Big events may come in threes, and so apparently do hitless outings for the Class A Delmarva starting rotation. Second-ranked Orioles prospectGrayson Rodriguez became the third straight Shorebirds pitcher to not allow a hit in his start, giving up a run on a walk with seven strikeouts over six innings to
Big events may come in threes, and so apparently do hitless outings for the Class A Delmarva starting rotation.
Second-ranked Orioles prospectGrayson Rodriguez became the third straight Shorebirds pitcher to not allow a hit in his start, giving up a run on a walk with seven strikeouts over six innings to help Delmarva roll to a 3-1 win over Lakewood on Thursday at FirstEnergy Park.
"We were able to locate, we located the fastball well," Rodriguez said. "As a team, we played great defense. There were a lot of balls hit hard and the defense was definitely behind me."
On Tuesday, it was Gray Fenter who got the ball rolling with five perfect frames and a career-high 11 strikeouts. The next day No. 19 Orioles prospect Drew Rom carried the torch with five more hitless innings.
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Rodriguez (10-4) took control of the hill Thursday and did not miss a beat, even after a small rough patch in last Friday's outing against Hagerstown, when he yielded four runs in 4 2/3 frames. But back in control against the BlueClaws, MLB.com's No. 45 overall prospect threw 56 of his 84 pitches for strikes while facing three over the minimum.
The recent stretch of dominance from the Shorebirds staff is nothing new, Rodriguez said. The club leads the South Atlantic League with a 2.97 ERA, 1,342 strikeouts and a 1.17 WHIP. From top to bottom, they've gotten contributions from plenty of different arms, and the past few games have only been an improvement on a solid foundation.
"All year, our rotation has been great," the Texas native said. "Everybody's been pitching great and the bullpen has been phenomenal. All of our pitchers, it seems like all of them have been running together at once for the whole year. ... It's fun, it's really fun. Showing up to the clubhouse every day, it's something to look forward to, because you know whoever is on the mound is going to throw a good game."
Back behind the plate was the No. 1 overall pick in the June First-Year Player Draft, Adley Rutschman. It was only the second time Rodriguez and the top Orioles prospect have worked together, but the two took the gameplan developed by Delmarva pitching coach Justin Ramsey and ran with it. They haven't been teammates for long, but Rodriguez said the two have gelled well so far and Thursday only amplified that.
"He's definitely an experienced catcher," the starter said. "The catchers and our pitching coach go over the scouting report before each game. Him calling pitches back there, I didn't have to shake any. We were pretty much on the same page. He's a pretty easy target to throw to.
"When you're already linked with somebody like that after not having a lot of experience, it's huge. It's a big confidence booster."
After two scoreless frames to start the game, Rodriguez faced his only real trouble in the third. Seth Lancaster drew a leadoff free pass and Juan Aparicio bounced a grounder to third that Toby Welk made a throwing error on to put runners on the corner. Malvin Matos then drove in Lancaster with a sacrifice fly to left. The 19-year-old escaped further damage by recording back-to-back strikeouts to end the night.
Rodriguez settled in after the blip, retiring the final 12 batters he faced. It closed out his third hitless outing of the month, which has comprised 14 of his 21 2/3 innings in August. Overall, the righty sports a 2.68 ERA with the fifth-most strikeouts (129) in the South Atlantic League. On Wednesday, he was named the circuit's Most Outstanding MLB Prospect and the top right-handed pitcher.
"I kinda felt confident with all of my pitches," Rodriguez said. "I was able to throw strikes -- a few of them -- so that always helps. The pitch calling was great and we were able to execute."
The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder's stint marked his longest start since he went seven frames on May 27 against Hagerstown. With his last regular-season start in the books, Rodriguez sported a 2.49 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP this month. The team preached ending the year on a high note, and he was pleased to have done that and more for a team with championship aspirations.
"I feel like going through a season as long as this, it's important in the last month to finish strong, that's big emphasis we've had as a team," Rodriguez said. "It's just to not look at the end, but keep playing ballgames.
"Your first full season is something important to get through, I felt like the coaching staff and the players around me, they've helped me prepare for it and try to [help me] expect of what's to come."
Cody Roberts produced the big hit for the Delmarva offense with a two-run double in the second. Shayne Fontana scored the third run in the fourth when Seamus Curran grounded into a double play.
Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt.