Elliott Brown/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

BALTIMORE — In the midst of their worst stretch of baseball this season, the Baltimore Orioles had to turn to their highly-touted rookie starter, one who had been demoted a month into the season, to try and stop the negative momentum that had the team on the edge of losing first place in their division for the first time in almost two months.

The one thing about youth, however, is that it might not know that it is not supposed to thrive in such pressure situations, and for Grayson Rodriguez, his biggest start in his young career turned out to be, undoubtedly, his best. Even better, a fellow too-young-to-know-better neophyte all but cemented his Rookie of the Year status with another power display at the plate to go along with the stellar pitching.

Grayson Rodriguez was dominant in throwing eight shutout innings, while Henderson capped off the Orioles’ three-run second inning with a two-run blast as Baltimore shutout the Tampa Bay Rays 8-0 to reclaim sole possession of first place in the American League East division. The win not only continued the Orioles’ streak of not being swept in any series this season, but also clinched the season series with Tampa Bay, possessing the all-important tiebreaker in case the teams finished tied at the end of the season. (The AL East winner likely will earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs in the American League, bypassing the Wild Card round and earning home field advantage until the World Series.)

Baltimore, in the midst of a season-high-tying four-game losing streak coming into Saturday, had combined for just nine hits in its last three games, including two in last night’s 7-1 defeat to the Rays. The Orioles had three hits after the first eight batters tonight, including Ryan O’Hearn’s single in the first inning to score Henderson to get Baltimore off to a 1-0 lead.

Against one of the premier power pitchers in the game in the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow, the Orioles pounced on him early and often and, eventually, got the big breakthrough in the second inning. Starting with two outs and nobody on, Ramón Urias singled and moved to second on a Glasnow wild pitch. No. 9 hitter Adam Frazier followed with a single to center to score Urias and double the Orioles’ lead.

On the very next pitch, Henderson cracked a 91-mile-per-hour slider deep into centerfield for his 27th homer of the season, tying him for third place among shortstops for home runs during their rookie season in Major League history.

Those four runs in the first two innings were more than enough for Rodriguez, who did not walk a batter while striking out seven in the longest outing of his career.

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Tags : Baltimore OriolesGrayson RodriguezGunnar HendersonMajor League BaseballTampa Bay Rays

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