Tyler Wells on playoff pressure: "It's controlled chaos"

Tyler Wells doesn’t remember much about it now. But he once attended a Major League Baseball playoff game. He recalls it was in 2018 and it was at Dodger Stadium. He remembered going with his dad and that “Justin Turner did something cool, but I don’t remember what it was.”

Starting today he can make some of his own memories and take part in an MLB playoff game as the Orioles host Texas this afternoon to start the American League Division Series.

After 101 regular-season wins, the Orioles are three wins from reaching the AL Championship Series, seven wins from reaching the World Series and 11 from winning it.

For Wells, it’s a wonderful and exciting time, and one that was not guaranteed even a few weeks ago. He spent nearly two months in the minors. Coming out of the All-Star break he gave up 11 runs in nine innings over three starts and soon after found himself in Double-A Bowie and later Triple-A Norfolk. He finally returned to the O's active roster Sept. 22 and has thrown five hitless and scoreless innings upon his return to the majors.

“It’s incredibly special. I think it’s just made me a little more grateful,” said Wells. “To share the field with these guys and just enjoy it. It is hard to put into words how much appreciation I have for it.

“Ever since I was five and started playing baseball, I remember my great-grandpaw and my dad always listened to Vin Scully on the radio. Going to Tulsa Driller games. Now the chance to be here is surreal. I want to be able to take the moment and enjoy it, but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”

All players would love to make a playoff game feel just like any other game. Easy to say and must be incredibly hard to do.

“I said this the other day to Jim Palmer: I am going to try and treat it like it’s Jim Palmer bobblehead day that we had last year,” Wells said, laughing. “It’s going to be pretty incredible. It will be where we see the whole crowd in nothing but orange and hearing how loud it is, is something I’m looking forward to.

“When you make your debut you get a crazy adrenaline rush, and sometimes you don’t want to let that overtake you. I think that is how we’re going to approach it. It’s controlled chaos. Make sure we are staying under control with ourselves and our minds. But also understanding we have a job to do.”

Rutschman on Bradish: Right-hander Kyle Bradish (12-7, 2.83 ERA), who ended the season ranked third in ERA in the AL and fourth in the majors, is the Game 1 starter for Baltimore, and that is no surprise.

Catcher Adley Rutschman talked about Bradish's season and his strong second half, when he went 7-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 14 starts since July 16. 

“I mean, just to see his learning curve - he's always had phenomenal stuff, but to see how his pitches are used most effectively and to kind of just build himself up, and his identity as a pitcher. He's become confident in that and really confident in what he's becoming. So, I think just to see his confidence day in and day out and his plan going into each game is fun to be a part of," Rutschman said. 

Bradish discussed the quality and effectiveness this season of his slider and curveball. During the 2023 season batters have hit just .168 while slugging .272 off his slider, and those numbers are .142 and 165 off his curveball.

“Yeah, it's this whole season (that those pitches have been very good),” said Bradish. “After that first month where we kind of started relying on those heavier, they've kind of grown as well as have I as a pitcher, and they just play off of each other. They're both hard, but the slider goes one direction, and the curveball is 12-6. So that helps keep hitters kind of off balance.”

In the Statcast metric "run value," Bradish's curveball ranks third-best in the majors, and his slider is ninth-best. 

No worries about the offense: During Friday's press conference I asked manager Brandon Hyde whether the O's late-season struggles on offense mean nothing now or present cause for concern or the need for any adjustments.

They scored just eight runs the last four games versus Boston and just 32 in the last 11 games, when the Orioles scored two or fewer seven times.

"No, I think everybody is hitting .000 right now," said Hyde. "And postseason at-bats are a little bit different. It's a clean slate across the board. And we did have some guys kind of scuffling 'til the last week or two, but that can turn around real quick. A big hit in a postseason game and all of a sudden that gets you going. I want our guys just to relax and enjoy the moment and take the best at-bats that they can."

Bochy on Hyde: During his pre-series press conference Friday afternoon at Oriole Park, Texas manager Bruce Bochy was reminded that Hyde is from the Bay area in California and has a lot of admiration for Bochy, who won World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

"I've talked to Brandon," said Bochy. "He has done such a great job here. You look at where Baltimore was and where they are now. You have to look at him and how steady he is. He just looks like he does a tremendous job here. Great baseball guy that has turned his team around. And now you look at them, and they're one of the best teams in baseball. It starts with him and the job he's done.

"We talked about he's from the Bay area, that he grew up there. And I got a nice little sendoff here when I retired. So thank him for that, too, but he took care of me on that."

O's postseason record: The Orioles today play the 93rd postseason game in club history. They have a 52-40 record in games and a 12-10 mark in postseason series. 

They have lost their last five playoff games since beating Detroit to win the 2014 AL Division Series on Oct. 5.

The O's are 3-1 all-time in ALDS, beating Cleveland in 1996, Seattle in 1997 and Detroit in 2014 but lost to New York in 2012. They are 11-5 all-time in ALDS games. 

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