ARLINGTON, Texas – Kyle Bradish bolted from the mound to first base, fielded the flip from Ryan Mountcastle and smacked his glove hard with his right hand.
The fourth inning was over and Bradish kept the score tied. Through 80 pitches. With heavy traffic threatening to flatten him.
Bradish completed five innings with one run allowed before relinquishing the ball to the bullpen. He was a decided underdog against Rangers All-Star Martín Pérez, but he minimized the damage during maximum stress.
The rest was up to his teammates, who also are used to their non-favorite status and wear it like a badge of honor.
It hasn’t weighed them down as they try to climb the standings.
Ryan McKenna hit a game-tying home run in the second inning. Robinson Chirinos hit a go-ahead home run into the second deck in left field in the seventh after Matt Moore replaced Pérez. Pinch-hitter Terrin Vavra broke another tie with a two-out double in the eighth, and he scored on Chirinos’ single.
Three reserves, including a rookie playing in his sixth game, sparking a 6-3 win over the Rangers that completed a season sweep.
This is the first for the Orioles of at least six games against a single opponent since 2010 versus the Angels. They moved three games above .500 today for the first time since April 4, 2021.
The Orioles have won 19 of their last 26 games and 24 of 36. They remain 1½ behind the third-place Rays.
They keep finding ways to win.
"We had a lot of guys contribute today," said manager Brandon Hyde. "That's what it takes. The good teams, they win differently."
Adley Rutschman led off the ninth by drawing his third walk of the day - his OPS is .799 - and he scored on Anthony Santander’s double. Two wild pitches by Jonathan Hernández removed a save opportunity for Félix Bautista as he warmed in the bullpen.
Marcus Semien homered off Bautista with two outs in the ninth to account for the final margin.
The sweep "says a lot about these guys," Chirinos said. "Everybody knows we're doing something cool here. Brandon in the meeting a couple days ago said, 'The guys we have here are who we have, so we just have to go out and compete and keep playing good baseball,' and that's what we did here."
Former Orioles farmhand Jonah Heim hit a game-tying solo home run off Dillon Tate on a two-strike pitch with two outs in the seventh inning, but Jorge Mateo walked against José Leclerc with two outs in the eighth, stole his 26th base – the call stood after a review – and scored on Vavra’s double to left-center field.
"Mateo's walk won us the game," Hyde said. "I can't hammer that home enough with our guys, how much being able to keep the line moving, and Jorgie did that."
Chirinos dumped a single into center for a big tack-on run, the Orioles expanded their lead in the ninth, Cionel Pérez retired all four batters he faced, and Bautista struck out the first two batters in the ninth, surrendered a home run to Semien and struck out another.
Hyde keeps deflecting the credit for the Orioles improbable playoff run. For how it’s “liftoff from here,” in the words of executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.
Hyde points to “the guys in the room” for getting in position be above .500 and chase a wild card.
“I’m proud of them, proud of our guys for dealing with some adversity this year, also, and being able to bounce back and playing well,” he said earlier today. “It’s been a really fun team to manage, it’s been a fun team to be around, and just love to see us continue these next few months.”
Hyde understood the importance of having Elias meet with some players this morning to explain the rationale behind trading Trey Mancini and Jorge López, and to bury the narrative that he didn’t care about 2022.
“Just shows care, which is huge,” Hyde said. “Shows that we’re invested in our players, and we’re going to do everything we can to take care of them and communicate with them. That we care about them as people, also. I think that’s super important for a player to know, and for Mike to take the time to come here and talk to some guys individually, I think that showed a lot.
“I don’t think it was damage control, I think it was just communicating with them on where we are as an organization and how excited he was by how well they’re playing.”
Hyde is totally invested in the 26-man roster, but he also will be thrilled to lead the next wave of prospects. Left-hander DL Hall and outfielder Kyle Stowers are expected to arrive later this summer.
“DL’s a special talent and we have really talented players in our minor leagues, and I am looking forward to managing all of them,” he said. “It’s fun to watch guys make their debut. … We’re trying to win games up here, and to have some of our young guys experience that and be a part of it, as well as the growth that we have in our minor league system, it’s a fun time right now.”
It was a grind for Bradish, who allowed a run in a 28-pitch first inning on a hit batter and two singles, the last by Adolis García with two outs. He walked the bases loaded in the second and leaped to snare Heim’s bouncer and record the final out – this time using up 26 pitches.
