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Defensive miscues doom Orioles in 4-3 loss to Cleveland

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Dean Kremer was solid in his MLB return, but he was offered no help from the defense behind him.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It is a small miracle that the Orioles were even close to Cleveland on the scoreboard in this game. The defense on display was, let’s just say, less than major league quality. The poor glovework paired with an astonishingly bad umpiring decision sunk the O’s, paving the way for a 4-3 loss at Progressive Field on Monday night.

Dean Kremer returned from a three-week stint in Triple-A Norfolk to make the start in this one. His final line (5.1 innings, four hits, four runs, three earn, no walks, and two strikeouts) won’t look particularly sexy, but the 25-year-old pitched much better than that.

It was a disastrous first inning for the Orioles on all accounts. Following an hour-long rain delay and a relatively quiet top of the frame, Kremer went to work. With a runner on first base, no outs, and a 2-2 count, Kremer went up and in with a fastball to Amed Rosario. The pitch appeared to glance off of Rosario’s arm, but the Cleveland shortstop also seemed to swing at the offering. The initial call was a hit by pitch and a video review upheld that decision.

O’s manager Brandon Hyde was not happy about that, and he let just about every member of the umpiring crew know about it. He had a point. It looked like a swing from Rosario, and the decision was the difference between a runner on first base with one out and runners on first and second with no outs. Ultimately, Hyde was tossed and the outcome was unchanged.

What came next deserved a rendition of “Yakety Sax” to be played in the background. Jose Ramirez lofted a fly ball to left field. D.J. Stewart took his first step back, and then when attempting to run in to make the catch slipped and fell over. The ball dropped in for a single, scoring a run and moving Rosario all the way to third. Stewart’s throw in sailed over the cut-off man and allowed Ramirez to make it to second base. Eddie Rosario followed with a sacrifice fly to drive in the second run of the inning, and then Bobby Bradley singled to make it 3-0 before Kremer could end the inning.

Kremer’s performance from that point on was impressive. Between the second and fifth innings he faced the minimum of 12 hitters, allowing just one baserunner on a single that was then wiped out by a double play.

Then the sixth inning came, and once again the Orioles defense failed them. The first batter of the inning, Hernandez, reached base on an error by Ryan Mountcastle at first base. The ground ball was hit fairly hard at 91.1 mph off the bat, but Mountcastle needed to do better. A passed ball on the next batter moved Hernandez into scoring position. Following a ground out Kremer was lifted in favor of Tyler Wells, who may be the team’s hottest bullpen arm, to face Ramirez.

For a moment, it seemed Wells had done his job. He induced a weak fly ball to right field from Ramirez. Stevie Wilkerson tracked it backwards and into foul territory. Anthony Santander charged from the outfield and appeared to call off the infielder. Wilkerson persisted, however, and kept the fly ball for himself, camping under it in plenty of time to make the catch. But he didn’t make the catch.

The ball bounded off of his glove in foul territory. Runners couldn’t advance, but Ramirez would get another chance, and he took full advantage. A few pitches later, Ramirez laced a double over Santander’s head to score Hernandez and extend the Cleveland lead.

All this point, the only offense that the Orioles had mustered came in the fourth inning. Trey Mancini had led off with a walk and then moved to third on a Santander double. A pair of groundouts from Stewart and Freddy Galvis scored the two baserunners to keep the game close.

The O’s did go down fighting. With the score 4-2, it was pinch hitter Maikel Franco that came up clutch in the seventh inning. With two runners on via walks and two outs, Franco took Wilkerson’s spot in the lineup and singled into right field to score Stewart and make it 4-3.

Cedric Mullins attempted to manufacture a run all on his own in the eighth inning. He reached base via a walk to open the inning and proceeded to steal second base and then third base. Meanwhile, his teammates were striking out at the plate. Mancini, Santander, and Stewart all went down on strikes to end the threat. There was no similar threat in the ninth inning as Emmanuel Clase made short work of the Birds bats to close out the game.

This was an absolute disaster from a defensive perspective for the Orioles. Left field continues to be an adventure for the Orioles when either of their offensive-focused options (Stewart, Mountcastle) mans the position. Severino once again had issues simply catching the ball behind the plate. And both Mountcastle and Wilkerson’s gaffes directly led to a run being scored.

On the positive side, Kremer showed some moxie to maintain his composure and put together a solid albeit unspectacular outing on the mound. Plus Mullins did fun Mullins-like things on the field, which is always fun.

The Orioles have now lost 16 road games in a row. Every additional loss will grow the record that they now own. Perhaps they extend said record tomorrow, but hopefully not. Matt Harvey (3-7, 7.41 ERA) starts for the O’s against Cleveland’s Cal Quantrill (0-2, 3.21 ERA). First pitch is 7:10 p.m.