NEW YORK — For as comfortable as Adley Rutschman has looked in big league batter’s boxes, having the kind of lengthy at-bats Orioles manager Brandon Hyde wishes he could receive up and down the lineup, the phenom admits he’s still trying to get settled in as a major leaguer.
“Everything feels a little different right now,” Rutschman said. “But for the most part, I think I’m just trying to compete and just help the team win.”
He gave his best effort Wednesday, as the only Oriole to record multiple hits in a 2-0 loss to the New York Yankees, leaving Baltimore with a third straight series defeat to the American League East leaders.
Rutschman’s first career two-hit game showcased his ability not only to work long at-bats, but also to pounce on strikes. In his first at-bat, he fouled off five straight two-strike pitches before slapping the 10th pitch he saw from Yankees left-hander JP Sears into right field. With one out in the ninth, he sent Clay Holmes’ first offering up the middle, starting a rally that fell short. Holmes’ 96 mph sinker was the 11th fastball thrown to Rutschman, who made contact on all of them, including one for a lineout with an expected batting average of .710 in the sixth.
The 24-year-old is averaging 4.86 pitches per plate appearance thus far. No player who has seen at least 100 pitches this year entered Wednesday with a better mark, and since pitch tracking began in 2008, only eight have finished a season above it. Rutschman, who hit .309 with a .942 OPS across three minor league levels before his promotion, is batting .250 with a .668 OPS, figures that should improve with time and more games like Wednesday’s.
“He controls the strike zone,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “For the most part, he swings at strikes, puts good swings on strikes. Thought he had really good at-bats tonight, a couple hits and the lineout. We just need more of that, and we need guys to be able to get in hitters’ counts.”
It wasn’t a perfect night for Rutschman. In his first major league chance to catch a base stealer, his throw went into center field for an error and allowed a run to score, though it was eventually ruled an earned run. It was the latter of two right-hander Tyler Wells allowed in the fourth inning, the only frame he was scored upon in Wednesday’s five innings paired with Rutschman.
“Adley was great back there,” Wells said. “Me and him were on the same page most of the game. He received it really well. He blocked really well. He’s definitely a great catcher to have behind the plate as far as presence. He’s a wide guy, so he gives a good target. Coming up to us at the end of each and every inning, honestly, it’s kind of a nice touch. It definitely builds that bond between a pitcher and catcher, and I thought he did great tonight.”
Rutschman, though, has steps he wants to take.
“From day one I stepped in the box, just trying to get more comfortable, and I feel like I’ve been able to do that,” Rutschman said. “But just looking forward to mostly just settling in, helping the team win.”
RISP and reward
Wells had held New York to one hit in three scoreless innings before Aaron Judge one-hopped the left field wall for a double to open the fourth. Back-to-back singles from Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andújar brought him home. They accounted for the only hits by either team with a runner in scoring position.
Wells did not allow any further damage, with right fielder Anthony Santander’s dive to rob Judge of a run-scoring hit ending the fifth and Wells’ outing. In three starts against New York, Wells has a 2.57 ERA, though the Orioles have dropped each of those games.
Baltimore’s offense was unable to capitalize on its opportunities. The Orioles put their first two runners on against Sears, making his third major league appearance and first start, but two of the next three batters struck out, though the third strike called on Ryan Mountcastle appeared to be low.
The Orioles again got runners into scoring position against Sears in the second and fifth, but the 26-year-old held them to 0-for-7 in those situations. After two hits in the ninth from Rutschman and Rougned Odor — the latter a bloop into center that gave Odor a career-high-tying 10-game hitting streak — Jorge Mateo struck to end the game and leave Baltimore’s average with runners on either second or third base this season at .198. No team has ever finished a season below .200 in that regard, though the Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays also entered Wednesday under that threshold.
“Couldn’t put good at-bats together with runners in scoring position, which really cost us the game,” Hyde said.
After winning their first series of the year against the Yankees, the Orioles have gone 2-8 against the AL East leaders. The teams don’t meet again until the first series out of the All-Star break, then face each other in the season’s penultimate series.
Thursday marks the Orioles’ first day without a game since May 7. It’s much-needed.
“It’s been a long stretch,” Hyde said. “I thought we played a little tired.”
Around the horn
>> The Orioles claimed right-hander Chris Vallimont from the Minnesota Twins and transferred left-hander Alexander Wells to the 60-day injured list. Vallimont, a 25-year-old starter, struggled immensely with the Twins’ Double-A affiliate after being added to their 40-man roster this offseason, but he’s shown a high strikeout propensity in his career.
Baltimore Orioles Insider
>> Hyde said it’s “definitely probable or possible” the Orioles call up a starter from Triple-A Norfolk to start during the team’s upcoming series against the Boston Red Sox, which features a doubleheader Saturday. Baltimore has an opening in its rotation after placing right-hander Spenser Watkins on the injured list.
>> The Orioles’ series opener against the Red Sox on Friday night will be livestreamed exclusively on Apple TV+ as part of Major League Baseball’s new partnership for its “Friday Night Baseball” package. The games are free to watch through the Apple TV app, the MLB.TV app or by logging in to tv.apple.com with an Apple ID.
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
Stream: Apple TV+
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM