These are the nights that can occur as a major league starter, laboring through innings and leaving the mound with a shake of the head. The game’s best experience them rarely, but they come for everyone, sooner or later, and it came for Kyle Bradish on Monday night.
In his first three starts, the right-hander had largely avoided these sorts of displays. If it was ever bound to come, though, it was in start No. 4, against a New York Yankees lineup stacked with left-handed and right-handed power hitters, the kind of variation mixed with experience that creates a potent — and imposing — combination for a rookie learning his way.
“It’s a definite challenge,” manager Brandon Hyde said before the game. “I don’t care if you’re a 10-year vet or a rookie. This is a huge test to pitch against this lineup.”
In a sense, that Bradish only allowed four runs in his 4 1/3 innings during Monday’s 6-2 loss at Oriole Park at Camden Yards was commendable. He worked through traffic throughout, with a 30-pitch first inning setting the stage for a laborious outing.
“He’s a young starter that’s only had a few starts under his belt,” Hyde said after the loss. “Thought he had good stuff, just didn’t quite command it the way he has been the last few starts.”
The 25-year-old worked out of that jam, however, stranding the bases loaded, with three strikeouts mingling with two walks and an infield single. It took a savvy play from second baseman Rougned Odor, cutting the ball off before it reached the outfield, twirling and firing home to hold a runner at third.
And it appeared the six-pitch second inning would even out Bradish’s outing. But a two-out double into Elrod’s Corner by Giancarlo Stanton plated Anthony Rizzo, and two singles and a Jose Trevino homer that collided with the right field foul pole left Bradish with a 5.06 ERA in four starts. He gave up a career-high eight hits and three walks, not matching the 11-strikeout performance he compiled last week in a win against the St. Louis Cardinals.
That outing, in which he didn’t allow a free pass and gave up just four hits across seven innings, showed the promise Bradish possesses. Monday showed that promise has yet to be fully realized — although against the Yankees (26-9), those nights can happen to rookies and veterans alike.
“I feel comfortable attacking hitters,” Bradish said. “It just comes to being in the zone. When I’m in the zone, I’m pretty dominant and not really getting hit. But when I’m pretty sporadic with strikes, that’s when guys find holes or throw their barrel at the ball.”
It took a golf swing from Anthony Santander to give the Orioles (14-22) their first hit and first run in the fourth inning, sending a low slider into the flag court beyond right field. But unlike golf, where the lowest score wins, Baltimore’s inability to produce much of anything on offense led to a fourth straight loss.
The absences of Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays and Jorge Mateo are clearly impacting an offense without much depth. The lack of production continued a stretch that includes four runs in four games, most recently a series sweep to the Detroit Tigers.
But the Orioles could’ve gotten on the board immediately, with Cedric Mullins reaching on a three-base error from left fielder Joey Gallo. Instead, Trey Mancini was doubled off first after a soft liner from Santander and Ramón Urías grounded out.
“That would’ve been nice to get on the board there early,” Hyde said. “Didn’t happen.”
There were few other opportunities beyond Santander’s ninth-inning blast — his sixth of the season — that towered over the left field wall.
Left-hander Keegan Akin’s scoreless 3 2/3 innings in relief kept the deficit at three runs, but there was little opportunity to narrow that gap further. And after Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rizzo powered consecutive homers off Félix Bautista in the ninth inning, any window was slammed closed.
Baltimore finished with three hits, the team’s fewest this season. And with 11 whiffs — seven of which came against right-hander Luis Severino — the Orioles continued a strikeout habit that was especially noticeable Sunday, when they punched out a season-high 16 times.
“Tough assignment. We’ve got mostly right-handers in the lineup. That’s not easy to do against [Severino],” Hyde said. “We’ve got to get more hits.”
As Hays walked off the field before Monday’s game, he admitted the feeling felt weird — for the first time since he was 10 years old, the Orioles left fielder wore a batting glove, both while swinging and under his glove for fielding.
It’s a necessary precaution as he works his way back from a grisly hand injury that required stitches in several places after he was stepped on sliding into first base Thursday against the Cardinals. His buildup has been slow going. First, he needed to wait a minimum of 48 hours for the stitches to set. Then he needed to wait for the swelling to recede.
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His hand has made progress in both regards, allowing him to swing a bat for the first time Monday since the injury. Beyond the weird feeling of a batting glove, Hays said he felt “good.” He also practiced shagging fly balls with his hand still healing — “didn’t drop any,” he said.
“Check that off the list,” Hays said, taking another step toward a return. Hyde said Hays would be available off the bench if necessary, but he didn’t make an appearance. For the foreseeable future, Hays will play with a tight bandage wrapping his pinky, where the most severe cuts occurred, to avoid the stitches from being tugged out. Once the stitches are ready to be removed, he can go without that wrapping — and soon after lose the batting glove.
Mateo said pregame he felt good enough to play, but Hyde preached a slower approach to his return to action. The shortstop sustained bruises on his chest and shoulder after a weighty collision with Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson, which forced Mateo to leave Sunday’s game. But he shouldn’t miss extended time.
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism