In April, the Orioles couldn’t buy a home run. Then June brought the humidity, and suddenly they can’t keep the ball in the Yard! The Orioles blasted five home runs on a rainy Tuesday night, including three in the first two innings. Against the visiting Chicago Cubs, they rocketed out to an early 7-1 lead, and never looked back.
The O’s’ talented rookie right-hander Kyle Bradish had scuffled his way to an alarming 8.46 ERA in May. Staked with a six-run lead tonight, could Bradish tame the home run demons and provide his team with a quality start?
Eh... not quite. Bradish’s very first pitch of the game, a 96-mph high fastball to Cubs centerfielder Christopher Morel, ended up 427 feet away over the Wall. (Not exactly Bradish’s fault: Morel put an amazing swing on the chest-high offering.) But four innings and 88 pitches later, the Cubs’ best player, Willson Contreras, a catcher OPS’ing .938, did the same thing to another Bradish fastball, not a good one.
The look on Bradish’s face was heartbreaking when he walked Patrick Wisdom with two outs in the fifth inning and saw Brandon Hyde begin the long, slow walk to the mound. But can you blame Hyde? 105 pitches to go 4 2/3 innings is not ideal.
On Tuesday night, it wasn’t so much the Cubs doing damage as the young righty seeming to be at war with himself. Bradish would fall behind hitters, struggle to put them away (the slider was not sharp today), and then escape with a lucky out or something. Maybe it was the rain making the mound mushy (something the MASN booth floated as a possibility), but it was a perpetual struggle. Still, MASN’s Jim Palmer remains a Bradish booster (“He just needs more innings”) and I’m excited to see him harness his stuff with experience.
But honestly, a lot of things can be forgiven when your offense is blasting tanks all over the place. Cubs reliever-turned-starter Keegan Thompson was 6-0 with a 1.99 ERA entering tonight. Well, Keegan Thompson, meet the Orioles.
Leading off the game, Cedric Mullins pushed a bunt foul, changed his mind and blasted a curveball onto the flag court instead. He hadn’t even finished jangling the O’s home run chain in front of the dugout cameras when Trey Mancini served a first-pitch fastball into the bullpen. That was fast! Back-to-back jacks to lead off the game, the first time the Orioles have done so in 10 years.
Neither starter really seemed to have “it” tonight, but one seemed to have less of it than the other, and that was Thompson. As the second inning rolled around, Thompson started plunking Orioles hitters: Rougned Odor got hit on the elbow guard, flinging his bat down in disgust before Ramón Urías took a tailing fastball in the ribs. It looked painful. Two men on, one down for Jorge Mateo. I’d just opened a tab on my browser to look up Mateo’s average over the last 7 days (.063) when … crack. Thompson hung a “hit me” curveball and Mateo drove it exactly 400 feet, up and over Mt. Walltimore!
Undaunted, the Cubs sent Thompson back out in the third. While the booth interviewed GM Mike Elias about how good recently-promoted prospects Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg look, the Orioles strung together another run-scoring rally: Santander stroked a ball the opposite way before Austin Hays rocketed a double down the line. Third base coach Tony Mansolino had absolutely no business sending Santander home, but he did. The ball arrived way before Santander did, but Willson Contreras just dropped it! The O’s had scored six. They’d score one more when Ryan Mountcastle plated Hays with a sac fly.
After those three miserable innings, Thompson was out, and in—for thankless mop-up duty—came Alec Mills, author of a no-hitter in 2020. Mills looked to be almost out of the fifth inning, but he hung a changeup to Austin Hays. Hays hit a monster that only had to decide to stay fair in order to hit the second deck. It did, 464 feet away, the O’s’ longest of the season. The blast also made Hays just the seventh hitter to hit the left-field second deck in Camden Yards history.
And then, just when you thought the Orioles might be done for the night, Ramón Urías launched a ball in the sixth inning that announcer Scott Garceau had basically given up on before it sailed, sailed, and kept sailing, eventually bouncing off of Elrod’s Corner for a fifth and final Orioles home run.
The bullpen closed this one out (mostly) free of drama, even though it was another long night for them. Bryan Baker finished the fifth inning for Bradish, and also pitched the sixth. He did not look great, throwing 25 pitches, just 14 for strikes, and allowing a walk and an RBI triple.
Félix Bautista and Nick Vespi looked like studs, though. Bautista had an easy seventh, and even though it doesn’t feel like a special day for Bautista unless he strikes out the side, I know that’s not fair. Nick Vespi also pitched to contact, but none of the scary variety: he threw ten pitches, eight for strikes and continues to look like a rock-steady addition to this bullpen.
Logan Gillispie had a pretty easy assignment, Don’t lose the game in the ninth with a 9-3 lead, but like Bryan Baker, he, too, struggled to find the zone, tossing 25 pitches and just 11 strikes while allowing a single, walk, and a warning-track fly. But he was not bad enough to require bringing in Jorge López. A six-run lead in the ninth is nice that way.
If you’re of the quibbling type, you ask for more length from your starter, and fewer walks from your bullpen. For those happy-go-lucky types, well, this was an awesome win.
Who was the most Birdland Player on Tuesday?
This poll is closed
Cedric Mullins (1-for-4, HR, ended homer drought dating to May 10)
Trey Mancini (1-for-4, HR)
Austin Hays (2-for-4, upper-deck HR, 2B)
Jorge Mateo (1-for-3, 3-run HR)