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Orioles secure winning season, keep Yankees’ Aaron Judge at 61 home runs in 3-1 victory

Kyle Bradish shrugged toward first base umpire Dan Merzel, then put his right hand in his glove to mimic the check-swing New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge had taken moments earlier. Baffled that Merzel had ruled Judge didn’t swing despite thrusting his bat forward to dodge an up-and-in fastball with two strikes, the Orioles’ rookie right-hander took a cut himself to express his displeasure, Baltimore’s dugout in agreement.

A pitch later, Bradish elicited another check-swing from Judge, with Merzel this time ruling he crossed the plane to end the inning and leave the bases loaded in Sunday’s second inning. It marked Bradish’s second strikeout of Judge, with Bryan Baker adding a third on the day and sixth of the series in the seventh as the Orioles beat the Yankees, 3-1, to earn a series victory while keeping Judge at 61 home runs, tied for the most in American League history.

“That’s part of being a competitor,” Bradish said. “It was a big situation, bases loaded, best hitter’s up. I thought I had him. I think a lot of people thought I had him.

“I was a little frustrated because all it takes is the next pitch for him to hit one out and it’s 4-1, but luckily I was able to come back with a good curveball and get him out.”

The Orioles’ two wins in the three-game series pushed them to 82 on the year, their first winning season since 2016 and a 30-game improvement from 2021.

“It’s everything,” Bradish said. “Nobody wants to have a losing season. This being my first year, just everything I could possibly have wanted to be a part of. The culture that we’ve had this year, from the top down, has just been awesome to be a part of.”

Judge finished the three-game series 1-for-7 with a single, six strikeouts, five walks and a hit-by-pitch. The Yankees’ (97-61) lone run Sunday came in the only inning he reached. Bradish issued two walks to open the fifth, the latter to Judge, and on a wild pitch, a throwing error from Adley Rutschman brought Aaron Hicks home.

“I think we pitched extremely well against him,” manager Brandon Hyde said of Judge. “I know that there was some disappointment in a couple of the at-bats, but he didn’t beat us in the three games. I thought we pitched him extremely tough, especially today.”

That unearned run was the only damage against Bradish as he closed his first year in the majors with five shaky but effective innings. After going on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation in June with a 7.38 ERA, he posted a 3.28 mark over 13 starts upon his return.

“I think it’s extremely positive,” Hyde said of Bradish’s rookie campaign. “He’s had his rookie bumps in the road. But I thought where he’s come from since the injury and the adjustments he’s made delivery-wise, confidence-wise, you go and pitch here — tough day to pitch, too; ball’s slick, it’s cold, it’s wet — and to be able to go into the sixth inning against a really good club is extremely challenging. Thought he showed you what he’s made of today. Very successful season for him.”

He came out for the sixth inning on 92 pitches, but when his fifth walk of the day opened the frame, Hyde called on Logan Gillaspie. A forceout, single and wild pitch put two in scoring position, but second baseman Terrin Vavra turned a lineout into an inning-ending double play by throwing to Gunnar Henderson to catch Harrison Bader off third base.

The Orioles (82-77) then struck for two runs. They loaded the bases with no outs on an infield single and two walks before Ryan Mountcastle, who drove in a first-inning run with a double, struck out. Henderson then walked to break the tie before Austin Hays added insurance with a sacrifice fly.

After Mountcastle’s early RBI, the Orioles went hitless in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but their bullpen rendered that moot. Baker took over in the bottom of the seventh and struck out five of six, including Judge, for his 10th straight scoreless appearance before Dillon Tate pitched a clean ninth, with Félix Bautista still nursing a left knee issue suffered Friday.

Judge’s pursuit will head to Texas, where the Yankees close their season with three games against the Rangers; Baker said it never crossed his mind that he could be the last pitcher to face Judge in the Bronx this season. The Orioles return home for their last three games of the year, with Dean Kremer and Mike Baumann starting the first two against the Toronto Blue Jays. Hyde said he wanted to speak with veteran Jordan Lyles before confirming that he would start the last game of the year; asked whether top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez would possibly make an appearance, Hyde said that was a question for executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.

Regardless of what 2022′s final series brings, the Orioles can celebrate being the first team since 1900 to have a winning season a year after losing at least 110 games.

“When you put yourself in that position after all the work we put in and expectations we’ve overcome, I think securing that is pretty cool,” Baker said. “Something we should be proud of, for sure.”

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