O's game blog: The road trip begins in New York

Jordan Lyles throws gray

The Orioles won another rubber match game on Sunday. Those are games to decide a series after the clubs have split the first two games. The Orioles had to win via a walk-off to get it against the Rays, but they will surely take it.

The Birds are now 5-1 in rubber match games in 2022 and 3-0 against the American League East with such wins over the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. They also won series-deciding games against the Royals and Cardinals.

Other impressive notes out of Sunday’s win:

The Orioles have won via walk-off in five games this year, the most walk-off wins in the major leagues. The Orioles won five games via walk-off in all of 2021.

* The Orioles are 5-0 in walk-offs this year, one of six teams in the major leagues to have not been walked off against in 2022. And the Orioles went 5-7 in walk-offs in 2021.

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O's saw blue skies among some clouds ahead of latest walk-off win

Orioles celebrate walk off white

However you want to say it – the Orioles have some heart, they have guts, they are becoming tough to beat, they have a ticker – pick the words, but this team continues to get better in front of our eyes.

For the third time in four games, the team won via a walk-off victory, doing so over the Yankees and Rays - two American League East rivals that combined for 192 wins last year.

Before Sunday’s game, O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias spoke with reporters in the dugout and addressed several topics including his latest take on the progress of the organization’s rebuilding effort. He gave it high marks.

"I think everyone in the company, ownership on down, is very pleased with the foundation, the processes that have been laid, the infrastructure that we have across our organization right now and it’s just about building and growing from here," Elias said.

“But we’ve got blue skies ahead of us. We’ve got a No. 1 farm system, we’ve got a young, talented major league team. We have payroll flexibility where we are past the pandemic and there are going to be more and more people coming into the ballpark. We’re going to be renovating this place. There is a lot to look forward to. I’m very excited and feel like the most difficult, arduous part of the work that we’ve had to do is kind of behind us.

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O's game blog: O's and Rays in series and homestand finale

Adley Rutschman black BP watch

The Orioles have a rubber match coming up this afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays. The teams have split two games in the series, with the Orioles winning 8-6 in 13 innings Friday night and the Rays winning 6-1 on Saturday night.

The Orioles (16-25) are 4-1 in rubber match games this season, 3-1 at home and 2-0 when the opponent is from the American League East. They have won such games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Royals and Cardinals and lost at home versus Milwaukee.

The O’s have now lost four of six games on the homestand that ends today. Over longer stretches, they have lost seven of nine and eight of their past 11 games. The O’s had scored 17 runs Thursday and Friday in posting back-to-back walk-off wins, but were held to just one run and six hits last night in the second game of the series.

O’s pitching has allowed 32 runs and 10 homers during this homestand, and 18 runs over the past three games. O’s starters have pitched to a 6.40 ERA over the last 11 games. But the Baltimore bullpen, which has a 3.22 ERA of for the year to rank fourth-best in the AL, has pitched to an ERA of 2.05 over the last 17 games.

Catcher Adley Rutschman made his big league debut Saturday as the starting catcher, batting sixth. He finished the night 1-for-3 with a triple, a walk and a strikeout. Rutschman tripled in the seventh inning for his first career hit, becoming the ninth Oriole to triple in his first career hit, and the first since Ryan McKenna on April 11, 2021 against Boston. Rutschman is the first Orioles catcher to do so since Matt Wieters on May 30, 2009 against Detroit.

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Rutschman arrives and the future is now

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Adley Rutschman’s first day in the major leagues did not lead to an Orioles win. They lost 6-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays to fall to 2-4 on this homestand and 16-25 on the season.

But one game is not as important as what Rutschman's arrival represents. The rebuild no longer is inching forward but taking a big leap. With more prospects and more such leaps still to come. Between the Orioles and the top of the American League East is a big gap. But the hope across Birdland is that that gap is starting to close, and yesterday was the latest and maybe greatest step forward.

“Somebody that Mike (Elias) took 1/1 and we have high hopes for,” manager Brandon Hyde said before Rutschman’s Saturday night debut. “So much pressure put on him and there is so much anticipation that I want him to relax and play the game like he did in high school. I understand that is not realistic, but I want him to enjoy today with all the hoopla that is going into it. It’s a day he’ll never forget.

“I think the fans are going to embrace how he plays, how hard he plays. His personality. What kind of guy he is and he’s going to be a good player. Whether that is going to showcase tonight or this week, who knows? But he’s going to be a good player for a long time.”

