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Thursday afternoon Orioles game thread: vs. Rays, 12:35

A scuffling Orioles pitching unit hands the keys to Dean Kremer, who’ll try to help the team avoid a sweep. 

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Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Those of you who’ve been faithfully watching this team since the John Means No-Hitter on May 5th, I salute you: it’s been really rough sledding.

The team has lost nine of eleven games in the two weeks since Means’s historic performance against Seattle, including the lefty’s last two starts (six innings of shutout ball against the Mets, and six innings with three runs allowed last night to Tampa). The staff ERA has gone from 4.11, two weeks ago, to 4.59 today.

Here are the bright spots, because, let’s face it, we need some. The team is scoring more runs, almost four per game now. “Cedric the Entertainer” jokes are proliferating on the Internet (here, an example) as the centerfielder sustains his hot 2021 into May. Trey Mancini has hiked up his batting average by 100 points in a month, and his OPS by about 250. He’s also leading the majors in RBI, with 38 (a fact that blows my mind, given the weakness of the offense around him). Ryan Mountcastle is starting to hit curveballs. Freddy Galvis continues to perform all-around.

Last and not least in importance, rookie right-handed starter Dean Kremer might be starting to figure things out. From a 8.40 ERA in the month of April he’s dramatically improved to a 3.38 ERA in three starts in the month of May. He’s going deeper, five innings at least in the last three, too. He’s cut down on walks and hard hits.

It’s still going to be a tall order for him to turn the team’s momentum around against the Rays, who have scored 22 runs against the Orioles in two games this series. The bullpen is looking leaky again, so the Orioles will pray Kremer can give them some length. The Rays have seen precious little of Kremer, which may play to his favor the first time through the lineup. Willy Adames is 0-for-3 against the righty, Kevin Kiermaier is 1-for-2, Brett Phillips is 1-for-2, and Joey Wendle is 0-for-2.

Countering for the Rays is the veteran lefty Rich Hill, the oldest player in the league at 41. Hill is 2-1, with a 4.26 ERA on the season, but he’s carrying a 17 2/3-inning scoreless streak heading into today’s start. On the other hand, the Orioles are hitting lefties well, with .269/.216 lefty-righty splits as a team. So they could have a chance if the bats show up today, as they have this series.

Orioles lineup

1. Cedric Mullins CF

2. Austin Hays LF

3. Trey Mancini DH

4. Pedro Severino C

5. Maikel Franco 3B

6. Freddy Galvis SS

7. Ryan Mountcastle 1B

8. Pat Valaika 2B

9. Ryan McKenna RF

Rays lineup

1. Randy Arozarena DH

2. Austin Meadows LF

3. Ji-Man Choi 1B

4. Brandon Lowe 2B

5. Yandy Díaz 3B

6. Joey Wendle SS

7. Kevin Kiermaier CF

8. Francisco Mejía C

9. Brett Phillips RF