BOSTON — Hours before he took the mound at Fenway Park, Kyle Bradish sat alone on the edge of the visitor’s dugout.
The hubbub of pregame activity surrounded him. The Red Sox took batting practice, and the Orioles’ players started to file out to stretch. But Bradish stayed in his solitude, focused only on the field in front of him as he occasionally tapped his foot along to the angsty punk music blasting through the speakers.
Fenway Park has not been his friend. Neither have the Red Sox. He’d made two career starts in Boston, exiting both before the third inning. He gave up 13 earned runs in four combined innings.
But Bradish is a different pitcher this year. He’s not a rookie anymore. He’s the top of the Orioles’ rotation, their likely Game 1 playoff starter and one of the top pitchers in the league.
And, on Friday, he finally performed like it in Boston.
Bradish was more locked in that usual, he said. He pitched six innings, giving up just two runs, as the Orioles beat the Red Sox 11-2 to open the three-game series.
“After my last outing in Phoenix, as soon as that was over, ‘I was like, well, we have to go back to Fenway,’” Bradish said. “This one felt really good.”
With a Tampa Bay win, the Orioles maintained their four-game lead in the division. Their magic number to make the postseason is seven, and they can clinch as early as next week when they host the Cardinals. Boston, meanwhile, falls further out of the wild-card race.
Bradish breezed through the Red Sox lineup the first time around, allowing just one hit to Connor Wong and striking out three. The fourth and fifth innings were standard for Bradish too.
“I saw probably as dominating a five innings as he’s been,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Every pitch working, the curveball and the slider, with great life to his 96 mph fastball. Good two-seamer. ... Outstanding start.”
It wasn’t until Wong, the Red Sox’s No. 9 batter, returned to the plate in the sixth that Bradish found himself in trouble. Wong hit a home run out of the stadium, 395 feet to left field.
Alex Verdugo then hit a double, which was followed promptly by a mound visit. Bradish had his first traffic of the night, but he was close, just two outs away from his night ending. He threw a low curveball to Rafael Devers, who swung and missed for the second out. Bradish ended up giving up one more run — off a Justin Turner ground-rule double — but he made it out of the inning by getting Triston Casas to fly out.
It was another quality start for Bradish, his fifth in a row, and another nod at his consistency and ability to perform under pressure. He credits his command, as well as his steady mix of pitches, for helping him stay steady.
“He’s just getting better and better,” Hyde said. “That’s so fun to watch.”
Bradish wasn’t perfect, but, with the Orioles’ offense, he didn’t need to be. Ryan O’Hearn and Adley Rutschman homered, and the team tacked on four runs in the sixth and another four in the ninth.
They didn’t need that last bundle to put them over the edge. But they might one day, and it’s part of what Hyde has been preaching to the Orioles all season: Never let down their guard, regardless of what the scoreboard says.
“Our guys are continuing, no matter the score, to take good at-bats,” Hyde said. “Saw a lot of walks late, guys not giving their at-bat up just because of the score ever. Continuing to stay in the moment. Every at-bat matters. We’re taking team at-bats for nine innings, and that’s how you win the game.”