Showdown series at the Trop: Orioles-Rays four-game set starts tonight

Ryan Mountcastle

The year was 2021. Yes, it was that recently. On their way to an AL East title and a 100-62 record, the Tampa Bay Rays went 18-1 against the Orioles.

“That was rough,” Ryan Mountcastle remembered in the Baltimore clubhouse yesterday morning.

That Orioles team would finish 52-110. Tampa Bay wound up outscoring Baltimore by 79 (150-71) on the year - the second-largest run differential against a single opponent in the divisional era (since 1969), behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers’ +82 mark over the San Diego Padres in 1974.

Things are very different now.

After winning nine of 11 games while the Rays have lost 11 of 14, the teams were tied in the standings as of last night. But the Orioles have the AL East lead by percentage points at .611 (58-37) to the Rays at .606 (60-39).

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O's game blog: Dean Kremer faces the Dodgers in series finale

kremer orange v SEA

In the 14th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, with pick No. 431 overall, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He would pitch on their watch until July 18, 2018, when he and four other players were traded by the Dodgers to the Orioles for Manny Machado.

Today, for the first time in his career, Kremer will face the team that drafted him. And he will try to pitch the Orioles to a win in this series to avoid a three-game sweep after Los Angeles won 6-4 Monday night and 10-3 last night.

Kremer signed with the Dodgers for a bonus of $147,500 and reported to their rookie league team to make his pro debut on July 3, 2016 for the Ogden Raptors. He was pitching in High-A ball for most of the 2018 season and had just moved to Double-A, where he had made one start, when he was traded to the Orioles. They assigned him to Double-A Bowie, where he went 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA in eight starts to finish up the 2018 season.

Kremer (10-4, 4.59 ERA) got off to a slow start this season. His ERA was 6.67 at the end of April and 5.80 after his first start in May. But he has pitched better lately and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in four of his past six starts. In his first outing out of the All-Star break, on Friday against Miami, he gave up two hits and one run over six innings on 97 pitches.

The Orioles are 13-6 in his 19 starts, winning five of his last six games.

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More on the scouting and drafting of top pick Enrique Bradfield Jr.

Enrigue Bradford Jr

When a top draft pick is officially signed and introduced by his new team, as Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. was yesterday by the Orioles, it is a big day for a lot of people. The player of course and his family, the organization and also the signing scout.

Orioles' area scout Trent Friedrich was at the podium yesterday with Bradfield and O’s executive Mike Elias on the big day for the highest draft pick Friedrich has had as an O’s scout. He joined the organization after the 2019 season.

That scout puts in a massive amount of time compiling volumes of information on a player that his club may not even draft. But in this case, they did. Friedrich’s guy was the No. 17 overall selection by the Orioles and this week signed an exact slot bonus amount of $4,169,700.

Bradfield and the O’s second-round pick, UNC outfielder Mac Horvath, who has now also signed, will report to Sarasota, Fla. for orientation and then likely play some games in the rookie-level Florida Complex League. They could advance to join Low Single-A Delmarva before this season ends.

“It’s gratifying,” Friedrich said to put in so much time scouting a player that his club then actually does select and sign. “And to get a special kid like that. To know where our team is now and where it can go with a guy like him with it, it just makes me really excited for the future.”

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O's game blog: Looking for a bounce-back win over the Los Angeles Dodgers

wells and rutschman

With their eight-game win streak now over, the Orioles look to start a new one tonight as they also continue their pursuit to catch the Tampa Bay Rays atop the American League East. 

Chris Taylor’s grand slam in the sixth last night turned a two-run deficit into a two-run lead, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Orioles 6-4 in the series opener. The O’s led the game 3-0 after two innings and 4-1 after five.

The Dodgers (54-39), who have won six of their past seven series, are 7-1 the last eight games and 15-6 in their past 21. They are now 25-23 on the road, 14-9 versus AL teams and 3-4 against AL East clubs.

They improved to 22-9 in series-opening games with their 22nd comeback win of 2023. They have an MLB-best 70 come-from-behind wins since the start of the 2022 season.

The Orioles had their season-long win streak snapped; they had outscored their opponents 60-20 during the eight consecutive wins. Every victory during the streak came against a team that entered the game with a .500 or better record. Had that streak reached nine, it would've been the longest win streak for the Birds over .500 or better clubs since taking nine in a row from July 9-17, 1998.

