ST. LOUIS – Temperatures in the 90s, an unexpected change to the lineup, and umpire Ángel Hernández calling balls and strikes.
This wasn’t the sweetest welcome for a team that went 19 years between visits to St. Louis, but the Orioles sure made the best of it.
Kyle Bradish struck out 11 batters over seven innings in his third major league start, Cedric Mullins and Tyler Nevin hit home runs, and the Orioles hung on to defeat the Cardinals 5-3 in their first game at the newest Busch Stadium.
Bradish carried a shutout into the sixth before Harrison Bader’s two-run inside-the-park homer. He earned his first major league win.
Brendan Donovan began the ninth with a home run off Dillon Tate and two more batters reached, but Félix Bautista struck out Tyler O'Neill for his first major league save and the Orioles improved to 13-17. They’ve won three in a row, five of six and seven of 10.
Bautista hadn't entered in the ninth inning in his first 12 appearances.
Manager Brandon Hyde let Bradish come out for the seventh inning at 78 pitches, and the rookie retired the side in order with two more strikeouts. A statement inning from both men.
"It was definitely a big moment," Bradish said. "Kind of showed that Hyde trusted me to get back out there for the seventh after the tough sixth.
"Showed that I learned from my last outing, kind of a similar situation. Got a man on and a homer, and it kind of went downhill from there. This time, I was able to stop that and respond in a good way. Just kind of flushed it and turned up the intensity."
The Orioles rotation has produced four quality starts in a row.
Chris Owings doubled with one out in the third inning and Mullins drove a Packy Naughton pitch 404 feet for his fifth home run and a 2-0 lead. Owings was 2-for-19 before the at-bat, his last hit coming April 24.
The first posted lineup had Owings on the bench, but he started at second base after Ramón Urías was a late scratch. Hyde was down to two healthy reserves, second baseman Rougned Odor and catcher Anthony Bemboom.
“He was taking batting practice and he had a little abdominal discomfort,” Hyde said. “We’re going to re-check it tomorrow and hopefully he’s OK. Right now he’s day-to-day.”
Nevin homered in the third inning to remove Naughton from the game, his second in the majors and first since the last game of the 2021 season in Toronto.
"I was really excited coming to the stadium because I know that the Cardinal faithful brings it every game," Nevin said. "Talked to my dad (Phil) and he said it's one of his favorite places to play, so it was a game I was looking forward to and I'm glad we came out with a W.
"Playing well right now. The bats are starting to click, along with pitching, it's been there all year. Since I've been here everybody's been on fire, it seems. We're feeding off each other, for sure."
Bradish faced the minimum number of batters through the fifth inning, thanks to double plays that ended the first and second. The Orioles have turned 37, most in the American League and second in the majors.
A seven-pitch third inning was followed by two more strikeouts in the fourth and fifth, as Bradish kept manhandling the Cardinals. He retired 11 in a row after Juan Yepez’s leadoff single in the second, and his pitch count stood at 58 heading into the sixth.
The streak ended with Yadier Molina’s leadoff double, and Bader’s fly ball to left-center on an 0-2 slider eluded Mullins, bounced off the fence and rolled toward the left field corner. Bader dived across the plate but could have walked. The Orioles didn’t have a play after Anthony Santander retrieved it.
No Cardinals player hit an inside-the-park homer at Busch Stadium III, which opened in 2006. Vince Coleman was the last to do it at home, in 1985 at Busch Stadium II.
Bradish struck out the next three batters to give him nine on the night. A big boy response.
It earned him three more batters, and Bradish struck out Nolan Arenado and O’Neill for the second time. Arenado also grounded into a double play against Bradish.
“Wow, very impressed,” Hyde said. “Ninety-four to 97 with a little bit of cut, good curveball, great slider tonight. Kept guys off-balance. Good changeup to left-handers. I was just so impressed after the inside-the-park homer, we have a lead, things could unravel there, the crowd’s into it, and he goes out and punches out three. And then he goes out and have a great seventh inning, as well. He had really good stuff and that’s a good lineup and threw the ball great.”
Bradish allowed only four hits and didn’t walk a batter. Wei-Yin Chen was the last Orioles rookie with at least 10 strikeouts in 2012.
“Definitely showed some toughness, punching out Goldschmidt there with two outs there in the sixth,” Hyde said. “That inning for a young player … it could unravel quickly, and to show the composure he did and come back and punch out the next three, that was a big league effort.
“He’s got major league-starter stuff, it’s really good. I was a little bit nervous early. I felt like there were a lot of deep counts, a lot of waste pitches, a lot of ball out of hand early. And then after like the second or third, not too many bad misses. The slider was plus, plus tonight. And it’s 94-97 with cut, so it’s a really tough at-bat righty and lefty when he’s in the strike zone. Robby (Robinson Chirinos) guiding him like a veteran did all the way through. Tough place to pitch, tough environment, and he answered the bell.”
The Orioles built a 4-0 lead in the fifth with Kodi Whitley pitching for the Cardinals. Mullins singled with one out, Trey Mancini was hit by a pitch and Santander collected his third hit, a run-scoring double to right-center field.
The Orioles loaded the bases with two outs and Nick Wittgren struck out Nevin.
They threatened again in the sixth with Jorge Mateo’s leadoff double and another hit by pitch. Owings popped up a bunt and the Cardinals let it drop and turned a 1-5-6 double play, but Mullins and Mancini singled for a 5-0 lead.
Mullins had four hits, including an infield single in the ninth.
"I think this last week our guys have just settled in a little bit," Hyde said. "I think we were antsy early, we were trying to do too much."
Bradish finally stumbled but made a quick recovery. His first road start brought out his finest.
"Except more of that because I've seen that plenty of times," Nevin said.
The 11 strikeouts were six more than he totaled in his first two starts. He struck out 12 with high Single-A Inland Empire in May 2019. He's the 11th pitcher in franchise history to go seven innings with no walks and 11 strikeouts, and the first since John Means during the left-hander's no-hitter in Seattle on May 5, 2021.
Three pitchers have done it this season: Shohei Ohtani, Max Scherzer and Dylan Cease.
"They're a really good team, a lot of veterans that have been kind of like a staple in this league for a while," Bradish said. "I would say it was cool. This stadium is awesome, the backdrop. A lot of fans. After that inside-the-parker, kind of just erupted. I was like, 'Wow, this is really loud.' "
Bautista threw back-to-back fastballs at 100.5 mph and 101.9 mph and got the strikeout with an 89 mph slider.
“How about 102 on back-to-back nights?” Hyde said. “I didn’t want to use him there, obviously. Tate’s been throwing the ball so well for us. I’m so happy with his progress. Just ran into some issues there. I like the Bautista-on-O’Neill matchup if it got there and he was throwing 102 with a 90 mph split. Tough to it.”
Down on the farm, DL Hall made his Triple-A debut tonight and allowed one run and two hits in three innings, with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw 53 pitches, 34 for strikes.
Kelvin Gutiérrez hit a home run in his first game since the Orioles outrighted him to Norfolk. Logan Gillaspie tossed three scoreless innings with one hit and no walks. Nick Vespi tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings with no hits and two strikeouts, and he still hasn’t allowed an earned run.
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