And hopefully this arrival – the first of a few for top Baltimore prospects this year – means the organization will now be more consistently trending up. It may not be a straight line headed for the top, but the Orioles hope they are moving in the right direction now.

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O's game blog: Rutschman debuts as O's host Rays

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As the Orioles host the Rays tonight in the second game of this weekend series, the game also marks the long anticipated major league debut of catcher Adley Rutschman. He is the player the Orioles selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 First-Year Player Draft, who will catch and bat sixth tonight.

Rutschman arrives in Baltimore after parts of three seasons and 179 games on the farm, not counting the cancelled 2020 minor league season. He would have arrived sooner, no doubt, but for his right triceps injury in spring training that derailed any chance of his making this year’s opening day roster.

Rutschman has played his last 12 games with Triple-A Norfolk, batting .233/.377/.442 with an .819 OPS. In his last three games with the Tides, he went 5-for-12 with two homers and five RBIs. In 19 games on his rehab assignment through high Single-A Aberdeen and then Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, he hit .309/.427/.515 with a .942 OPS, five doubles, three homers, nine RBIs, 11 walks and seven strikeouts.

He has a career .879 OPS in 650 minor league at-bats.

“I’d say about as excited as I can be right now," Rutschman said this afternoon at a Camden Yards press conference. "This is probably the coolest thing, coolest moment, that I’ve had so far. I’m really excited for it.”

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Mancini on Rutschman's arrival, Mountcastle on return from IL

Adley Rutschman black BP smile

It’s a huge day in Birdland with the arrival of the No. 1 prospect in baseball to the Orioles. Adley Rutschman will catch and bat sixth tonight to make his major league debut as the Orioles host the Rays.

A veteran like Trey Mancini noted this takes the rebuilding phase to another level. The organization, for want of a better phrase, is getting on with it.

“Yeah, I think so,” Mancini said this afternoon in the clubhouse. “It’s not something that happens overnight, obviously. But it’s not a thing where you can circle like, ‘Oh in this year, we are going to start competing.’ It’s something that just happens over time and it starts by establishing the culture that we have here. And when you do that and do things the right way, sometimes you can compete a little earlier than you think. And we’re going to see more guys like Adley come up here over the next year or so. And that is really exciting, and for the fans, too. I know they have been waiting for this day for a long time.

“It’s a really exciting day for the franchise and most importantly for Adley. I’m expecting it to be a great atmosphere tonight. I think he’s going to be able to handle it all really well. It’s a lot of attention and a big day, but when it gets close to game time, it’s basically like any other game that you’ve played in your career. You have to treat it like that even though there will be a huge adrenaline rush for him. It’s a day you want to soak in no matter what. It’s one of the more special days of your life and it goes by quickly.”

The Orioles have posted back-to-back walk-off wins for the first time since June 6-7, 2017 against Pittsburgh and the first time with homers ending the game since Aug. 14-15, 2015 versus Oakland.

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Complete team effort leads Aberdeen to minors best record

Joey Ortiz Aberdeen helmet

They feature five players ranked among the Orioles' top 30 prospects on MLBPipeline.com. It has been that group of five and several more key contributors that have led the Orioles' high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds affiliate to the best record in all of minor league baseball through their first 35 games.

The IronBirds cooled off Friday night, losing 6-0 to Rome for their first shutout loss of the year. But their record of 26-9 is good enough to be playing .743 baseball and that is the best mark among 120 full-season clubs in the minors.

An MLB team winning at such a pace would go 120-42.

“The guys come to work every single day, man," Roberto Mercado, the Aberdeen manager and a first-year staff member in the O's organization said of his club on Friday afternoon. "They enjoy each other. There is a great team chemistry in the clubhouse. Guys enjoy being around each other. They will get here early and hang out before they start their workday. Lot of positive energy going around the club. And we have a great staff that has really helped prepare the guys. What a solid job they all have done so far."

The top 30 prospects include outfielder Colton Cowser (No. 4), infielder Coby Mayo (No. 7), infielder Connor Norby (No. 11), infielder César Prieto (No. 12) and outfielder John Rhodes (No. 23).

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O's game blog: The Tampa Bay series begins

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After producing the walk-off win Thursday afternoon against the New York Yankees, the Orioles host the Tampa Bay Rays today in the opener of a three-game series and continuation of a seven-game homestand.

After back-to-back one-run losses to New York, the Orioles (15-24) salvaged the series finale Thursday 9-6 on Anthony Santander’s three-run shot. It was his seventh homer of the season and first career walk-off hit.