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Luke Brockway from Make-A-Wish foundation is O's skipper for a day

luke brockway and hyde

Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde will get some help tonight through the Make-A-Wish foundation. The Orioles have invited Luke Brockway, 17, from Catonsville to be Orioles manager for a day.

Brockway was presented with a No. 7 jersey before the game and sat next to Hyde in the pregame interview room to answer some questions about himself. He explained that a serious heart condition took him away from the field. But he wants to stay around baseball, a game he loves very much.

So today he is here with his family and ready to help Hyde any way he can.

“It’s your show, you get to answer all the tough questions,” Hyde told him earlier amid a group of reporters before the game in the club's interview room. 

"We’re happy to have him here today," Hyde said. "Hope he has a wonderful experience and it’s been great showing him around a little bit.”

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The Orioles' Anthony Santander on his milestone home run

Anthony Santander celebrates

When the Orioles' Anthony Santander launched a two-run shot in the first inning Sunday, it was a big swing for Baltimore. It provided the Orioles an early 3-0 lead, and they would go on to win and sweep Miami.

But it was also a milestone home run for Santander. His 17th of the year was also the 100th of his career - a mark he reached in his 526th MLB game. He becomes the 29th player in the history of the Orioles, which of course dates to 1954, with 100 homers.

Next up for him on the O’s career list, tied for 27th all-time with 106 homers are Jonathan Schoop and Gary Roenicke. Tied for 24th on the list are the trio of J.J. Hardy, Doug DeCinces and Harold Baines with 107 homers in a Baltimore uniform.

Santander has had quite the career for a player that the O’s got via the Rule 5 draft from Cleveland in December of 2016.

“Wow, first of all thank God, all the glory is to him,” Santander said in the O’s clubhouse before the Dodgers series opener. “I’m really happy and proud of myself. I never thought about it but with hard work and consistency I was able to reach that number.

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O's game blog: Grayson Rodriguez faces the LA Dodgers in series opener

rodriguez v LAA white

A big stretch of games has arrived for the Orioles. A tough stretch. They started it by sweeping Miami three straight over the weekend. And now their next 17 games are against winning clubs. In order, they play the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, the New York Yankees and Toronto.

This stretch leads up to and goes through the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

The Orioles begin play tonight at 57-35 and one game behind Tampa Bay for the American League East lead, the closest they have been since the second game of the year. They are one game ahead of Tampa Bay in the loss column.

The Orioles have won eight in a row, the longest current win streak in the majors. The Orioles' plus-53 run differential is third-best in the AL, but 40 of that came during the win streak, during which they have outscored opponents 60-20. Baltimore batters went 8-for-25 with runners in scoring position over the weekend against Miami, and they are 31-for-77 (.403) with RISP during the win streak.

In the last four games alone, the Birds have scored 31 runs and hit 11 home runs.

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Former Triple-A teammate Colton Cowser on Grayson Rodriguez's return to O's

cowser debut

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, who returns to the big leagues tonight for the Orioles to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, made eight starts this year for Triple-A Norfolk. Colton Cowser, who is starting in left field and batting seventh tonight, was in the Norfolk lineup for five of those games.

He saw Rodriguez return to the farm after going 2-2 with a 7.35 ERA in 10 starts with the Orioles. He saw a pitcher determined to get his command on point and one who did that back at Triple-A for the most part.

Rodriguez is currently ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the top 100 by Baseball America, one step below Cowser, actually, who is No. 14.

“He, I felt like, the thing that really was making it click for him was his fastball command,” Cowser said. “That is one thing I noticed being in center field, he was able to consistently work at the top (of the strike zone). And when he is really working at the top and really commanding it, his off-speed pitches play really well off of it. He was looking really good.

“I feel like he was doing a great job of pitching when he was in hitter's counts. Being able to steal strikes and worked counts well.”

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After sweep of Miami, big week ahead for the Orioles versus the Dodgers & Rays

Grayson and Adley

During a season that has featured a lot of excitement already, this week in Birdland might produce max excitement. The Orioles will play their next seven games versus the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Dodgers (53-39) had a six-game winning streak snapped by the New York Mets in 10 innings on Sunday.  The Dodgers, the 2020 World Series champions, have won the National League West 10 times in the last 11 seasons, winning 100 games or more four times in that span.

