Bradish dominates Astros in near 'Maddux'

Righty is first O's rookie since 1904 with at least 10 K's, no walks in scoreless start

September 23rd, 2022

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles’ pitching staff has called Jordan Lyles their dad, a moniker he wears with a smile. They see the career he’s had, its longevity and its durability, and wouldn’t be opposed to following suit. They shadow him in his preparation, the way he carries himself, and absorb nuggets into their own personas.

And as it turns out, they can nearly one-up him.

Kyle Bradish’s 8 2/3 scoreless innings in the Orioles’ 2-0 win over the Astros on Thursday night -- an emotional day as the city welcomed Trey Mancini back to Camden Yards -- was a herculean effort by an O’s pitcher for a second straight contest, after Lyles threw the club’s first complete game of the season a day prior against Detroit.

But Bradish was nearly flawless, taking a perfect game bid through 5 2/3 frames and ultimately tagged for just two hits against 10 strikeouts. Félix Bautista ensured that held when he relieved Bradish with two outs in the ninth. Had Bradish finished it off, it would have gone down as one of the finest starts in Orioles history.

“Seeing your fellow pitcher do it, especially Jordan, he had everything working for him [Wednesday] night,” Bradish said. “But every time I go out there on the mound, I expect to finish this game. Pitch count hasn't really been there lately, but today, I put myself in a position to do it.”

The end result? The first outing by an O’s rookie since Fred Glade in 1904 with the St. Louis Browns with at least 10 strikeouts, no walks and no runs allowed. That’s a feat only accomplished four times by any Orioles pitcher this century, the last being John Means’ no-hitter a year ago.

“I'd say about like the third inning, I was like, 'All right, we're working,'” Bradish said, “and it just kept going from there. Like I said, everything was working, so when you got four or five pitches working for you, it's pretty easy out there.”

“He's got that kind of stuff every time out,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

It was also nearly a “Maddux” -- a shutout on fewer than 100 pitches -- that would have been the club’s first since Sidney Ponson on June 28, 2001. As Bradish conceded a two-out single in the ninth on his 100th pitch, Hyde came out to pull him to a spate of boos, his mind already made up to remove Bradish should a batter reach base with AL MVP candidate Yordan Alvarez looming in the on-deck circle.

No matter. Bradish walked off the mound to a round of cheers. And the Orioles, who got a two-run single from Rougned Odor in the second inning, went on to high-five over their 78th victory of the season, still four games back of the third Wild Card spot.

“What an amazing start from Kyle,” Hyde said. “Two singles that were not hit very hard, no walks, 10 punchouts -- just an outstanding job.”

And as it turned out, Bradish can one-up himself. His dominance against Houston in the series opener was his second time doing exactly that this season. On Aug. 26, Bradish shut down the American League West champions for eight scoreless innings, allowing just two hits.

Bradish’s playbook was a little different this time. He went to his slider most often, like he did a month ago, but sported his curveball second most. Most important may have been that he introduced a sinker that played off his four-seam fastball, one that he hadn’t broken out for the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“They can't stay out over the plate on him anymore, and his breaking balls are so good that he can throw both of them and get swings and misses,” Hyde said. “ … He's just really learning how to pitch, and that was a lot of fun to watch tonight.”

It all befuddled his competition -- again.

"We have to figure him out sooner or later, but we don’t have him figured out yet,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “It was him. Sometimes it’s him, sometimes it’s us. Most of the time it’s not us. This case, definitely, it was him."

Bradish’s performance, as well, helped the O’s keep pace for a playoff spot after the Mariners also won. Baltimore finds itself four games back with 13 left to play, a cause Bradish has done his mightiest to advance.

In 11 starts since returning off the IL in July, he owns a 2.67 ERA. The O’s are 8-3 in those contests.

“He's going to continue to just get better and better, and I think that's what we're seeing,” catcher Adley Rutschman said. “It was a fun, fun day to be a part of.”