Beating the Rays was big for O's, but how they did it may have been most significant

The best news was, yes, the Orioles won a series against a Tampa Bay Rays team that brought a record of 28-7 (.800) into Baltimore on Monday night. The next best news was how they did it: with stunning pitching.

When the O’s began a series in Atlanta Friday, their rotation ERA was 5.65 for the season. But in the six games versus Atlanta and Tampa Bay, the rotation ERA was 2.41, and five times O’s starters allowed two earned runs or fewer.

Right-hander Dean Kremer pitched the first game of the Atlanta series and the last game of the Tampa Bay series and the O’s picked up huge wins in both games. His ERA was 6.67 when he took the mound at Truist Park. It is now 4.97 after he threw six scoreless innings, allowing just four singles in the 2-1 win over the Rays last night.

Just about at the time that some were speculating that his hold on a rotation spot could be shaky, he stepped up with two outstanding performances. He allowed a run in the first inning at Atlanta. Then he put up five scoreless innings after that. And tacked on six more last night.

“Two of the better offensive teams, and right at the right time," manager Brandon Hyde said after last night’s win. "We talked about how well he pitched in Atlanta, and then tonight, even better. He's figuring it out a little bit and learning how to pitch. Got a double play ball when he needed it, used the sinker effectively, he can step on a four-seamer from 96-97 and he does that well. He's got other pitches, as well. That's a tough lineup to navigate through and he did an outstanding job.”

Kremer threw 95 pitches and got huge outs all night, including a double play ball with two on in the fourth. After the first two batters singled in the fifth, he went strikeout, strikeout and lineout to strand the runners.

"Any time you can look up and see no runs, you did something right," Kremer said. "Thankful. Defense tonight was top tier."

O’s pitching held the Rays to 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position last night, and 1-for-20 with RISP this series. Remarkable.

Tampa Bay began this series Monday leading the majors in team batting average (.276), OBP (.348), slugging (.521), team OPS (.869) and homers (71). They came in second to Texas in runs per game at 6.43.

So they went from averaging 6.43 runs per game to scoring six runs in this entire series at Camden Yards. They scored three Monday, two Tuesday and one last night. They hit just .221 (21-for-95) versus Baltimore pitching.

O’s pitchers posted a team ERA of 2.60 in going 3-3 against Atlanta and Tampa Bay. The Baltimore staff allowed 18 runs in the six games.

Tampa Bay and the Orioles, separated now by 4 1/2 games in the standings after this series, are both 9-3 in series play. The Rays have lost series to Toronto, Houston and now Baltimore.

"That was big for us,” said outfielder Austin Hays, who drove in a key sixth-inning run. “We felt like we were in those games and had a really good chance to win a series there in Atlanta, so to be in that same situation here, have a hard-fought game again, good pitching on both sides, and just try to find a way to have timely hitting and score some runs to give us a lead and let our bullpen do their thing.”

And the Baltimore bullpen gave up just two runs in 9 1/3 innings in the series.  

The Orioles got their first series win against the Rays since taking three out of four in Baltimore from July 25-28, 2022. The O’s have now won four home series in a row against Tampa Bay. And they are now 6-6 on the year against American League East clubs.

Right-hander Yennier Cano needed just eight pitches to record a 1-2-3 ninth and pick up his third save. His remarkable turnaround from last year continues.

In the majors in 2022, between Minnesota and Baltimore, he pitched 18 innings, allowing 26 hits and 16 walks with an 11.50 ERA and 2.333 WHIP.

This year, in 18 2/3 innings he has allowed three hits, no walks and no runs. He has 22 strikeouts, and opponent hitters are 3-for-56 against him, which leads to a .054 batting average against and 0.16 WHIP.

As they get a day off today and await a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates that begins Friday night, the Orioles are now 24-13 (.649), producing a pace that, over the full year, would record 105 wins. 

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