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O’s unable to solve Snell, drop rubber game 5-2 to Padres

Dean Kremer turned in another steady performance on the mound, but he was out-dueled by Blake Snell and the Orioles firmly loss the bullpen battle.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at San Diego Padres Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles offense was befuddled by Padres ace Blake Snell in a 5-2 rubber game loss on Wednesday night at Petco Park in San Diego.

Snell already has one Cy Young award, and he might be collected his second after this standout season with the Padres. Unfortunately, the Orioles were on the wrong end of yet another tremendous outing from the southpaw.

The Birds did manage to scratch across two runs against the Padres starter. In the first inning, Adley Rutschman led off with a single and later came home on an Anthony Santander sac fly. In the sixth, Ryan Mountcastle showed off his power yet again with a solo big fly to left-center field.

But in-between, there wasn’t much else going for the visitors. None of their other runners made it beyond second base, and Snell didn’t have to work too hard in the process.

That carried over to the bullpen. A trio of relievers trotted in and each worked one scoreless inning apiece. The O’s did manage a pair of singles in that time, but neither one of them even got into scoring position.

Rutschman had the Orioles only multi-hit effort, although Gunnar Henderson did reach base twice on a single and a walk. The back half of the lineup was particularly meek in this game as the O’s 5-9 hitters went 1-for-16 with a single, a walk, and four strikeouts.

On the bright side, Dean Kremer had another solid outing. He put up the much-maligned “quality start” with three runs allowed on five hits, two walks, and four strikeouts over six innings. But it felt even better than that because all of his bad-ness was contained to one inning.

The first three batters he faced in the third inning reached base: Trent Grisham walk, Ha-Seong Kim single, and Fernando Tatis Jr. single (Grisham scores). He managed to induce a pop out from Juan Soto and then struck out Manny Machado to inch near safety. But then he coughed up back-to-back, up-the-middle singles to Xander Bogaerts and Jake Cronenworth to plate a pair and put the Orioles behind 3-1.

Kremer was quite good outside of that frame. He was efficient with his pitches and only allowed runners on base in one other inning (the first). As is often the case with the long-haired hurler, his outings aren’t always flashy but they often seem effective. That’s a fine skillset to have at the back of a solid big league rotation.

The Orioles needed three relievers to cover the final two innings, and it was a mixed bag of performances. Shintaro Fujinami was first up in the seventh, and he allowed a home run to Grisham plus a single to Tatis before he was lifted in favor of Cionel Pérez.

Pérez was immediately concerned with Tatis at first base. He fired over one unsuccessful pick off, then another that would have caught the runner, but it was so off target that it sent the first baseman Mountcastle chasing after it while Tatis motored around to third base. Now that he was on third, Tatis seemingly no longer existed to Pérez. The pitcher prepared to deliver to Soto at home plate, held the ball, and held it some more as Tatis inched down the third base line before breaking into a dead sprint and stealing home without even a throw. If you hadn’t turned the TV off by that point, it was likely the breaking point.

Fortunately, you missed nothing after that. Jacob Webb worked another shutout inning in relief, but the O’s offense was unable to muster much of a fight, and the series was lost.

With the Rays win earlier in the day against the Giants the AL East lead has been trimmed to two games, although the O’s still have a three-game advantage in the loss column.

The O’s will now head north for a three-game set against the Oakland Athletics to wrap up this west coast swing starting on Friday. Kyle Gibson is set to take the ball in game one with a first pitch of 9:40 east coast time. While a sweep should never be expected, a weekend against MLB’s worst team should also be a welcome reprieve.