CINCINNATI – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde had seen this script before. His team’s pitching was pretty good from beginning to end. His team’s offense put together enough quality at-bats late to pull out a win.
This time the Orioles, tied 2-2, needed a four-run ninth inning to beat Cincinnati 6-2 in the opener of a three-game series and six-game road trip.
Now, a year after losing 110 games, the Orioles are 51-49 and at .500 or better at the 100-game mark for the first time since their last playoff season in 2016. And now, as they try to become a surprise playoff entrant for 2022, they are just two games behind Tampa Bay for the final AL playoff spot.
The pitching held up long enough for the offense to show up and the Orioles posted their 23rd comeback win after trailing 2-0 through five innings.
“Our bullpen, we’re down 2-0 and Kyle (Bradish) goes five and we put up zeroes the last four,” said Hyde. “They’ve allowed our offense (to come back), even on nights we’re struggling to be able to stay in the game. We’re dangerous offensively. I still think we can get better offensively. Our at-bats usually later in the game are very good and our bullpen, for me, is the reason. They’ve been great at keeping the score right there.”
As for the rotation, the Orioles have now gone 12 straight games without a quality start with an ERA of 5.63 in that span. But Bradish was just an inning short of getting one last night. He made a strong return to the rotation from the injured list.
Pregame Hyde said he hoped Bradish would pound the strikezone. On a night he walked none and fanned seven, he mostly did that.
“He’s got such a live fastball and he’s got two good breaking balls," said Hyde. "Good to see him land some breaking balls tonight. He hadn’t pitched in the big leagues in a while, so you never know what a young pitcher is going to come off the IL and look like. For him to go five innings on the road and just give up a two-run homer, I thought that was awesome.”
After allowing Joey Votto’s 373-foot, two-run shot in the first, Bradish pitched four scoreless through the fifth.
“It felt great,” he said after his 81-pitch night. “I’ve just been waiting to get activated. Felt great and that one, was pretty pleased with it. Could’ve thrown more strikes but didn’t really give up any hard contact. Even the home run, it wasn’t really a barrel. Executed a pitch and he got some wood on it. But overall, good first outing back.
“I was hitting my spots. My misses, I had maybe two semi big misses on fastballs going up. I was around the zone and they were pretty patient up there. But everything was working.”
Out due to right shoulder inflammation, Bradish had not pitched in the majors since June 18. He made three rehab starts between Double-A and Triple-A, allowing two runs over 12 2/3. He used the injury time as kind of a mental reset, he said.
“Absolutely. I know the guys, Dean (Kremer), Spenser (Watkins), talked to other guys about being on the IL and they said go down there and clear your head and come back strong.”
He said he also spent time working getting more distinct movement between his slider and curveball because the movement and pitch shapes previously were sort of blending together.
So the mental reset and a reset on his breaking pitches produced better results this time out.
Anthony Santander had a big night at the plate for the Orioles, going 3-for-4. His two-run homer in the sixth tied the game 2-2. Santander said the togetherness of his team continues to be a key element in the winning.
“We really support each other,” he said via team translator Brandon Quinones. “Every single day when we walk into this clubhouse and get to the field, we are constantly motivating one another to be better. We’re working hard. That chemistry goes a long way and is a big reason we’ve been so successful this year.”
And Santander’s teammates had his back in the ninth inning. Reds reliever Dauri Moreta plunked him with a pitch not long after he had called timeout. Santander felt the pitch was on purpose and took a step or two toward the mound. The dugouts emptied but nothing much more happened and order was quickly restored.
Said Santander about his actions in the ninth: “You know, it wasn’t really anything about taking a step forward. It’s just letting the pitcher know that I felt it was intentional. I know sometimes pitchers take offense to the fact that when you call time so close to the pitch being thrown, they can take offense to that and I get it. They might get hurt, or something like that. But at the same time you can’t be just throwing a pitch so inside like that. So I had to let him know and express how I felt.”
The Orioles bullpen threw four scoreless in the game and has allowed just one earned run in 22 2/3 innings the past five games. The ‘pen ERA is down to 2.99, which ranks third-best in both the AL and MLB. The O’s overall team ERA is down to 3.89, sixth-best in the AL.
The O’s have won four of five, 16 of 21 and 27 of 41 games. They are 5-2 in their past seven road games and 16-7 in July.