Mateo’s fielding error in the third was followed by a strikeout, fielder’s choice and grounder. Josh Smith led off the fourth with a single and advanced two bases on a wild pitch and sacrifice bunt, but Bradish struck out Semien and retired Corey Seager on the grounder to Mountcastle.
Hence, the enthusiastic slap of the glove.
"It was a good learning experience," Bradish said. "Worked through a lot of traffic. Previous outings, runners were on base and they were scoring, it seemed like, so I was able to minimize damage today, make big pitches when I needed to."
Bradish threw 13 pitches in the fifth while retiring the side in order to leave his count at 93. He allowed three hits, walked three batters and struck out five.
"He definitely was scuffling," Hyde said. "First inning was a struggle, the second inning was a struggle. I think we got fortunate only giving up one run there early, because the command was not there. Really happy to see him settle in and being able to go five innings. He was an at-bat or two away a couple times, and for him to be able to find it a little bit and find a better rhythm in his delivery and find his command, that was huge for us."
Tate inherited two runners from Bryan Baker in the sixth after a walk and bunt single, and Mateo made a sliding, backhand stop of Charlie Culberson’s ground ball and threw from his knees to start a double play.
Martín Pérez wasn’t as sharp as usual, but he tied his career high with nine strikeouts in six innings and escaped a few jams. He hasn’t allowed more than a run in 14 starts, and he hasn’t lost in 19 consecutive starts to tie Cole Hamels’ franchise record in 2015-16.
Tyler Nevin led off the second with a double and was stranded. Mountcastle walked in the fourth, but Pérez struck out three in the inning. Chirinos and Cedric Mullins had back-to-back singles in the fifth and Rutschman walked, but Santander struck out.
Ramón Urías singled with one out in the sixth, McKenna walked, and Mateo lined into a double play.
Moore threw a 93 mph fastball to Chirinos and it traveled 407 feet for his third home run of the season. And more clutch hits came in the eighth and ninth.
The game couldn’t begin until the Orioles made their latest roster move, activating outfielder Brett Phillips after yesterday’s deadline trade with the Rays and optioning Yusniel Diaz to Triple-A Norfolk.
Phillips, who struck out as a pinch-hitter for McKenna in the eighth inning and again in the ninth, hopped on top of the bench earlier today for his first interview with the local press. His enthusiasm, as usual, couldn’t be contained.
“Playing in the East for the last couple years, getting on base, talking to these guys, what I’ve noticed about this team, just playing from the other side, is it looks like a great group of guys,” he said. “I’m excited to join this clubhouse. The energy, the way these guys are playing baseball, it’s night and day from the last couple years. I’m excited to be joining. I’d be lying if I wasn’t.”
He wasn’t done.
“It’s a new opportunity for me, and it’s something that, always stay positive and try to make the most out of,” he said. “I’m here and I’m looking to win a World Series with the Baltimore Orioles. That would be freakin’ awesome.”
Even the newcomers are thinking big.
"I think our guys did a great job of understanding what's still ahead of us and not looking ..." Hyde said. "We're going to miss those guys. There's no doubt. Those are friends and great teammates, and they're hard to replace, but also, we still have a season to play and our guys are playing to win. And they're still playing with confidence."
"Losing a couple of key guys, some teams might fold, but we're like a family in there," Bradish said. "We just got each other's back every time we go out there."
"I think everybody knows now in this clubhouse that we're good," Chirinos said. "We can compete and we can play against the best teams out there. I think we just have to take one day at a time. It's good to have a day off tomorrow and come back Friday and keep playing good baseball.
"It's been really good to see how we're making this a really good clubhouse. In the beginning it was not like that in spring training, and everybody bought into staying together. We play together, we're a family, and now everybody's embracing that and everybody's pulling for each other. It's a good group, man, and I'm blessed to be part of this team right now."
Notes: Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Rutschman is the only rookie catcher since 1900 to record 20 or more doubles in his first 57 games. He’s the third rookie catcher to record at least 28 extra-base hits in that span, joining Carlton Fisk and Geovany Soto.
Rutschman is the only player in major league history with at least 22 doubles, five home runs and 25 walks in his first 57 games.
Draft picks Adam Retzbach, Adam Crampton and Jud Fabian debuted today in the Florida Complex League. Silas Ardoin, Max Costes and Dylan Beavers will debut on Thursday.
The plan calls for them to play a maximum of five innings.