Holliday can't get revenge on Skenes in "Spring Breakout," Bradfield flashes blazing speed (O's lose 3-1)

BRADENTON, Fla. – The much-anticipated and aggressively hyped rematch between Orioles shortstop Jackson Holliday and Pirates ace-to-be Paul Skenes lasted six pitches tonight. Holiday struck out with the count full and Skenes didn’t return for the second inning.

He’ll never be accused of wearing out his welcome. Just the batters who have to face him. And maybe a few catcher’s mitts.

Skenes’ fastball in the Orioles' 3-1 loss was clocked at 100.6, 101.7 and 101.1 mph during the at-bat. He began the game by striking out Enrique Bradfield Jr. on three pitches – at 100.6, 101.1 and 101.7 mph.

Last year’s first-overall draft pick out of LSU put his stamp on the inaugural “Spring Breakout,” retiring the side in order by breaking Connor Norby’s bat – it sure sounded like it, anyway - with a 96.6 mph sinker that produced a ground ball to third baseman Jack Brannigan.

Statcast identified the pitch that fanned Holliday as a 91.6 mph four-seam fastball. That’s wrong. Skenes hasn’t thrown a four-seamer in the low-90s since he was in preschool.

Holliday is 0-for-2 this spring against Skenes, grounding out on the second pitch in a Feb. 29 game, but only one of them has a shot at breaking camp with his team.

“It was nice," Skenes said during his in-game interview on MLB Network. "I love competing against guys like that. Obviously, I knew the hype around that matchup. I’ve been saying it for a little bit, but he and I are going to have a lot more opportunities to face each other in the future.”

Asked about facing Skenes a second time, Holliday grinned and said, "Yeah, I think he was probably throwing 110, it looked like. Brought out a cutter. I got to see all of them this time. It's a fun at-bat. Good pitches get good hitters out sometimes. It was fun."

Left-hander Cade Povich didn’t get the same results as Skenes, but he stayed longer and got stronger. He allowed two runs (one earned) and two hits with two walks and four strikeouts in three innings. He threw 60 pitches, 36 for strikes, and retired nine of his last 10 batters.

A balk was a bummer.

The Pirates loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning on a walk, infield single and line drive single into left field, and Jack Brannigan’s sacrifice fly scored Tsung-Che Cheng. The team with baseball’s top-rated farm system fell behind early.

Skenes threw 11 pitches. Povich threw 25 in the first.

The Pirates put a runner on third base with one out in the second after Garret Forrester walked and advanced on a grounder and catcher Silas Ardoin’s passed ball. Abrahan Gutierrez took a disputed third strike, but Povich’s balk brought home the tie-breaking run.

Povich struck out Cheng to end the inning and left at 46 pitches, 26 for strikes. He returned for the third and cruised, striking out Lonnie White Jr. and Brannigan.

"Way better toward the end, obviously," Povich said. "It's still spring training. Backing up all the major league games, it was my first true start. I think timing was a little off early on, as far as my getting prepared with everything, but it's spring training. Able to find it and work everything out and finish good."

The game featured a confusing pitch call challenge with Cheng batting. Povich thought he got a strike, Spring Breakout rules allowed for it to be contested, and a scoreboard replay confirmed the strike.

"I got to experience it a little bit in Triple-A," Povich said. "I don't think you can get any closer on the edge than that, but it worked out."

Samuel Basallo, the No. 17 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, drew a one-out walk against Braxton Ashcraft in the second and was removed for pinch-runner Luis Valdez, who stole second and third base. Jud Fabian flied to deep right field to tie the game. Dylan Beavers also walked during the rally.

Valdez swiped 59 bags with Single-A Delmarva and 12 with High-A Aberdeen in 2022, and 43 with Aberdeen and four with Delmarva last summer.

Speaking of speed, Bradfield beat out a bunt in front of the plate in the third inning. An out in most cases, but not with him running. Statcast clocked him at 3.69 seconds from home to first, faster than any Orioles player last season.

Holliday lined to Brannigan at 100.2 mph off the bat in his final trip to the plate, and the throw to first doubled off Bradfield, who had the only Orioles hit.

Did Bradfield know he would beat it out as soon as he laid it down?

"No," he said. "That's why I was running as hard as I was. But I made it and it was cool, so it was nice to get a hit in one of these games."

Speaking of different rules, Basallo was allowed to bat again in the fourth and struck out against Hunter Barco.

Trace Bright, the No. 17 prospect in the system, replaced Povich and left the bases loaded in the fourth after a single, walk and hit batter. He struck out Tres Gonzalez. Bright returned for the fifth and struck out the side.

Despite the extra pitchers who made the trip. Bright came back out for the sixth and surrendered back-to-back singles to begin the inning. A sacrifice fly increased the Pirates' lead to 3-1.

Povich and Bright were tag team partners in the prospect showcase.

Creed Willems left the game in the seventh after being drilled on the hand, but he appeared to be fine afterward. And the Orioles didn't let a loss ruin the experience, which included autograph sessions before the game and after it ended.

"It's awesome to be able to sign stuff for kids," Holliday said. "It's always enjoyable for me, and the fact that some of them look up and like to watch me play, it's pretty crazy to think about. So it's really cool for me."

"A lot of great guys here on both ends," Povich said. "It's really cool. Forgot for a second later in that game, like, 'Oh, we're still in spring training. This isn't a real game.' But it's been fun."

"It was awesome," Bradfield said. "Whenever you get a chance to represent the organization you play for in one of these games, this was the first one, hopefully there will be many more. It was cool to take the field with guys who have been in the org for a little while at higher levels, so just getting that experience of playing around guys that are going to be the future of this organization, it was most fun."

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