time after two weeks — and they love to hit at Globe Life Field, where they hit 53 more home runs than they did on the road. It might be a tough order for the Orioles to avoid their first sweep of the season.
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