(Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
Baltimore right-hander Grayson Rodriguez will look to continue his recent good form on Thursday night when the visiting Orioles open a four-game series against the Cleveland Guardians.
Rodriguez (6-4, 4.53 ERA) improved to 4-1 in his past six starts when he tossed a career-high eight innings in an 8-0 romp over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. The 23-year-old rookie scattered five hits and struck out seven without walking a batter.
That was quite a performance from Rodriguez, who struggled out of the blocks after entering the season as Baseball America's second-rated pitching prospect. He posted a 2-2 record and a 7.35 ERA in his first 10 starts before being demoted to the minors.
"He's a tough kid, and that was a tough pill for him to swallow with all the expectations this year," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said, per the Baltimore Sun. "Give him a ton of credit for dealing with that, looking in the mirror a little bit, understanding that there's some work to do, not a finished product.
"Still got some work to do, but he is going to be an excellent starting pitcher in this game for a long time."
Rodriguez will make his 22nd start of the season and the first of his career vs. Cleveland.
The Orioles (95-57) received a strong pitching performance from Kyle Bradish on Wednesday before seeing their four-game winning streak end in a 2-1 setback to the Houston Astros.
Although his team's desired result wasn't achieved in the finale at Houston, Orioles second baseman Adam Frazier said winning the series was a "big deal."
"We know there's a good chance we'll see 'em again in a couple weeks (in the playoffs)," Frazier said, according to the Sun. "But until then, we've got to finish strong."
The Orioles' lead in the American League East remained 2 1/2 games over the Tampa Bay Rays (93-60), who lost 8-3 to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.
The Guardians (72-81) followed a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers by losing all three contests in a set against the 102-loss Kansas City Royals to open the week. The setbacks cut Cleveland's tragic number to one, leaving the Minnesota Twins on the verge of clinching the AL Central title.
"I think it's just baseball," Guardians manager Terry Francona said after the team's 6-2 loss to the Royals on Wednesday. "If you asked (Rangers manager) Bruce Bochy, he'd probably say the same thing. They swept Toronto and came into Cleveland and got swept.
"When you don't play the way you're supposed to, you generally get beat."
Cleveland's Josh Naylor has played well since returning from the injured list at the start of the month. He went 2-for-4 on Wednesday and is 21-for-61 (.344) with two homers, 14 RBIs and eight runs in September.
Naylor went 4-for-5 with a homer, two doubles, six RBIs and three runs in Cleveland's 12-8 victory at Baltimore on May 31 in the rubber match of the three-game series.
The Guardians hadn't officially named their starting pitcher for the series opener as of Wednesday night, although right-hander Hunter Gaddis (2-1, 4.85 ERA) likely will be summoned from Triple-A Columbus to get the nod.
Gaddis, 25, last pitched for Cleveland on Aug. 29. He allowed one run on four hits in three innings to pick up a 4-2 win over the Twins.
Gaddis has yet to face the Orioles in his career.
--Field Level Media