BALTIMORE—As the Orioles edged closer to their first American League East title in 2014, Brandon Hyde paused to remember an Orioles legend whom he met on the day he was announced as Orioles manager in December 2018.
Recounting an excellent pitching performance by Kyle Bradish, who allowed just three hits in eight scoreless innings in the Orioles’ 1-0 win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night, Hyde was asked about Brooks Robinson, who died earlier in the day at 86.
Robinson, whom Cal Ripken Jr. called Mr. Oriole, sat in the front row at Hyde’s introductory news conference. He reminded everyone that he had known each of the Orioles’ managers, and he was pleased to meet the newest one.
“I’d never met him before, and he doesn’t know me, and I’m some guy from Chicago that gets hired and for him to take the time out to show support, and he showed support the entire time I’ve been here,” Hyde said, his voice filled with emotion.
“I have a framed picture of him in my office “
Oriole players, some of whom got to meet Robinson last year, were told of the Hall of Fame third baseman’s death before the team announced it. Robinson made two final appearances last season at Oriole Park, one at the 30th anniversary of the ballpark in August, and another in September to mark the 45th anniversary of “Thanks, Brooks Day,” when Robinson officially retired as an Oriole in 1977.
“Last year when he came, he knew all of our players,” Hyde said. “He watched every night. He was very happy with how our team was playing. I know he enjoyed watching us.”
He surely would have enjoyed watching Bradish pitch and Gunnar Henderson hit a leadoff home run.
“I didn’t think he really had it going early,” Hyde said about Bradish. “They took some good at-bats against him. That’s so impressive, late September pennant race and go eight shutout innings and not much hard contact the entire night.”
The Orioles could clinch the American League East title on Wednesday if they beat the Nationals and Tampa Bay loses to Boston. The Rays beat the Red Sox, 9-7, on Tuesday night.
“He’s just becoming a complete pitcher,” Hyde said. ”The command has improved so much in the last year-and-a half. That’s why he’s turned out these lights-out performances.”
Bradish is third in the American League with a 2.86 earned-run average.
“The stuff never wavered,” Hyde said. “It was still the same in the eighth as it was in the third. You saw the emotion coming off the mound. It’s a big deal for these guys to go deep in the game like that.”
The Orioles hadn’t hit a home run in their last five games. When Henderson led the game off with a homer, his 28th, he hoped that it would be a big night for the Orioles’ offense.
“Whenever you start off the game like that, it’s hard not to think that,” Henderson said. “It’s a weird game.”
With the Orioles leading by a run in the eighth, Henderson was on third base with two outs and tried to steal home.
“I saw the third baseman not paying any attention,” Henderson said. “When [Washington pitcher Robert Garcia] came set, he was kind of looking off into the distance, and I thought I had a good chance.”
He was tagged out, and a replay challenge didn’t change the call.
“We didn’t do much offensively. There were some frustrated at-bats there,” Hyde said.
In his last seven starts, Bradish has allowed two or fewer runs six times.
“Continuing to learn what kind of a pitcher I am, how to set up pitches, hitters, read swings,” Bradish said. “That helps, but definitely feel locked in.”
Henderson was impressed.
“Weak contact all the time and fundamental plays on defense,” Henderson said. “It’s been really fun to play behind him.”
It was a night of mixed emotions as the Orioles came closer to an official historic turnaround.
“I got to meet Brooks last year when he came, all-around great person,” Henderson said. “He loves the Orioles. Everything that he’s done for the Orioles and even off the field. You couldn’t meet a better guy. You hate to hear it, but now he’s looking down on us.”
Note: Triple-A Norfolk lost the first game of its best-of-three International League Championship Series to Durham, 10-5. Garrett Stallings, who relieved starter Bruce Zimmermann in the third, allowed three runs on five hits in five innings. Nick Vespi allowed four runs while retiring one batter. Connor Norby had three hits, including a home run. Lewin Díaz also homered.