Adley Rutschman has arrived.
Sure, the top prospect in baseball and the Orioles’ farm system reached the majors more than a month ago. But the player who inspired all that hype has been bubbling in recent days, coming to the surface in full force in Thursday night’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox. Rutschman homered and added an RBI double to supply Baltimore’s first three runs and caught the Orioles’ third shutout in six games in a 4-0 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“He’s a type of talent that can change the dynamic of a clubhouse when he gets hot, which he will pretty soon,” starting pitcher Dean Kremer said. “He’s definitely a game-changer both behind the dish and at the plate.”
The performance was the greatest evidence yet that Rutschman’s bat is approaching the lofty expectations placed upon it when he first joined the Orioles (32-39). Over the past two weeks, Rutschman is batting .326/.370/.651, with 10 of his 14 hits going for extra bases. Baltimore is 16-15 since promoting him to the majors.
“I’m a very process-oriented person,” Rutschman said. “I’m just gonna continue to try and get better every day. It’s a learning process, and there’s gonna be a lot of ups and downs in baseball. You’re just trying to stay as consistent as you can.”
Added manager Brandon Hyde: “Any young player — he’s really talented — there’s always an adjustment period in the big leagues. He’s gonna have his ups and downs, but he’s got big-time tools and a ton of ability. You saw the power tonight. And he just caught a shutout. He’s a rookie. It’s his second one in a week, so he’s been great.”
He snapped a scoreless tie in the fourth inning. With one out, Ryan Mountcastle — who entered play tied for the American League lead in extra-base hits for the month — doubled, taking third on an error in the outfield. That added base proved meaningless, with Rutschman driving a Johnny Cueto cutter a projected 402 feet to right field at 107 mph for his second major league home run.
Another Mountcastle knock in the sixth chased Cueto and put two on for Rutschman, who lashed Reynaldo Lopez’s third pitch down the first base line. It scored Austin Hays, who offensively couldn’t match the cycle he posted Wednesday but dazzled defensively once again.
Rutschman, too, was sharp with his glove, catching Kremer’s second straight shutout start and the scoreless innings Félix Bautista, Dillon Tate and Jorge López provided behind him. Having pitched six clean frames in his previous outing and 5 2/3 more Thursday, Kremer became only the third Oriole since 2019 with consecutive scoreless starts of at least five innings. Rutschman helped him navigate traffic on the bases throughout the night.
“With me, he likes to keep it pretty light,” Kremer said. “Like, we laugh and giggle, whatever, even in some of the most serious times.”
It marked Baltimore’s seventh shutout in its first 71 games, the club’s most in that span in 25 years. Rutschman has caught three of the past four.
“I think whether you have a good day at the plate or a bad day at the plate, there’s always things you can do to contribute to the team, whether you’re playing or not,” Rutschman said. “That’s the kind of the controllable aspect that I try to take into every day, and that stays consistent whether you’re in Double-A, Triple-A or the big leagues. I think that’s something that doesn’t really change that you thought might.”
Hays again … and again
If the word to not run on Hays’ arm in the outfield is spreading around the league, it seemingly hasn’t made its way to Chicago yet.
After throwing out a runner at third base while playing center field Wednesday, Hays kept a run off Kremer’s line with a perfect throw home a half-inning after Rutschman’s homer. He wasn’t done defensively, diving across the chalk of the right field line to grab Jake Burger’s fly in the eighth.
Hays’ six outfield assists are the second most in the majors, trailing only Cleveland outfielder Myles Straw’s eight. Baltimore’s 16 outfield assists are tied with the Texas Rangers for the most of any team.
“He’s got so much carry, and then the accuracy, you just don’t see that very often,” Hyde said. “Feels like he’s making a defensive play a night, and he made two tonight.”
Hays’ night was part of a collective defensive showcase from the Orioles’ outfield, with center fielder Cedric Mullins and left fielder Anthony Santander also ranging for several difficult catches to support Baltimore’s pitching staff. Mullins provided Baltimore’s final run with an RBI single in the ninth.
“They’re playing Gold Glove defense,” Hyde said. “They won us to game tonight defensively.”
Around the horn
>> Right-hander Austin Voth will make his second start for the Orioles on Friday to fill Baltimore’s open rotation spot. Rookie Kyle Bradish will start Saturday.
>> Orioles prospect Terrin Vavra homered to open Norfolk’s game but left after he was hit in the head with a pitch in his next plate appearance.
>> Right-hander Matt Harvey threw six scoreless innings for High-A Aberdeen in his 2022 debut. Harvey, on a minor league contract, is serving a suspension for violating the league’s drug policy through July 7 but is able to pitch at levels beneath Triple-A before that.
>> The Orioles traded minor league infielder Patrick Dorrian to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations.
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