It is official: Kyle Bradish is the Orioles Game 1 starting pitcher for their Division Series against the Texas Rangers. Manager Brandon Hyde made the announcement in his media availability before Friday’s final pre-series workout for the team. In addition, Hyde revealed that Grayson Rodriguez is going to be the Game 2 pitcher for the O’s.
Bradish was the easy choice for Game 1. He was the best Orioles starting pitcher over the course of the full season. Finishing a 30-start campaign with a 2.83 ERA and 1.043 WHIP is impressive. It’s so impressive that Bradish did something that has not been accomplished by an Orioles starter since Mike Mussina did it in 1992 - that is, finish a full season with an ERA under 3. He averaged one strikeout per inning pitched for the season.
If the voters bother to pay attention to Bradish, he’ll get some 3rd or 4th place Cy Young votes. By using him in Game 1, the Orioles can also expect to have him available in Game 5 if the series lasts that long. That’s a good player to be able to pitch twice in a best-of-five.
Rodriguez was also a fairly obvious choice for the Game 2 start based on what he did in the second half of the season, though there was a case to be made to go a different direction. As for Rodriguez himself, although his overall season ERA of 4.35 doesn’t look that impressive, what every Orioles fan is well aware is that Rodriguez was a different guy after being demoted to the minors and coming back after the All-Star break.
Put simply, Rodriguez, after an initial taste of failure, came back looking like the guy we’d been dreaming of for years, and the guy who’d gotten near-universal top prospect acclaim up until he suffered the lat injury last year that kept him from making a 2022 debut. Some people started pumping the brakes after Rodriguez’s rough first half and they look like fools now.
In 12 second half starts, Rodriguez held opposing batters to just a .590 OPS and posted a 2.58 ERA. He was rolling all the way to the end of the season. The particular trend that I hope he can carry into the postseason is the one where he gave up just three home runs after the All-Star break, a span of time in which he faced 304 batters. Allowing a home run to less than 1% of all batters is, uh, pretty darn good.
You could have made a case to see John Means as the Game 2 starter instead of Rodriguez. The idea there would have been that Means might be a better fit pitching at Camden Yards, where the left field dimensions should be more favorable for a homer-prone pitcher against righty batters, the weak half of his platoon.
I get it, but I think this would have been overthinking by the Orioles. Just line up your two best guys first and see what happens. I’m glad that’s what they’re doing. Means, although we’re all happy to see him back, also has only made four starts since returning from Tommy John surgery and he hasn’t been tested against an offense anywhere near as good as Texas’s yet. We’ll see if he’s the guy when the Orioles announce subsequent pitchers. It is possible that the first two games’ results will determine who pitches either Game 3 or Game 4, if a fourth game is necessary.