The Rays, who got off to a 13-0 start and a 20-3 start this year, have been leading the AL East wire-to-wire thus far. But after the Orioles win Sunday and Tampa Bay’s loss at Kansas City, their division lead is just one game over the Orioles, who are one game better than Tampa Bay in the loss column.

The Orioles have not been this close to first since the second day of the year. By the third game on April 2, they were 1-2 at Boston and they were two games behind. And have been at least that far back until Friday night when the Rays were rained out and they pulled within 1.5 games. Now the lead is down to a single game in the standings with the Rays 60-36 and the Orioles 57-35.

Before the Orioles and Rays start a four-game series on Thursday at the Trop, the Rays will play three games against Texas. So, while the Orioles will play the NL West leaders the next three days, the Rays will be meeting the AL West leaders.

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Bradish deals, gets early offense as O's sweep Marlins, extend win streak


In an effort to get their sixth series sweep and fifth three-game sweep of the year, the O’s sent right-hander Kyle Bradish to the mound today to face the Miami Marlins.

They had to like their chances with Bradish, a pitcher on a roll, who started this day at 5-4 with a 3.32 ERA. Had he enough innings to qualify for league leaders, he would be 10th in the American League in ERA.

And over his past 11 starts since May 12, he was 4-3 with a 2.52 ERA and .589 opponent OPS. Bradish had not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last five starts.

And his strong pitching continued today as the Orioles got him a quick three-run lead on their way to a 5-4 win and a series sweep of the Marlins (53-42), the team with third-best record in the National League.

Trailing 5-0 to the ninth inning, the Marlins scored four runs off Eduard Bazardo and Danny Coulombe. Coulombe did get Luis Arraez to fly to left for the final out and strand the tying run at second to record his first career big league save.

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O's game blog: A chance for a sweep this afternoon against Miami

Kyle Bradish white jersey

The Orioles have four three-game sweeps this year - three at Camden Yards - and will try to add to the list today against the Miami Marlins. The O's have posted 5-2 and 6-5 wins to start this series and homestand. 

They now have 33 comeback wins, tied with the Cincinnati Reds for the most in the major leagues. Since the start of 2022, they have 69 wins in games they have trailed, tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most in the majors over that period.

The Orioles fell behind 4-0 in the second inning last night, but in the home half cut that to 4-3. Down 5-3, they scored once in the fifth to trail 5-4. They scored twice in the seventh to tie the game and take the lead. A lead they would hold onto.

So that is now a seven-game win streak for the Orioles. That ties their season high from April 16-24. They had a plus-16 run differential in the earlier win streak. It is plus-39 in the current win streak.

The Orioles have outscored their last seven opponents, 55-16.

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Grayson Rodriguez starting tomorrow for Orioles (plus Mullins, Pérez updates)

grayson rodriguez pitches white

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez has not started for the Orioles since May 26. That stretch will end on Monday night when he will start the series opener for the Orioles against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camden Yards.

Manager Brandon Hyde made that announcement today about Rodriguez, who is 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA in eight Triple-A starts this year.

“Very pleased, and the reports have been awesome about how the command has improved,” said Hyde of Rodriguez, 23. “The stuff has always been there. It’s all about command for him. He’s throwing the ball extremely well with command at Triple-A and we’re excited for him to start tomorrow.”

Rodriguez pitched three scoreless innings July 9 in his last outing, which was a planned shorter one. He has allowed just two earned runs in 19 1/3 his past four Triple-A games.

Will Rodriguez stay in the rotation, or will that be determined start-to-start?

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Will Jackson Holliday follow lead of other top prospects at Double-A Bowie?

jackson holliday

As’s No. 1 prospect, Jackson Holliday moved to Double-A Bowie on Friday for his first game at that level. It was the next challenge for the 19-year-old shortstop that was drafted No. 1 overall by the Orioles almost exactly a year ago today.

But Bowie manager Kyle Moore, while acknowledging the challenges the kid will face hitting Eastern League pitching, also looks at a steady stream of top prospects the last few years that found their way to Bowie and had their bats meet the challenge. In some cases more than meet it.

