At home plate Monday night, Luke Raley’s right leg met Adley Rutschman’s, and for a moment, the hopes of the Orioles’ bright future fell along with their young catcher.
But moments later, just as quickly as he spun to the ground, Rutschman twirled back to his feet. Such is the resiliency of these Orioles, who made that encounter a footnote in a 5-1 victory to open a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards.
The victory brought Baltimore back to .500, guaranteed a second straight winning month after going nearly five years between them and marked its 48th victory of the season, surpassing the total from the 2018 team that sparked the organization’s rebuild in 66 fewer games.
That 115-loss campaign granted the Orioles the first overall pick in the next summer’s draft, spent on a player in Rutschman who immediately became the face of the project. Since Rutschman arrived in the majors two months ago, the Orioles have been a more successful team, going 32-24.
A comebacker from Tampa Bay’s Brett Phillips briefly seemed as if it might derail that, with the bases-loaded grounder forcing a play at the plate. Although the throw from Orioles starter Austin Voth beat Raley to the plate, it did not come in time for Rutschman to step out of the path of his slide, with Raley clipping Rutschman and sending him to the ground. He got up without issue moments later, only after the 9,606 fans in attendance and many more at home collectively held their breath.
Little else came of the incident the rest of the night, with the exception of the boos rained on Raley, the Rays’ designated hitter, in each of his subsequent at-bats. A half-inning after, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs and got on the board with Rougned Odor’s sacrifice fly. Maryland product Brandon Lowe answered in the top of the third with a home run off Voth.
That was Voth’s final inning, giving way to a bullpen that went unscathed over the final six innings. That allowed Baltimore to capitalize on another scoring opportunity in the fifth.
After a pitch grazed Rutschman to load the bases, Ryan Mountcastle singled into center, with Cedric Mullins soaring home to deliver Mountcastle a second RBI on the hit. Anthony Santander followed with a grounder to first, but Ji-Man Choi’s throw to second hit a running Mountcastle, sending the ball into left field as Rutschman scored and both runners advanced. Austin Hays plated Mountcastle with a line drive to left that served as a sacrifice fly.
The Orioles announced Sunday that their whole 40-man roster was vaccinated against COVID-19. The team previously had to place outfielder Anthony Santander and relief pitcher Keegan Akin on the restricted list when it went to Canada, which unvaccinated players are not allowed to enter, to play the Toronto Blue Jays. Players placed on the restricted list do not receive pay or service time for games missed.
Hyde said he was unsure if the Orioles’ competitive upswing since their previous trip to Toronto caused any change of heart for unvaccinated players. The club next visits the Blue Jays Aug. 15 to 17.
“That’s a personal choice by them,” Hyde said before the game. “I didn’t talk to them about where we are standings-wise or anything like that. That was something that we had talked about in the past, but I was happy to hear that, and like I said, that’s a choice by those two guys. I’m proud of our club for being fully vaccinated.”
>> The Orioles recalled left-hander Nick Vespi from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned right-hander Rico Garcia. Vespi worked 1 2/3 of the bullpen’s six shutout innings Monday, striking out four.
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>> First baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini was out of Monday’s lineup because Hyde felt “he’s been pressing a little bit lately.” Mancini is hitless in 20 at-bats over his past five games.
>> Shortstop Jonathan Araúz, playing for the first time since July 8, exited the game in the eighth inning after being thrown out at second base trying to extend a hit off the right field wall into a double.
This story will be updated.
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