O's Bridwell stingy as Peoria remains in hunt for AFL division title

O's Bridwell stingy as Peoria remains in hunt for AFL division title

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After seven seasons in the Minor Leagues, Parker Bridwell reached the big leagues with the Orioles in August. Two months later, he joined the Arizona Fall League's Peoria Javelinas as a midseason replacement. He said he took both assignments equally seriously, and as a result, the Javelinas remain in the hunt for the AFL postseason.

Bridwell, the O's No. 27 prospect, threw three scoreless innings Wednesday afternoon against the Surprise Saguaros, maintaining a 2-1 lead that became a 5-2 Peoria victory. He said he knew the Saguaros had an opportunity to wrap up a playoff berth and eliminate the Javelinas, and he relished denying them.

"It's a competition," Bridwell said. "We're all competing to make money to live, to raise families. When I'm on the mound, I don't take anything for granted. This was as important to me as my debut in the big leagues. I take pride in my work."

Gameday

Peoria's victory kept all three teams alive in the West Division race going into the final day of the season. Surprise (16-14) will clinch the West with a win or a tie against Salt River on Thursday. If the Saguaros lose, the winner of the game between the Javelinas (14-14) and Glendale Desert Dogs (16-15) will advance to Saturday's 3 p.m. ET championship game, which will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com.

Peoria parlayed infield hits by Guillermo Heredia (Mariners) and Kean Wong (Rays) into two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Surprise cut the lead in half in the second when Mauricio Ramos (Royals) homered off Dylan Unsworth (Mariners), but never could tie the game. Bridwell had a lot to do with that.

He needed just 30 pitches to retire nine batters, picking off the only runner (Twins No. 2 prospect Nick Gordon) who reached against him. Bridwell's fastball can reach 97 mph and his changeup can be nasty -- he struck out the side in the AFL's 2014 Fall Stars Game, all on changeups -- but he was more efficient than anything else against the Saguaros. He relied heavily on a fastball that sat at 88-92 mph, repeatedly inducing weak contact.

"I'm making it a point to work of my fastball more," Bridwell said. "With that comes a better changeup. It's late in the year and I want to be more of a fastball command guy than a strikeout guy right now. I love it, getting outs without my best stuff."

Javelinas shortstop Zach Vincej (Reds) went 2-for-5, raising his batting average to .3788 -- .0005 behind Scottsdale's Gleyber Torres (Yankees' No. 2) for the AFL lead. Torres has a night game Wednesday and both players have day games Thursday. The 19-year-old Torres, the key prospect the Cubs gave up in the Aroldis Chapman trade in July, is bidding to become the youngest batting champion in league history.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.