With a lineup tonight that is still without Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle and will also be without shortstop Jorge Mateo, at least at the start, the O’s could use another solid game on the mound. They will send out rookie right-hander Kyle Bradish (1-1, 4.24) for his fourth career start.
And he is facing the first-place New York Yankees (25-9), who have the best record in the majors and have won six of seven and 18 of their last 21 games.
This is sure a challenge for a young pitcher facing a team that is tied for the American League lead in homers and OPS and is second in runs scored. A team on a 119-win pace.
For the fourth time in four starts, Robinson Chirinos is catching the youngster. Chirinos has been impressed by Bradish's start, particularly last week in St. Louis, when he allowed two runs over seven innings with no walks and 11 strikeouts.
I asked Chirinos what impressed him the most about Bradish in that outing.
“How he came back after that inside-the-park homer,” he said this afternoon in the Baltimore clubhouse. “I think sometimes when you are young and new in the league and things don’t go your way, you panic a little bit. I think he maintained his calm. He was still throwing strikes, getting ahead and putting people away. If something impressed me, it was how he looked after that. It was really cool to see.
“He has great stuff. He is handling himself really well. He has good presence on the mound. So, I’m excited for him and his future.”
Bradish has shown a lot of poise for a pitcher with just 17 major league innings of experience.
“I think a lot of that has to be his personality. He’s a really calm person,” Chirinos noted. “He doesn’t say much. I think that plays in his favor when things don’t go his way. I think he has a bright future here in Baltimore.”
In facing the Yankees tonight and some of their big right-handed bats, Bradish’s slider is sure to be big. That is his most used secondary pitch at 31 percent, and he got nine swings and misses among 20 swings at the pitch versus St. Louis.
“I think so (that could be key tonight),” Chirinos said. “Slider has been good against this team in the past, and Kyle has a really nasty slider, so I hope he has the same slider going he had last time. He can get ahead and then put people away with that pitch.”
The Orioles' road trip ended with three losses and just three runs scored over the weekend in Detroit. Chirinos said they need to put that series in the rear-view and get going here tonight.
“We’re doing good," Chirinos said. "That is the beauty of this game. We played really well against a really good team and we went to Detroit and got swept. That is how this game is. We just have to come here today and get after it and do everything we can to win this game today. And then do it again tomorrow."
While his defense and work with the pitchers has drawn praise, Chirinos knows he needs to pick up his offense, with a line of just .134/.266/.179. That is an OPS of .445 for a player that had an OPS last season of .778 in 112 plate appearances, and whose career OPS is .746. But now he has just two hits his last 37 at-bats over a 12-game run.
“It’s been hard. This is a tough start to the year, but I know what I can do at the plate and been working hard to get it going," he said. "Hope it starts showing up tonight. I felt better yesterday and need to build on that and start giving this team what they know I can do at the plate."