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Orioles tab Braddish for Game 1 against Rangers

Kyle Braddish Baltimore Orioles Kyle Bradish - The Canadian Press

BALTIMORE (AP) — As expected, the Baltimore Orioles are starting Kyle Bradish in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against Texas and rookie Grayson Rodriguez in Game 2.

The Rangers, on the other hand, went in a somewhat surprising direction.

The Rangers announced Friday night that Andrew Heaney will start the series opener Saturday, followed by Jordan Montgomery in Game 2. That means Texas will pitch two left-handed starters in a row to begin the series.

Texas used Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi in their sweep of Tampa Bay in the Wild Card Series, which seemed to make Dane Dunning the likely starter to begin this matchup with Baltimore. Instead it will be Heaney, who was 10-6 with a 4.15 ERA this year in his first season with the Rangers.

The other big question for Texas right now is the health of Max Scherzer, who faced hitters Friday. The 39-year-old right-hander said he'll have to see how he recovers Saturday.

“I'm coming out of a shoulder problem here, and I'm learning what my shoulder can and can't do,” Scherzer said. “So much of this battle, me getting back, has been in the recovery process from throwing. Obviously a positive sign to be able to go out there and throw against hitters."

“As much as I feel good right now, I know you got to pump the brakes a little bit," Scherzer added. "You've got to see how your body responds.”

Scherzer felt good enough on the mound that at one point he came dashing off it to field a popup. Then he dropped it, to the delight of his teammates watching in the dugout.

The 27-year-old Bradish (12-7) finished third in the American League with a 2.83 ERA this season. Rodriguez (7-4) was one of baseball's top pitching prospects at the beginning of the year. He struggled early and was sent back to the minors for a bit, but he has gone 5-2 with a 2.58 ERA since the All-Star break.

Bradish actually made his first start this season at Texas, and he had to leave in the second inning with a bruised foot after being hit by a line drive. That injury began a series of decisions that culminated in Rodriguez being called up to make his big league debut during that same series with the Rangers.

“It’s kind of just a dream to be able to start Game 1 in the playoffs, let alone to be in the playoffs,” Bradish said. “I think about that. It’s come a long way.”

Because the Rangers didn't announce his identity until later, their Game 1 starter was not available at Friday's news conference. Heaney signed with the Rangers this past offseason after spending 2022 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It's not clear if Texas plans to make Dunning a relief option in Games 1 and 2, now that he isn't slated to start either and Eovaldi is available to start Game 3.

The Orioles went 36-17 when facing lefty starters this year, although there may be some value in making Baltimore's lineup more right-handed given the deep wall in left field at Camden Yards. At home this season, the Orioles had an OPS of .694 against lefties and .739 against righties.