Adley Rutschman homers, catches shutout as outfield defense dazzles in Orioles’ 4-0 win over White Sox

Adley Rutschman has arrived.

Sure, the top prospect in baseball and the Orioles’ farm system reached the majors just more than a month ago. But the player who inspired all that hype has been bubbling in recent days, coming to the surface in full force in Thursday night’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox. Rutschman homered and added an RBI double to supply Baltimore’s first three runs and caught the Orioles’ third shutout in six games in a 4-0 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The performance was the greatest evidence yet that Rutschman’s bat is approaching the lofty expectations placed upon it when baseball’s top prospect first joined the Orioles (32-39). Over the past two weeks, Rutschman is batting .326/.370/.651, with 10 of his 14 hits going for extra bases. Baltimore is 16-15 since promoting him to the majors.

He snapped a scoreless tie in the fourth inning. With one out, Ryan Mountcastle — who entered play tied for the American League lead in extra-base hits for the month — doubled, taking third on an error in the outfield. That added base proved meaningless, with Rutschman driving a Johnny Cueto cutter a projected 402 feet to right field at 107 mph for his second major league home run.

Another Mountcastle knock in the sixth chased Cueto and put two on for Rutschman, who lashed Reynaldo Lopez’s third pitch down the first base line. It scored Austin Hays, who offensively couldn’t match the cycle he posted Wednesday but dazzled defensively once again.

Rutschman, too, was sharp with his glove, catching Dean Kremer’s second straight shutout start and the scoreless innings Félix Bautista, Dillon Tate and Jorge López provided behind him. Having pitched six clean frames in his previous outing and 5 2/3 more Thursday, Kremer became only the third Oriole since 2019 with consecutive scoreless starts of at least five innings.

Hays again … and again

If the word to not run on Hays’ arm in the outfield is spreading around the league, it seemingly hasn’t made its way to Chicago yet.

After throwing out a runner at third base while playing center field Wednesday, Hays kept a run off Kremer’s line with a perfect throw home a half-inning after Rutschman’s homer. He wasn’t done defensively, diving across the chalk of the right field line to grab Jake Burger’s fly in the eighth.

Hays’ six outfield assists are the second most in the majors, trailing only Cleveland outfielder Myles Straw’s eight. Baltimore’s 16 outfield assists are tied with the Texas Rangers for the most of any team.

Hays’ night was part of a collective defensive showcase from the Orioles’ outfield, with center fielder Cedric Mullins and left fielder Anthony Santander also ranging for several difficult catches to support Baltimore’s pitching staff. Mullins provided Baltimore’s final run with an RBI single in the ninth.

Around the horn

>> Right-hander Spenser Watkins threw only one inning in Wednesday’s start for Triple-A Norfolk because the Orioles consider him an option for Saturday’s opening in their rotation, manager Brandon Hyde said.

>> Orioles prospect Terrin Vavra homered to open Norfolk’s game but left after he was hit in the head with a pitch in his next plate appearance.

>> Right-hander Matt Harvey threw six scoreless innings for High-A Aberdeen in his 2022 debut. Harvey, on a minor league contract, is serving a suspension for violating the league’s drug policy through July 7 but is able to pitch at levels beneath Triple-A before that.

>> The Orioles traded minor league infielder Patrick Dorrian to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations.

This story will be updated.

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