The second batter who faced Orioles rookie right-hander Kyle Bradish on Friday night was hit by a pitch. One offering later, Houston Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez smoked a line drive to the right side, but first baseman Ryan Mountcastle snared it with a dive, doubling up Yuli Gurriel.
It showed how difficult hits would be to come by off Bradish, who allowed only two in eight innings as the Orioles opened a series against the American League-best Astros with a 2-0 victory at Minute Maid Park.
Entering Friday, the Orioles (66-59) had been one of four major league teams without a start of eight innings this year. Outside of John Means’ no-hitter last May, a Baltimore starter had not pitched more than 7 1/3 innings in manager Brandon Hyde’s four seasons.
A sixth-inning home run from Ramón Urías supplied all of the offense Bradish needed in stifling one of the game’s top offenses. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth, when Kyle Tucker singled behind an Alvarez walk to put runners on the corners for longtime Oriole Trey Mancini, facing his former club for the first time since being traded away earlier this month. But Bradish got Mancini to chase a slider for a strikeout, one of his six on the night. It marked Houston’s lone at-bat against him with a runner in scoring position.
The slider was a key pitch for Bradish throughout the outing, representing the majority of his 96 offerings. Of his 17 induced swings-and-misses, 13 came with that pitch. Before his previous outing, Bradish moved to the left side of the pitching rubber after previously working from the middle, requiring some adjustments to the location of his breaking balls that seemingly paid off Friday.
The Astros did not get a leadoff hitter on base against him until the seventh inning, when Alex Bregman singled to double Houston’s hit total. But a strikeout of Tucker and two flyouts to right, one off Mancini’s bat to the edge of the warning track, ended the threat. With closer Félix Bautista likely unavailable after pitching two innings Thursday, Bradish returned for the eighth and worked through it quickly, lowering his ERA in six starts off the injured list to 3.21.
Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. was not as crisp as Bradish but worked out of trouble routinely in his five innings, leaving the Orioles hitless in eight at-bats with a runner in scoring position. But such a hit wasn’t needed for the decisive runs, with Kyle Stowers’ two-out single in the sixth off Cristian Javier preceding Urías’ drive off the train track above the Crawford Boxes in left field.
Bradish recorded nine more outs from there before turning the game over to left-hander Cionel Pérez, a former Astro. Pérez sandwiched two singles around two outs, bringing up Mancini representing the winning run. But Dillon Tate struck him out to end the game.
This story will be updated.
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