Despite losing starting pitcher Kyle Bradish early on, the Orioles were still able to shutout the powerful Rangers lineup and cruise to a 2-0 series-opening win in Arlington on Monday night.
The Orioles entered the three-game set in need of a deep outing from Bradish. Their last two starters had tossed six total innings in Boston, and the bullpen was already taxed.
Bradish would end up going just 1.2 innings here, but to no fault of his own. In fact, he looked rather nasty. His fastball was sitting above 95 mph and had more spin than normal, and his slider was getting whiffs like it always does.
Then he took a 104-mph liner from Jonah Heim off the right foot.
Kyle Bradish leaves the game in the second inning after taking a line drive off his foot pic.twitter.com/UFl8UF2IUZ— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) April 4, 2023
A fortuitous bounce sent the ball right to first baseman Ryan Mountcastle for the out and kept the game scoreless. That was the good news. The bad news was that Bradish proceeded to hobble around the infield and then struggled to throw his one warm-up toss before exiting.
Mid-game, word came down that scans on Bradish were negative. That’s a positive. But it doesn’t take an IL stint off the table just yet. Whatever the case, the Orioles pitching is going to be scrambled for a few days.
Orioles announce it's a right foot contusion for Kyle Bradish. His preliminary X-rays were negative for a fracture.— Jacob Calvin Meyer (@jcalvinmeyer) April 4, 2023
But it could have been even worse if not for the work put in by the pitchers that did appear in this game. Danny Coulombe was the first. The lefty came on with two runners in scoring position and managed a strikeout of Brad Miller on six pitches. He returned for the third inning and was able to work around a scary hit by pitch of Josh Smith to sit down the top of the Rangers lineup in order.
Some scoring for the good guys came next, and who better than the wunderkind himself. Gunnar Henderson notched his first hit of the year (a single) back in the second inning, and then took care of his first home run and RBI in the fourth, a 408-foot long fly ball to left-center field for a 1-0 lead.
Gunnar made that look easy. pic.twitter.com/9bSw9xdE9L— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 4, 2023
In the bottom of the frame, Tyler Wells came out of the Orioles bullpen. That was an interesting development because Wells was slated to start Tuesday’s game. Instead, he would toss five hitless innings on Monday, but more on that in a moment.
First, let’s see some good outfield defense from an Oriole. In that fourth inning, Wells’ terrific outing was almost immediately ruined when Adolia Garcia hit a line drive to the warning track in left. Kyle Stowers, getting his first start of the season went back, leaped, caught it, and smacked into the wall for the out. It was a much-needed web gem for an O’s outfield that had a tough weekend in Boston.
WHAT A CATCH BY KYLE STOWERS!! pic.twitter.com/gEvPHi0CXu— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 4, 2023
The Orioles doubled their lead in the fifth inning thanks to a monstrous homer from their shortstop, Jorge Mateo. It was gone from the moment it left the bat, but landed 433 feet later.
Mateo with a moonshot pic.twitter.com/lt6HtUxUiA— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 4, 2023
And that was pretty much it. Neither offense looked much like scoring the rest of the night. The Orioles did get two runners on in the eighth inning, but reliever Cole Ragans was able to wiggle out of it.
We cannot gloss over how good Wells was. Five hitless innings is impressive when a pitcher starts on the day they expect to start. It is something very different when it comes a day early as a reliever. And he did it while throwing just 47 pitches. Maybe he really did deserve that final rotation spot over Grayson Rodriguez after all.
Félix Bautista came in for the ninth inning and finally looked like himself. His fastball averaged 100 mph, and his splitter was up a tick too. He needed just seven pitches to strikeout two and record his second save of the season.
The usage of Wells does leave the Orioles with a bit of a conundrum on what to do for Tuesday, and O’s manager Brandon Hyde wasn’t showing his cards post-game, saying that no decision had been made.
Kyle Gibson would be on normal rest since they had the off day on Friday, so he’s an option. Austin Voth threw just one inning on Saturday, and could probably go through the order at least once. Or they could call someone up. DL Hall is the projected starter in Norfolk for Tuesday. Voth seems like the most likely option, but let us dream for a few hours.
What will not change is first pitch, which comes at 8:05 on Tuesday. Andrew Heaney is going to start for the Rangers. The southpaw spent last year with the Dodgers, where he discovered his finest form and turned it into a two-year deal.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 3, 2023?
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Tyler Wells (5 shutout innings of relief)
Félix Bautista (S, 7 pitches, 2 strikeouts, domination)
Gunnar Henderson (winning homer)
Kyle Stowers (flashing leather)