On a day where the Orioles celebrated one of the great moments of their past with the anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,131st consecutive game, the future of the Orioles got a chance to show itself as well. Pitching prospect Dean Kremer, called up to make his MLB debut for Sunday’s finale against the Yankees, went six fantastic innings along the way to the Orioles knocking off New York, 5-1, for the third time in four games.
Put it back-to-back with fellow pitching prospect Keegan Akin turning in a fine outing against those same Yankees on Saturday night and it’s a nice sign that better times could be coming for this team. One good game or a strong rest of the season from either of these guys doesn’t guarantee any success beyond 2020, but it’s sure exciting to see.
Kremer came out of the gate like a lawnmower, ready to mow down the Yankees. For any Orioles fan who had never gone to see him pitch in the minor leagues and had only heard of him by name, it was a nice introduction. He froze hot-hitting Yankees leadoff man D.J. LeMahieu with a fastball for his first strikeout in his first ever batter. Also hot-hitting Luke Voit went down swinging against a gorgeous curveball. An Orioles fan could get used to seeing that.
The O’s offense came out ready to play, too. Facing off against Masahiro Tanaka, they jumped out to two early first inning runs. Hanser Alberto turned a poor popped up bunt into an infield single. That had him on base for #2 hitter DJ Stewart, the sudden home run machine, who then launched his third hit of the season - and third home run - of the season onto the flag court, giving the Orioles a 2-0 lead before they even had made an out.
After that, Pedro Severino singled and Ryan Mountcastle picked up yet another walk, his sixth in 15 games. They were still working on the no-outer. Tanaka settled down though and got the next three batters, so Kremer would have to live with the two runs, at least for the moment.
If you were watching the game on MASN, at this point in the game there was an inning-long video call visit with the legendary Iron Man himself. It is unlikely that Cal’s appearance on the broadcast was connected to Kremer struggling in the second inning in some kind of sucked up all the oxygen way. Kremer did, however, suddenly have problems finding the strike zone. He issued two walks and gave up a single to end up with the bases loaded and only one out.
Kremer got Yankees catcher Erik Kratz to chop a ground ball weakly to third base. O’s third baseman Rio Ruiz fielded the ball and stepped on third, but double-clutched as he tried to throw the ball to first and was unable to beat the catcher for the double play. A run scored as a result, though if you ask me Kremer deserved to be out of the jam. No matter, he struck out #9 hitter Tyler Wade and got out of it himself.
It was cruise control from there for Kremer. He protected his 2-1 lead by sending the Yankees down in order in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. He had retired 12 straight Yankees by the time he walked Voit with one out in the sixth inning, and Voit never got any farther than first base.
After two innings, Kremer had thrown 42 pitches. It looked like it could be a short outing. He rallied from there and ended up getting through six innings on 88 pitches. Over his six innings, the Yankees got just one hit against Kremer and struck out seven times, though he also gave out three free passes. The one run they got against him could just as easily have not scored. Kremer picked up the win.
That’s a heck of a debut. In searching for comparisons for an Orioles starting pitcher’s debut, O’s beat writer Joe Trezza remarked that it was the best debut since Mike Wright’s in 2015. The specific combination of an O’s pitcher debuting with 6+ innings while allowing only one hit had not been achieved since Chris Waters debuted in 2008. Some baseball statistics inspire more caution than hope.
As the game unfolded, the Orioles did not need any insurance runs. They collected some anyway, with the bottom of the lineup coming through in the bottom of the sixth after Tanaka was chased from the game. The O’s loaded the bases with one out, setting up a bases loaded walk by third string catcher Bryan Holaday and an RBI infield single by utility man Andrew Velazquez.
How tragic for the Yankees. Both runs were unearned as they came with two outs when there had been an error earlier in the inning. Truly, it’s a pity.
The O’s grabbed a fifth run the next inning. Stewart hit a shift-beating single for his first non-home run hit of 2020. His current batting line of .174/.424/.565 is one of the stranger small sample sizes you will see. The Yankees goofed a pickoff throw, sending Stewart to second base, and he advanced to third and then scored on two separate fly ball outs. The RBI went to Mountcastle, who’s already driven in 11 runs as an Oriole.
With that cushion, the rest of the game was fairly drama-free, though Tanner Scott did put two men on base in the seventh before being relieved by Hunter Harvey. Harvey was brought in to face pinch hitter Gleyber Torres, that infamous Oriole destroyer. Torres grounded out to second. Harvey added a scoreless eighth on top of that and Cole Sulser pitched a non-save ninth to end the game and the series.
Just like that, the Orioles have taken three out of four from the Yankees. Their hope of getting somewhere positive this season is rekindled. At 19-21, they trail those same Yankees by only two games for the final American League postseason spot. They’ll be playing the Yankees four more times starting on Thursday, so there will be chances to pass them, if the O’s keep winning. The Yankees play the Blue Jays in the interim, so as uncomfortable as it may be, O’s fans will be rooting for Toronto/Buffalo.
A Monday off day awaits before the O’s head to New York for two games against the Mets. Tuesday’s series opener is scheduled for a 7:10 start, with John Means and Michael Wacha as the currently listed starting pitchers.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for September 6, 2020?
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Dean Kremer (6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO)
DJ Stewart (homered again)