The Orioles postseason hopes took yet another hit on Sunday afternoon as the punchless offense wasted a terrific pitching performance from Kyle Bradish, leading to a 1-0 loss to the Red Sox at Camden Yards.
Dreary weather in Baltimore caused an hour-long rain delay prior to first pitch. Perhaps this was a welcome respite on the first full day of the 2022 NFL season for those looking to avoid a constant jiggling of their remote’s “Previous Channel” button. It sure seemed like the hitters of both teams were in a rush to get back to the dugout and check in on their fantasy teams. The starting pitching combo of Rich Hill and Kyle Bradish stymied opposing hitters for most of the afternoon.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde deployed a lineup that had a JV feel to it. Adley Rutschman got the day off, as is typical for a catcher on Sunday afternoons. He was joined on the pine by Gunnar Henderson and Cedric Mullins. It was a conscious decision to go with an overwhelmingly right-handed lineup against the southpaw Hill. Unfortunately, that strategy failed.
Hill needed 77 pitches to get through five scoreless innings. The Orioles did threaten to score on the veteran a couple of times, but nothing came to fruition. Their best opportunity presented itself in the fifth inning, when a hit by pitch for Rougned Odor and a walk to Robinson Chirinos flipped the lineup over with no outs. But a failed bunt attempt from Ryan McKenna followed by strikeouts from Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle quickly fizzled that hopeful rally.
Meanwhile, Bradish kept his team right on the Red Sox heels. The only run allowed by the rookie came in the first inning. Tommy Pham led off the game with a single, stole second base, moved to third on a ground out, and then scored on a Xander Bogaerts sacrifice fly.
It was one of those starts where Bradish was not blowing the ball by the Boston lineup. His fastball velocity was down quite a bit in the rain conditions. Instead, he pitched to contact and took advantage of three double plays to get out of trouble in the fourth, fifth, and seventh innings. Three of his last four starts have gone seven or more innings.
This outing brought Bradish’s season ERA down to 5.01, more than two points lower (7.38) than it was before he went on the IL in mid-June. The Orioles want Bradish to be a rotation piece long term. That was becoming tougher to see a few months ago, but now he looks like a key cog in the rotation both now and moving forward.
After Hill exited the game, the Orioles only threatened to score once. In the seventh inning, Odor led off with another hit by pitch. He moved to second on a balk and then swiped third. But once again the top of the lineup could not come through. McKenna grounded out, and Santander struck out.
The trio of Henderson, Rutschman, and Mullins did all make appearances as pinch hitters. Henderson took Jesús Aguilar’s spot and ended up making two trips to the plate, including a walk. Mullins and Rutschman both entered in the ninth as a last gasp effort to snag a win. But it didn’t happen.
The Orioles offense had just three total hits and four walks. They went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Just as it has been for a few weeks nows, the lineup lacks any amount of pop. However, in an odd twist, Austin Hays managed multiple hits and a walk, perhaps breaking out of his lengthy funk at the plate.
It’s tough to make a case for Aguilar’s continued inclusion in the lineup. Small sample sizes and all that, but he is 1-for-18 with six strikeouts and no walks in an Orioles uniform. Add in his struggles with the Marlins earlier in the year. It makes more sense to give his DH at-bats to someone like Kyle Stowers at this point, even against a left-handed pitcher.
The Orioles aren’t sunk yet, but they are not trending in the right direction. They have lost two straight series and five of their last seven games. A two-game, midweek sweep of the lowly Nationals is a requirement.
Following an off day on Monday, D.C. is the destination on Tuesday. Dean Kremer toes the slab for a 7:05 first pitch from Nationals Park.