CHICAGO — After pitch 103 flew past the flailing bat of Bryan Ramos, Kyle Bradish clenched his fists and gesticulated his excitement. He had just tied his career high of 11 strikeouts. He had just completed a dominant seven innings. But, for Bradish, pitch 103 was his final offering.

The Orioles right-hander flirted with a no-hitter in Baltimore’s series-ending 4-1 win against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday but settled for seven innings of near perfection.

There were ample factors to consider. It’s early in the season. It was a close game. And Bradish is coming off an elbow injury that required a platelet-rich-plasma injection this winter in order to even be on the mound.

So Bradish left the game to receive high-fives in the dugout from his Orioles teammates and coaches. Then the focus turned to left-hander Danny Coulombe. But the first batter, pinch hitter Danny Mendick, ended the shutout and opportunity for a combined no-hitter with a solo homer.

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Coulombe said he felt “sick” for allowing the knock that broke up a no-hit bid, but none of his teammates placed any hard feelings on one of Baltimore’s most reliable relievers. He still wishes he could have back that one pitch — a cutter to Mendick — because Bradish “deserved that today.”

“He’s an ace. One of the best in the league,” Coulombe said. “He’s got top-five stuff in baseball. He’s impressive, and he’s an even better teammate.”

Complete game or not, the performance of Bradish — to twirl seven no-hit innings — was the most dominant of his career and signals that he is truly back at his best. There are others that come close, such as 8 2/3 shutout innings against the Houston Astros in 2022. He earned Cy Young Award consideration last season after posting a 2.83 ERA over 168 2/3 innings.

There were questions, though, as to how effective Bradish would be after suffering a UCL sprain over the winter. The answer: five straight starts with two runs or fewer against him, including Sunday’s brilliance.

“It means a lot to kind of get back to where I need to be and where I was last year,” Bradish said. “That’s just a testament to the hard work I put into the rehab and where I’ve been at, gradually getting better each start.”

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Bradish had run support behind him, with Adley Rutschman’s 10th homer of the season handing Baltimore a two-run lead in the sixth. Colton Cowser chipped in a solo shot in the eighth before Mendick broke up the no-hitter and shutout. James McCann’s sacrifice fly gave closer Craig Kimbrel a three-run lead to protect.

As a result of the offseason injury, of course, Bradish has been under a close eye.

“No choice there, unfortunately,” manager Brandon Hyde said of his decision to remove Bradish after seven frames. “It’s 103 pitches, he hasn’t gone that far and coming off of an elbow strain earlier. That’s difficult, because you want to see him stay out there and he’s throwing the ball so great.”

Before Sunday, Bradish’s longest outing this season had been five innings at 90 pitches. He was more efficient at Guaranteed Rate Field and completed seven, showing confidence as the game went on.

Bradish slapped his glove after his 80th pitch — a slider below the strike zone — forced Andrew Vaughn to swing and miss to end the sixth innings. It was his ninth strikeout of the afternoon, and it didn’t seem to matter that his pregame routine was thrown off.

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Kyle Bradish has gone five straight starts without allowing more than two runs. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The downpour of rain in Chicago pushed back the scheduled start time for the series finale almost two hours, and Bradish rapidly warmed up in the outfield once first pitch was announced. He kept that pace throughout the day, mowing through batters with a four-pitch mix.

Bradish’s sinker and slider were the predominant swing-and-miss offerings, with the slider drawing a whiff on almost half the swings against it. And Bradish’s sinker froze ample batters, leaving them looking at a strike call. Those two pitches accounted for 27 of the 34 called strikes and whiffs Bradish induced.

“The biggest thing for him is learning who he is as a pitcher and understanding how to use his nasty stuff to get big league hitters out,” said McCann, who caught Bradish’s game. “As crazy as it sounds, it doesn’t matter how nasty you are in the big leagues; the hitters are just as nasty, right? So he’s figuring out how to use his stuff to get the best of the best out, and it’s been a lot of fun to see that maturation process.”

Bradish walked batters in the first, second and fourth innings. Another baserunner reached on shortstop Gunnar Henderson’s error in the third. But Bradish helped keep his pitch count low by escaping those situations immediately — a pickoff throw nabbed Tommy Pham off first base in the third inning, and a double play followed the fourth-inning walk.

Adley Rutschman (right), receiving congratulations from Jordan Westburg, gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning with his 10th home run. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

But a fourth walk in the seventh helped push Bradish’s pitch count over 100, forcing him to settle for this: a superb performance to solidify a four-game sweep.

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“I kind of figured, coming off at 103 pitches or whatever, especially coming off an elbow injury,” Bradish said. “Luckily — or unluckily — I was able to limit pitch count last start with a rain delay [that ended Bradish’s day at 74 pitches], but I think once you get to the 100 mark, finishing an inning, it’s kind of where you’re at.”

Bradish came close to writing his name on an exclusive list of Orioles pitchers. There have been six no-hitters in franchise history, with left-hander John Means most recently achieving the feat in 2021 against the Seattle Mariners. Hoyt Wilhelm (1958), Tom Phoebus (1968) and Jim Palmer (1969) are the other three to complete a solo no-hitter in Orioles history, and pitchers combined for no-nos in 1967 and 1991.

He won’t be in that group. But, with the way Bradish carved through the White Sox, it doesn’t take much stretching of the imagination to see him joining that group one day.

“He’s got no-hit stuff,” Hyde said. “He’s so hard to hit because the fastball goes in two different directions and we play really good defense, also. He can punch guys out; he can get weak contact; he can get ground balls. He did that today.”