The game marked the first walk-off home run by an Oriole since Rio Ruiz hit a game-ending longball off Roberto Osuna on Aug. 11, 2019, versus Houston. It was the Baltimore’s third walk-off victory of the season, with all three coming against American League East foes - two against the Yankees and one against the Red Sox.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Santander, with two doubles a homer in that game, is the third Oriole to record three extra-base hits, including a walk-off home run, in a single game, joining Randy Milligan (2-2B, HR) on June 12, 1990, against Milwaukee and Manny Machado (3 HRs) on Aug. 18, 2017, versus the Los Angeles Angels. And Santander is the first major league player to record such a game since Alex Verdugo (2-2B, HR) did so with the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 22, 2019, versus Colorado.

In the month of May, Trey Mancini has batted .377/.441/.492 (23-for-61) and ranks among AL leaders in OBP (2nd), batting average (4th), and hits (T-5th). For his career, Mancini owns a line of .282/.352/.462 with 40 extra-base hits, 60 runs scored and 65 RBIs in 118 May games. Mancini has hit safely in 14 of 16 games this month, including producing multiple hits in seven of them, and on the season, he leads the team and ranks tied for sixth in the AL with 12 multi-hit games.

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Ramón Urías on trying to get his bat going and all those double plays

Ramon Urias throws black away

For a while we wondered when the Trey Mancini would get some payoff for how hard he was hitting the ball with little to show for it. And this month the hits have started to come for him and his numbers are now getting more in line with what might be expected.

The same has not happened yet for infielder Ramón Urías.

After producing an OPS of .774 in 296 plate appearances last year – which was 12 percent above the American League average – his OPS now is .541. That is 41 percent under the current AL average.

Urías homered on Tuesday versus the Yankees, but then went 0-for-8 in the last two games of that series and is just 3-for-23 over his past seven games. In 32 games this season he is batting .196/.246/.295. Last year his line was .279/.361/.412.

“I’m going through a tough situation and I haven’t been hitting good,” he said this afternoon before the series opener with Tampa Bay. “But I’m staying positive, I’m still working, I’m still coming in every day and thinking that I can hit well that game. I’m just trusting the process and still working hard, and hopefully we are out of that soon.

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Can Keegan Akin's success encourage other young hurlers?

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If some of the young pitchers at higher levels on the Orioles farm right now – hurlers on a list include Mike Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells to name a few – want to find someone who had struggles and turned it around, they can look at someone they once shared a rotation with.

They can look at lefty Keegan Akin, someone they know well, because they came up about the same time as he did. Now he is where they want to be – not just in the majors but pitching with success in the big leagues.

It was just Aug. 1 when Akin had an ERA of 8.14. Then 10 days later, he gave up six runs to the Tigers and his ERA was 8.23. But the Orioles kept giving him chances. Over his final six 2021 starts, he took a step forward. With his overall numbers and struggles last year, it may have been hard to notice that he pitched to an ERA of 4.02 his last six starts.

Then he showed up this year healthy and with a strong mindset to attack the zone at all times. And he is thriving.

Akin is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 0.770 WHIP over 24 2/3 innings. He has a 1.8 walk rate, 0.4 homer rate and 7.3 strikeout rate. He's thriving versus lefty and righty batters, at home and on the road.

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Lot of Orioles played key roles in the win over the Yankees

Anthony Santander Walk off

Before Anthony Santander could hit the Orioles first walk-off homer since Aug. 11, 2019 as they beat the New York Yankees today 9-6, there were some other players that camp up big as the Orioles ended a six-game losing streak.

Like right-handed reliever Dillon Tate, who somewhat quietly is having a solid year.

He put up a zero in the seventh to preserve what was then a 6-5 Orioles lead. They got a win after losing three in a row in this series to the Yankees and by a single run the last two nights.

“This one was huge,” said Tate, who has a 2.33 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 17 games. “I think it’s a big weight off the guys’ shoulders. You know, came up short a few games and it really did sting because we were playing good baseball and it’s just good to get back in the win column.”

Tate came on for the seventh, right after the O’s had scored three runs to take a 6-5 lead. He allowed a single to No. 9 hitter Marwin Gonzalez and then got leadoff man DJ LeMahieu, who would later tie the game with two outs in the ninth, on a foul fly ball to right.

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O's game blog: Orioles look to salvage series finale at the Yard

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When the Orioles hosted the Yankees in mid-April they won two of three in the series, allowing six total runs. But first-place New York is playing much better ball this series in Baltimore. With a win this afternoon, the Yankees would complete a four-game sweep of the Orioles.

