Hours before the Orioles took on the Rockies, the team sat subdued in the clubhouse. The players were told that closer Félix Bautista, the guy they trust no matter the circumstance, was going to be out with an ulnar collateral ligament injury.
The timeline and severity aren’t known yet. But every player understands the significance of a UCL injury, and they all know they will be without their closer for at least the imminent future, if not far longer.
When it came time to play, the offense got off to a slow start. But this team knows how to rally around each other, whether it be in the clubhouse or on the field. That time came in the sixth inning. Baltimore, down by one, drove out Colorado starter Chris Flexen after Gunnar Henderson and Anthony Santander had back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the inning. Ryan Mountcastle had no trouble against reliever Tommy Doyle, hitting the second pitch of Doyle’s outing.
It resulted in a bases-clearing double that gave the Orioles a 4-2 lead, and they went on to beat the Rockies 5-4.
“It was a tough day for everybody,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “This was a grind-out game. We didn’t swing the bat especially well early; give Flexen credit.”
They’ll go for the sweep Sunday, with Jack Flaherty probable to take the mound for Baltimore, his first start since giving up seven runs in three innings against the Padres on Aug. 15.
This comeback, of course, wouldn’t have been possible without another strong start from Kyle Bradish, who has quietly become one of the best pitchers in the American League. He pitched into the seventh, when Harold Castro hit a leadoff double to end Bradish’s night.
Bradish stumbled only in the third, when he gave up a double to Michael Toglia and a single to Brenton Doyle. Charlie Blackmon drove in Toglia, Ezequiel Tovar doing the same to Doyle. Bradish, though, got through the rest of his inning without giving up a run. His 3.03 ERA is the second lowest in the American League, behind only six-time All-Star Gerrit Cole (2.95 ERA).
“I thought I threw the ball well,” Bradish said. “They put some good swings on some good pitches, not too many balls hit hard but just found holes.”
The bullpen, now tasked with filling the void left by Bautista, stumbled slightly but got by. In the top of the eighth, Jacob Webb gave up his first runs in an Orioles uniform after being picked up off waivers from the Angels Aug. 9. DL Hall, recalled as Bautista was put on the injured list, got the team out of the inning though. In his first appearance since April 29 — and only his second of the season — he gave up a single but then got Brendan Rodgers to ground into a double play and Alan Trejo to fly out to right.
With a one-run lead entering the top of the ninth, the Orioles had their first save situation without their All-Star closer. They sent out Yennier Cano, whose save opportunity was slightly delayed as the umpires instructed him to switch gloves, told that there was too much rosin on it.
New leather in hand, Cano pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his fifth career save.
“We’ve all been working really hard,” Cano said. “Now, with Félix out, we are going to have to do an even better job going forward. I think all the hard work we’ve put in is paying off and is going to be huge for us moving forward.”