To hear the Orioles tell it, the joy Austin Wynns brought to an otherwise joyless season Tuesday went a long way toward setting the tone in a 2-1 win over the New York Mets at Citi Field that ended a seven-game losing streak.
Rookie debuts shouldn't be relied on to provide that all the time. There’s only so many prospects and so many roster spots, even if the season still has four months to go.
But what the Orioles have gotten over four starts from David Hess and just a few days with Wynns around goes to show that before the hard part of acclimating minor league prospects to the big league level begins, the moments they provide might be able to jolt this sleepy team out of its trance, too.
"I think when seasons are as difficult as they've been for us throughout this past stretch, this run that we've been on, you look for little shots of energy when you see a rookie come up, and the excitement on their face, that really energizes you,” starting pitcher Alex Cobb said. “I've had my own issues that I've been dealing with where I wanted to go out there and have success, but having him out there making his debut, I felt like I wanted to make that a memorable night for him."
Wynns took care of that himself, knocking a single in the second inning that gave the Orioles two runners on with no one out. He stood on first base and gestured toward where he thought his family and friends would be, and said he told them he loved them.
Told his mother was caught on camera waving back and blowing a kiss, Wynns said: "She blew me a kiss? Oh, my God. That's my mom."
"It was just all smiles," Wynns said. "I was like, 'Wow.’ Just took it in, took a deep breath and was like, 'Wow.' Words couldn't even describe it. It was just a weight off my shoulders, too. It was incredible."
Back in the dugout, he said, "everyone was smiling, just happy for me.
"It was just great. I just want to do well, defensive side," Wynns said. "If I hit, I hit. It was cool. Very cool."
Manager Buck Showalter said the whole team was buoyed by Wynns' approach to the day.
"He brought a lot of energy to the game," Showalter said. "It’s so — not ‘refreshing’ — [but] sometimes we can all get too cool for school, and here’s a guy who didn’t mind anybody knowing how excited he was to be called up to the big leagues, but he was completely under control.
"When we left the hotel today, he was sitting out there in that little, I don’t know what they call them, those café things. And somebody asked him what he was doing and he said, ‘I’m just taking [it] in.’ I think that’s beautiful.”
Wynns said the whole day featured moments he'd remember, and he told veteran center fielder Adam Jones the same thing when they first walked onto the field.
"He was like, 'Take it in, kid,' " Wynns said. "I was like: 'Yeah. I'm taking it in.' "
Luckily for all parties, the on-field contributions from Wynns, who called a good game behind the plate and had one of the team's six hits, matched what he did off it. The same has gone for Hess, who has a 3.47 ERA in four starts while providing a little bit of earnest, youthful energy to a battle-weathered rotation.
The Orioles will hope they can find that spark internally to string together more nights like Tuesday before the roster turnover that seems imminent begins. Until then, there’s a feel to games such as this one that can drive the day.
"It's just a fun experience," Cobb said. "Whenever a rookie comes up, it brings back some nostalgia and you think about ... he asked me if I remember my debut like I was a 35-year-old, on my way out. I had to tell him, ‘I'm not that old. It wasn't that long ago.’ It's just fun to watch him get that joy and excitement that we all had and got to experience.”