The Tampa Bay Rays may leave Baltimore in the same position they arrived in — as holders of the major league’s best record — but they took a backseat to the Orioles this week.
The three-game set between the American League’s top two teams opened with a dominating Rays victory, but the Orioles overcame that loss Monday to win two in a row and take the series over the AL East juggernaut. Baltimore won the rubber match on Wednesday, 2-1, thanks to a stellar start by Dean Kremer and a sixth-inning rally.
Kremer pitched perhaps his best game of the season, especially considering the opponent. The 27-year-old pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out four to continue Baltimore’s stretch of six straight starts (or better) that dates back to Friday at Atlanta.
“I think our pitching has really stepped up,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “… We had some high-scoring games there and we didn’t pitch very well in Kansas City. For this team to be successful, we need to pitch. In the last six games, I’ve thrown the ball outstanding.”
That Tuesday’s 4-2 win, Wednesday’s was not one of Orioles sluggers mashing baseballs. Baltimore’s bats have collected just 12 runs over their last five games while struggling mightily with runners in scoring position. Despite the stumbles, the Orioles took advantage of their best scoring opportunity of the night, scoring two runs in the sixth on an RBI single by Adam Frazier and an RBI single by Austin Hays.
“To show up at the park knowing you’re going to have a chance to win every game you play is a phenomenal feeling after some of the big losses, only to get out of it in the third, fourth innings a couple of years ago,” he said Hey. “It’s gone really fast and all you can ask for is a contender, to show up and have a chance to win every game, night in and night out, so it’s a great feeling.”
Baltimore’s bullpen followed Kremer (4-1) to complete the win, with Austin Voth, Danny Coulombe and Yennier Cano combining to allow just one run over three innings. Coulombe struck out both batters he faced in the eighth to strand a runner, and Cano continued his surprising dominance with a scoreless ninth for his third save of the season.
The series win — the club’s eighth of the last nine — over the Rays (29-9) is Baltimore’s second straight against an AL East opponent after dropping the first two division sets of the season. The Orioles (24-13) are 6-6 against the AL East; they went 34-42 against the division in 2022. They are 11-5 at Oriole Park and have won 16 of their last 22 games.
The Orioles end their six-game stretch against the National League-leading Atlanta Braves and Rays at 3-3, including two close wins and two close losses.
“We felt like in those games, we had a really good chance to win a series there in Atlanta,” Hays said. “So to be in the same situation here, let’s have a tough game again, good pitching on both sides and just try to find a way to hit at the right time and score some runs to give us management and let our bullpen do their thing. .”
The schedule isn’t getting any easier, as the Orioles have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the majors, according to FanGraphs, with 40 games remaining against the AL East.
“We’re just trying to build off of that and continue that for the rest of the season,” Kremer said.
Kremer, who has won four of his last five starts, walked the second and third batters of the game before retiring nine straight. He allowed a two-out single in the fourth, but induced a double play ball — the Orioles’ 42nd of the MLB season — to end the threat. The right-hander gave up two more singles to lead off the fifth, but hung on to retire three in a row with two outs to escape his third shutout of the game. Kremer retired the team in order in the sixth.
“Very satisfying,” Kremer said of stranding five runners. “Anytime you can look up and not see a run, you’ve done something right.”
Kremer went 11 straight innings without giving up a run. He pitched six innings of one-run ball in Friday’s win over the Braves.
“We talked about how well he pitched tonight in Atlanta and tonight he pitched even better,” Hyde said. “He’s figuring it out a little bit, learning how to pitch. Got some double play balls when needed, used sinker effectively, can hit a four-seamer from 96-97 [mph], has other pitches. It’s a tough lineup to navigate and he’s done an outstanding job.”
The Orioles have allowed 18 runs in their six games against the Rays and Braves — the second- and fourth-highest hitting teams in the majors entering Wednesday. They held Tampa Bay batters to 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position. The Rays entered Baltimore hitting .289 with a .477 slugging percentage in those moments.
The Rays weren’t alone, though. The Orioles also splashed ducks on the pond, entering the night four for their last 38 in such situations and then starting the game 0-for-4. But after Adley Rutschman singled to lead off the sixth and Anthony Santander doubled to extend his hitting streak to nine games, the Orioles finally got runners in scoring position. Ryan Mountcastle walked to load the bases, Frazier grounded out to second to score a run and Hays’ sharp fly ball between third and short scored Santander for the eventual winning run.
Voth pitched a dominant seventh, but allowed one run in the eighth while recording just one out. Coulombe, a lefty, relieved Voth, pitching in his first game since allowing the game-winning home run in the eighth in Saturday’s loss. Coulombe said after that loss that “you have to have a short memory” as a reliever and responded by striking out right-handed sluggers Randy Arozarena and Harold Ramirez to retire the tying game.
Cano retired the side to shut the door on a night after pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings. The sinkerballer has yet to allow a run in 18 2/3 innings and has a 0.16 WHIP in 14 appearances. Cano led an Orioles bullpen that entered Wednesday ranked fourth in the majors with a 3.12 ERA.
Around the horn
- Manager Fredi González will manage the Orioles’ game Saturday against the Pirates while Hyde attends his daughter’s graduation from Syracuse University. González, Hyde’s 2020 manager, managed 1,402 games (710-692) between 2007 and 2016 for the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves.
- The Orioles have announced their starting pitchers for this weekend’s series against Pittsburgh. Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells and Kyle Gibson will pitch against the NL-leading Pirates on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
- Reliever Dillon Tate (right forearm strain) had perhaps his best outing of his minor league rehab assignment Wednesday afternoon with the Norfolk Tides. The right-hander allowed a hit and a walk in a scoreless inning after surrendering eight runs in the first four innings between High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie. Reliever Mychal Givens (left knee inflammation) gave up two runs while recording two outs Wednesday night for Bowie. Givens is expected to pitch again Thursday — a major hurdle for the veteran reliever to be considered ready to return to Baltimore.
This story will be updated.
Pirates at Orioles
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