Orioles rookie DJ Stewart collected his first major league hit in unique fashion Tuesday night — a routine single to right field that the Blue Jays turned into a Little League home run when he scored after two errors.
“It was run, stop, run, stop — ‘Hey, you’re safe at home, go home.’ So I didn’t even really get to process the fact that I just got my first major league hit,” Stewart said. “It was just going so fast, just the way the play developed.”
The hit broke what had been a frustrating skid for the Orioles’ 2015 first-round draft pick, who went hitless in his first 15 plate appearances in the majors since he was added to the roster a week ago Tuesday as the Orioles returned home from a long road trip. He said when he arrived that the stat line wouldn’t tell the whole story about him, and that he was a complete player who was smart on the bases and could help the team after he reached as well. His first hit was an example of that.
He came to the plate with one run already in in the fourth inning thanks to a leadoff triple by Trey Mancini and a sacrifice fly by Breyvic Valera. Chris Davis was on first base with one out after being hit by a pitch.
Stewart yanked a 2-2 breaking ball through the right side of the infield for a base hit, and Davis was heading to third when the throw from right fielder Billy McKinney was too high at second base. Stewart alertly followed to second base as the throw went into short left field, and Aaron Sanchez, the pitcher who was backing up third base, threw home.
His attempt to cut down Davis at the plate went past catcher Reese McGuire and into the photo well beside the Orioles dugout, so Stewart, who was on his way to third base, was granted home to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead.
“He’s a pretty well-rounded player,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He does a lot of things well. We had a lot of good things happen that inning, and just couldn’t make it stand up.”
Stewart said the wait for his first hit wasn’t weighing on him much as it stretched to his fifth game.
“Not really, I was actually talking to [rookie pitcher] Josh Rogers in the dugout about it,” Stewart said. “The weight wasn’t really on me for it, because I felt good in the box pretty much every at-bat. It’s a little bit different if you’re not getting hits and feeling really, really bad, but I felt comfortable the entire time and haven’t been able to find a hole. Luckily, I was able to tonight.”
According to the Society for Baseball Research (SABR), there were 359 confirmed Little League home runs in major league history through the end of the 2017 season, defined as plays in which the batter scores when two errors were committed on the play, or the batter scores when only one error is committed on a non-extra base hit but the error is committed by someone who is not an outfielder.
Outfielder Seth Smith had the last for an Oriole on April 29, 2017, against Tampa Bay on a routine single to center field that was followed by a series of throwing errors by the Rays, per SABR research. Others in Orioles history to score on such a play include Brooks Robinson (May 30, 1966, against the Minnesota Twins), Boog Powell (Aug. 11, 1955, against the New York Yankees), and Bob Boyd (May 11, 1959, against the Washington Senators).