New York won 6-2 Monday night and has now posted two straight one-run wins, by 5-4 and 3-2 scores.

The Orioles (14-24) have lost six in a row and seven of their past eight games. They fell behind 3-0 in the first inning last night and are 4-20 when their opponent scores first. The Yankees (28-9) are now 19-2 when they score first in the game.

The Orioles are 2-7 and have lost six in a row to the Yankees since that first series at Camden Yards. They are now 9-10 at home, 5-7 in one-run games and 4-11 versus the AL East.

The O’s offense has produced just eight runs on 19 hits in this series. Baltimore batters have scored two runs or less six times in the past eight games. In those eight games, they have scored 15 runs total and have gone 4-for-40 with runners in scoring position.

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Minor league notes on Burns, Armbruester and more

Gunnar Henderson Bowie smiling

The high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds have gotten off to a hot start, producing the best record of any minor league team in full-season ball. That covers 120 clubs. There are many reasons for that and just one is the play of shortstop Collin Burns.

With some more high-profile names on that IronBirds' roster, Burns can fly under the radar. But the 21-year-old lefty batter is hitting .333/.381/.422/ with an OPS of .803 in 24 games. Burns has six stolen bases, eighth doubles and 12 RBIs. He has low walk (5) and strikeout (15) totals.

A sixth-round pick out of Tulane from the 2021 draft, Burns has been solid for Aberdeen.

“He’s another guy that has had a lot of quality at-bats, is getting on base and hitting balls hard,” Orioles director of player development Matt Blood said in a recent interview. “And he’s playing quality defense. A nice pickup for the org. He plays shortstop and even some left field. We like to get guys moved around.”

Burns, 21, hit .305 in 24 games after the draft last season between the Florida Complex League O's and low Single-A Delmarva.

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O's game blog: Lyles against Cole in Game 3

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After a more lackluster loss on Monday by 6-2, the Orioles lost 5-4 to the New York Yankees Tuesday night in a game where they had the winning run on second base against closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. They had scored once and were in position to pull off a walk-off victory, but Chapman got Cedric Mullins on a popout to preserve the win.

Tonight the clubs play the third game of this four-game series with right-hander Jordan Lyles (2-3, 4.38 ERA) making his eighth start and facing right-hander Gerrit Cole (3-0, 2.95 ERA).

New York (27-9) has the best record in the majors and leads the American League East by 5 1/2 games over Tampa Bay. New York’s record is three games better than the team with the No. 2 record in the big leagues, which is the Los Angeles Dodgers at 24-12. The Yankees have won eight of nine and 20 of 23 games, going 13-5 in road games and 14-6 within the AL East.

New York's 27-9 start matches the best 36-game start by any team in the majors in the last 38 years, since 1985. They join the 2016 Cubs (Won WS), 2005 White Sox (Won WS), 2001 Mariners (Lost ALDS), 2002 Red Sox (second in AL East) and 1998 Yankees (Won WS). And this matches the third-best 36-game start in the bigs in the last 75 years, trailing only the 1984 Tigers (31-5) and 1977 Dodgers (28-8).

The Orioles (14-23) have lost five in a row and six of seven. They are now 9-9 at home, 8-9 in the past 17 games and 11-15 over 26 games since April 20. They are now 5-6 on the year in both one-run and two-run games. They are 4-10 versus the AL East, going 4-4 at home and 0-6 on the road.

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O's Logan Gillaspie on MLB debut and more

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His pitches found the strike zone last night against the New York Yankees. Now if O's right-hander Logan Gillaspie could just find the mementos he took from his big league debut when he pitched two scoreless innings.

“I don’t know, I have to find them," he said with a laugh in the clubhouse today. "I got the first-pitch strike (ball) I threw out, and then I got my first K ball. I don’t know where they’re at, though."

Hard to find a happier player in that room today than 25-year-old pitcher who had just made his debut in his sixth pro season. A pro career that began in 2017 in independent league baseball, where he actually had some time as both a pitcher and position player.

His record from the 2017 season shows 22 games on the mound for three different teams, and also a few games at first base and catcher, and even one at shortstop. He went 4-for-23 as a hitter.

The Milwaukee Brewers signed him in 2018 and released him in 2019. The Orioles signed him on June 9, 2021, and on May 17, 2022 he was on the mound at Camden Yards.

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Grayson Rodriguez looked MLB ready in Charlotte outing

Grayson

If anyone was worried about right-hander Grayson Rodriguez when he recently gave up eight runs over 7 1/3 innings about two and a half weeks ago in back-to-back starts versus Gwinnett, call off the dogs.

