Rookie blanks AL's best over 8 IP to lead shutout

August 27th, 2022

HOUSTON -- The task was not going to be easy for Kyle Bradish, who was facing the team with the best record in the American League. But the 25-year-old starter stepped up to the challenge and threw eight scoreless innings in the Orioles' 2-0 win over the Astros on Friday night.

The Orioles have had to lean on young players during their playoff chase, which has them 2 1/2 games back of an AL Wild Card spot; and this is despite making a few “sellers” moves at the Trade Deadline, when they dealt Trey Mancini and Jorge López.

The youth movement has continued to step up -- such as Kyle Stowers, who hit his first career home run in a walk-off win against the White Sox on Thursday -- and has helped Baltimore eclipse its win totals of the past four seasons.

It was Bradish who stepped up on Friday, as he allowed just two hits en route to the Orioles' shutout in the series opener at Minute Maid Park.

“What an impressive performance to throw eight shutout innings against the Astros in his rookie year -- that’s pretty special,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.

The Orioles not only needed a solid outing from Bradish to give them a chance to beat the AL West leaders, but a long one as well, since their bullpen was taxed from the series against the White Sox. It was a daunting task for the righty, who entered with a 1-5 record and a 6.25 ERA.

Efficiency was key for Bradish in his 16th career start, as he threw 96 pitches -- 67 for strikes -- in his outing. He became the first Orioles pitcher to throw eight innings this year and the first since John Means threw a no-hitter on May 5, 2021. The ability to keep his pitch count low was due to two major factors: limiting free bases and having command of all of his pitches.

Bradish has had an inconsistent start to his rookie season, but he only walked two batters on Friday against a deep lineup that featured Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman.

“He kept his delivery so consistent throughout the start,” Hyde said. “He was hitting 95-96 [mph] and limited the walks against a really good club.”

Limiting free bases was only part of the task, as the Astros have no shortage of power, either. Houston ranks second in the AL in homers (170) and fifth in hits (1,044), but Bradish made sure to limit the damage as well. The righty generated a career-high 17 whiffs and struck out six.

It came as a result of Bradish's command and the effective usage of his four pitches (fastball, changeup, slider and curveball). The rookie tends to lean on his fastball -- using it 52 percent of the time entering Friday -- but he mixed his pitches more on Friday and went to his slider (51 percent usage) to keep Astros hitters guessing.

“The fastball was really good and had really good life on both sides of the plate,” Bradish said. “The slider was good early, and then it got a lot better as the game went on. My fastball was playing up, so that helped with the slider, and [I] worked with the changeup to get back-door chase.”

Bradish continues to find his groove after landing on the IL in June with right shoulder inflammation, and he has been growing with every outing. The biggest leap is not just his performance, but the confidence he is gaining.

“He’s throwing the ball extremely well,” Hyde said. “He’s getting confident every time out, and this should boost his confidence. To do what he did in this environment -- against [a club like the Astros] -- at the end of August is really impressive.”

Bradish’s start, paired with Ramón Urías’ two-run homer in the sixth inning gave Baltimore a much-needed win and confidence boost. And the Orioles will continue to count on these youngsters to step up as their quest for the postseason carries on.