If a person who stayed up late watching the Orioles on Tuesday night wanted to try to make themselves feel better about the fact that the O’s lost, that person might be consoled by Dean Kremer dueling step for step with the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner without faltering. Those of us who are cranky enough about it that they don’t feel much better are left with this reality: The Orioles got one hit, a variety of annoying things happened in the eighth inning, and the result of all of it was they lost to the Mariners, 2-0.
The eighth, after both Kremer and Mariners starter Robbie Ray were out of the game, was the inning where nearly all of the excitement was packed. Top and bottom of the inning, the opportunity was there for a team to get the decisive play.
For the Orioles, they nearly found a way to steal themselves a run without actually needing to get a hit. Nearly isn’t worth much. The top of the eighth began with fresh relief pitcher Diego Castillo hitting O’s catcher Robinson Chirinos with a pitch. As the score was 0-0 due to Kremer and Ray’s duel, manager Brandon Hyde chose to use Richie Martin as a pinch runner for the catcher. With Adley Rutschman already as the designated hitter, his entry as the catcher would leave the O’s having to have a pitcher enter the lineup.
The merits of the strategy became apparent right away as Martin successfully stole second base. The batter at the plate with no outs was Jorge Mateo though, and he mostly can’t hit, especially against relievers who strike out more than a batter per inning. Did Mateo strike out? Yes, he did.
Here, the Orioles lineup turned over to Cedric Mullins. The Orioles center fielder worked a full count, in the process hitting a foul ball that was mere feet away from a pole-striking two-run home run, before grounding out. The groundout advanced Martin, giving Austin Hays a chance to finally break the scoreless tie.
Hays hit a grounder that Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez fielded deep and had to make a strong throw to have a chance of getting Hays. Suárez’s throw sailed high, pulling freshly-acquired first baseman Carlos Santana off the bag. Hays nearly slipped under Santana’s flail tag. Nearly still isn’t worth much. He was tagged with less than a half-step to go to the base. Maybe this was the one time there ought to have been a head first slide.
The Orioles brought on Cionel Pérez for the bottom of the inning. He struck out two batters like it was nothing, then allowed a single to J.P. Crawford. Hyde turned to Félix Bautista with righty rookie sensation Julio Rodríguez looming. Bautista was oddly distracted by Crawford at first base. Just get out the batter! But he made three pickoff attempts before throwing two pitches.
After five pitches, the count was 2-2, and Rodríguez swung at the sixth, a grounder up the middle. The ball deflected off of Bautista and over towards first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. Maybe Mountcastle ought to have backed up to first and let Bautista field it. What actually happened is Mountcastle grabbed the ball and tried to tag Rodríguez before he could reach first base.
The ball never quite made it into Mountcastle’s glove, though, and the crash with Rodríguez carried the ball up the line. He scampered after it and tried to throw out Crawford, who went over to third on the play. The problem with this choice of action is that Rodríguez’s stumbling dive for first base resulted in his never actually touching the base. Mountcastle, after picking up the ball for real, stood between Rodríguez and first base. Apparently unaware no touch of the base had been made, he did not tag the guy. The inning would have been over. Instead, it continued.
Next up was Jesse Winker. Bautista quickly had Winker in an 0-2 hole, picking up the called second strike with a top of the zone splitter. His next splitter came down just enough that Winker was able to blast it to right-center field. In a different environment this ball might have just been a three-run home run. The field contained the fly ball.
Hays gave chase into the gap, and as he approached the fence, he seemed to have a catch lined up. Then, the lunge just... missed the ball. Two runs scored easily. MLB beat writer Zachary Silver observed that there was a 95 percent catch probability on the ball. Sometimes you really don’t want to be the 5%. This was the game. The two runs were the only runs. The Orioles went down in order in the ninth, the pitcher’s spot in the lineup not needing to bat before the game ended.
The silver lining remains Kremer. Is he for real? Seven shutout innings with four hits and two walks scattered feel pretty real. Kremer’s defense bailed him out on a couple of occasions, with one clutch double play and another Hays outfield assist early on. Stats guru Sarah Langs tweeted a note that Kremer now has three straight scoreless starts of 5+ innings, which means he’s tied for the longest such stretch in Orioles/Browns history.
That’s not bad. Neither is Kremer’s 1.29 ERA. If something like this continues from a guy who had kind of been written out of the rotation picture after his cruddy performance last season, that will be mighty interesting.
It’s just hard to be consoled by silver lining after some dumb, annoying things happened and the Orioles lost. Perhaps even this feeling is its own kind of silver lining. When the Orioles lost all of the time, no one loss felt like it mattered. You could get numb to it. The 2022 team is a different sort of team, and they have won enough that it does matter when they lose.
Winning month already in hand after Monday’s victory, the Orioles could yet get out of Seattle with a series victory as well, if they can come out on top of Wednesday’s 4:10 series finale. Austin Voth is set to make another start for the Orioles, with Chris Flexen pitching for Seattle.