No reason for worry, concern or anything of the sort.

Right now the opposite is true. After his latest outing last night - a dominant performance at Charlotte - the best pitching prospect in baseball is rolling again. He looked like the top-of-the-line Grayson last night as I watched on MiLB.TV.

Is it crazy to say after just eight Triple-A starts that he looked like a pitcher that is ready for his Major League debut?

He did look like that last night at Charlotte. If the Orioles wanted to pitch him on Sunday at home versus the Tampa Bay Rays, I could see strong logic to do just that. Why waste more bullets as they say at the Triple-A level?

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O's game blog: Game 2 against the Yankees

O's game blog: Game 2 against the Yankees

The Orioles have not scored more than three runs since beating St. Louis 5-3 a week ago today in that series-opening game. Since then they have lost five of six games, scoring nine runs and the search for offense continues tonight in Baltimore.

The Orioles (14-22) host the New York Yankees (26-9) in the second game of a four-game series and seven-game homestand.

Over a longer stretch, the Orioles are still playing at or around .500 ball and in fact are 8-8 over the last 16 games. They are 11-14 their past 25 games. They are 9-8 at home and 4-3 in home games versus AL East opponents.

They produced two solo homers – both by Anthony Santander last night – when they were held to three hits in the series opener at Oriole Park. Santander homered from both sides of the plate, becoming the first Oriole to do that since he did it on Aug. 31, 2019 at Kansas City. Santander leads the Orioles with six home runs. Cedric Mullins has five and Ryan Mountcastle has four homers.

The Birds were held to three hits last night, their fewest of the year and they had four each in the previous two games. They do have outfielder Austin Hays returning to the lineup tonight.

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Lefty Nick Vespi gets the big league call

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A long road finally ended for left-handed reliever Nick Vespi today. Now that he got on the road, he will try to stay on it.

But it’s a great day in the life of this eighth-year Oriole.

The Orioles selected Vespi in the 18th round of the 2015 draft and he saw all the stops on the O’s farm along the way over 149 games. Two years in short-season ball and three years at low Single-A Delmarva. Just when he was ready to make a move up, the season was cancelled in 2020. But after pitching to an ERA of 4.19 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, Vespi really elevated his game this year with an ERA of 0.00 for Norfolk over 12 games.

Now he is finally in the major leagues.

The club selected his contract today from the Tides and he will wear No. 79. In a corresponding move, lefty Logan Allen was designated for assignment.

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O's offense still struggling and Chirinos is looking to break out

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The Orioles recently went through a six-game stretch in which they scored 33 runs. That run ended in the first game of their series at St. Louis, which they won 5-3. Since that game last Tuesday, they have scored one, three, two, zero, one and two runs. That is nine runs in six games. They are 1-5 in that stretch.

The O’s lost the opener of this week-long homestand 6-2 to the New York Yankees last night as New York took the opener in the four-game series.

While the Yankees improved to 26-9 and are 19-3 their last 22 games, the Orioles fell to 14-22 and have scored five runs during a four-game losing streak.

At 14-18, before this losing streak, the Orioles were on a 71-win pace. Now they are playing .389 ball. That's a 63-win pace.

There are still things to like about this season – the improved bullpen, Bruce Zimmermann’s start, the arrival of Kyle Bradish and the team’s winning record at home to name a few – but the last few days have produced dismal results.

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O's game blog: The homestand begins against the Yankees

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Following a 2-4 road trip during which they won two of three in St. Louis and were swept at Detroit, the Orioles are back at Oriole Park tonight to start a week-long homestand. They host the New York Yankees for four games and then the Tampa Bay Rays will be in town for three over the weekend.

This starts a difficult stretch of two weeks of games within the American League East, with seven this week versus the Yankees and Rays and eight next week at New York and Boston.

The Orioles have played two home AL East series and won them both, over the Yankees and Red Sox. In fact, they are the only team to take a series from New York this year. The O’s have gone 4-8 within the division – they are 4-2 at home and 0-6 on the road.

Right-hander Kyle Bradish (1-1, 4.24 ERA) will make his fourth big league start tonight in the series opener. He is coming off a strong outing at St. Louis on Tuesday. He gave up four hits and two runs over seven innings, with no walks and 11 strikeouts. He threw 90 pitches and got nine swings and misses on 20 swings against his slider.

Bradish has thrown his fastball 51 percent thus far, at an average velocity of 94.7 mph, and uses his slider 31 percent, curveball 10 percent and changeup eight percent. He is getting a 43.2 groundball rate.

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