On Monday morning, less than two hours before that 12:05 p.m game in Baltimore when I had an interview with Kyle Bradish in the Orioles clubhouse, the right-hander was looking ahead to his next start. It would come the next day at St. Louis.
We didn’t know then how good it would go, but Bradish said simply he learned a lot in his second start against the Twins and was looking forward to outing No. 3.
“Just need to keep challenging hitters and not try and get too fine," he said. "It’s the big leagues and keep doing what I am here for. I had some good innings in both those first two starts and definitely gives me some reassurance that I am supposed to be here."
Further reassurance was delivered against the Cardinals last night. A seven-inning outing with no walks and 11 strikeouts. A 90-pitch gem against a playoff-caliber opponent playing in front of over 33,000 home fans. He showed tremendous poise after a two-run inside-the-park homer threatened to unravel five excellent innings on just 58 pitches.
But Bradish didn’t let that happen. This game would not get away from him or the Orioles.
After the homer, he struck out the side in the sixth. He added two more strikeouts in the seventh. His skipper let him stay in the game and he rewarded such confidence.
Bradish became the seventh pitcher in O's 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.
So the kid is keeping good company.
He turned up his a game a notch late last year at Triple-A Norfolk, looked good in a few spring training outings and looked great last night. The last O’s rookie pitcher with at least 10 strikeouts was Wei-Yin Chen in 2012. The team record is 13.
If they are having fun now, think of how the rotation could look with both Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, the club’s top two rated pitching prospects.
Bradish told me Monday he’s stoked for that duo to join him in the bigs.
“For me personally, it’s high (excitement level)," he said. "They are good friends of mine. And then for the whole system and the fans, I think, everyone has kind of been waiting on it. It will be fun when they get their opportunity here.”
Bradish said the young duo has big talent.
“Electric stuff,” he said. “They are still pretty young but they look like they’ve been pitching for a while. Just fun to watch.”
And that would describe his third major league start. It was fun to watch.
The Orioles at 13-17 are now on a 70-win pace. They have won three in a row, five of six and seven of the last 10 games. Since beating the Athletics 1-0 on April 20, the Orioles are 10-9. The Birds are 4-2 in their past six games decided by two runs or less.
O’s starting pitchers went six innings or more in just three of the club’s first 26 games. And now the O’s starters have done that four straight games, pitching four consecutive quality starts.
The combined line for those four games: 26 1/3 innings, 21 hits, seven earned runs, one walk and 24 strikeouts for an ERA of 2.39.
During the team’s 5-1 run, the O’s team ERA is 2.50.
O’s starters have allowed two earned runs or less in 23 of 30 games.
Bradish piled up all those Ks against one of the toughest teams to strikeout. The teams toughest to strikeout in the majors via K percentage heading into last night:
* 19.4 K rate – Kansas City
* 19.8 K rate – St. Louis and Cleveland
This stat flies under the radar with the rotation pitching well, but the O’s bullpen has allowed just one earned run over 19 innings the last six games for an ERA of 0.47.
Notable Elias: On the eve of this season's opening day game, O's executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias talked about how he sort of expected this 2022 season to play out with his club finally showing some improvement. The rebuilding was headed to the next step.
“I think that we’re getting more talented, we will get hopefully even more talented as the year goes on, and that should lead to wins," said Elias then. "But baseball’s baseball. Sometimes improvement doesn’t happen in a linear fashion. We’re keeping a broad perspective in mind in terms of carefully developing a playoff-caliber roster that’s going to remain at the forefront. But this team is young and talented, and the farm system underneath it is young and talented, and anything can happen. So we’re just going to keep working as smartly as possible trying to make the players better and seeing where this goes.
"I think we’re very hopeful that we’re going to take a step forward this year.”