In 2021 for the Baysox, Adley Rutschman had a .900 OPS in 80 games and Kyle Stowers was at .938 in 66 games. In 2022 at Bowie, Colton Cowser was at 1.037 in 49 games, Gunnar Henderson 1.025 in 47 games, Connor Norby .960 in 64 games and Jordan Westburg had an .817 OPS in 47 games.

This year, on their way up to Triple-A Norfolk, Coby Mayo was at 1.027 in 78 games, Heston Kjerstad .959 in 46 games and César Prieto .882 in 58 games.

“It’s a long list over the last two to three years, and so I think we are all proud of that. I certainly am,” Moore said, throwing some props to his coaches. “It’s the third No. 1 prospect this organization has seen in three years, with Adley and Gunnar and now Jackson. And Grayson Rodriguez was the No. 1 overall pitching prospect, so there is a lot to be proud of. Jackson being on that list now, and a true shortstop and the No. 1 overall pick, we are ecstatic to have him. I just can’t wait to watch him play. Watch a kid that talented go about his business.”

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O's game blog: Looking to extend a win streak against Miami

gibson city v SEA

The second half started for the Orioles on Friday night as the first half ended – with the Orioles winning. They improved to 20 games over the .500 mark for the first time this year with a 5-2 win over Miami. Adam Frazier produced his first career two-homer game with three hits and four RBIs in the win.

The Orioles (55-35) moved to within 1 1/2 games of the Rays, who were rained out Friday and plays a day-night doubleheader in Kansas City today.

Tampa Bay won the day portion of the twinbill 6-1, so the O's are now again two games back.

The Orioles are 20 games over .500 before August for the first time since 1997. 

The Orioles have a six-game win streak and have outscored their opponents 49-11 during this run. They have scored 26 runs the past three games. The Orioles have hit nine homers the past two games.

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Jackson Holliday worked through some tough times in June to emerge at Double-A

jackson holliday

BOWIE, Md. - Manny Machado played at Double-A Bowie at age 19 in 2012 and pitcher Dylan Bundy was 19 when he pitched for Bowie that same year. Now Jackson Holliday becomes the next O’s prospect to ascend to Bowie before his 20th birthday.

It’s been quite a run of now nearly 365 days for the kid. Drafted No. 1 overall by the Orioles on July 17, 2022, he is still a few days removed from that one-year anniversary. He started this season playing at Low Single-A Delmarva and moved to High-A Aberdeen playing his first game there on April 25. On July 8, he played in the All-Star Futures Game in Seattle representing the Orioles. And now, six days later he played his first game in the Double-A Eastern League.

Last night in his Baysox debut, Holliday went 2-for-5 with singles in the second and ninth innings.

Bowie lost 8-6, but left fielder John Rhodes hit three solo homers and has eight on the year after producing his first career multi-homer game. Drafted in round three from Kentucky in 2021, Rhodes has a .251 average and .796 OPS in 62 Baysox games. His OPS was .985 in June. This was the seventh three-homer game in Bowie team history.

Holliday began the year ranked No. 12 via and is now No. 1 in that top 100 ranking as baseball’s top prospect. He began the year at No. 15 via Baseball America and is now No. 2 on that list. Cincinnati’s Elly De La Cruz will soon graduate from those rankings, where he is No. 1 and Holliday will move to No. 1 there too.

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O's game blog: Birds host Miami as the second-half begins

o's celebrate

After ending the first half with an impressive five-game win streak, the Orioles look to extend the streak as their second-half schedule begins tonight. They host the Miami Marlins for three games this weekend and then play three more at home to end the homestand against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the third series out of the All-Star break, the Orioles (54-35) will play four games on the road against the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays (58-35). The Orioles win streak has seen them close to just two games back of Tampa Bay and the clubs are even in the loss column.

When last seen, the Orioles hit a season-high six homers and scored seven runs in the fifth and six more in the sixth last Sunday to rout Minnesota 15-2 and sweep that three-game series at Target Field by a 24-5 score. They put up 24 runs against the team that began that weekend leading MLB in team ERA and on Sunday was second by one point to Atlanta, 3.55 to 3.56.

The Orioles have been on a hot streak in recent games batting with runners in scoring position. They went 11-for-21 (.524) in three games in Minnesota and are 23-for-52 (.442) in the past five games with RISP.

This surge has lifted the club’s batting average for the season with RISP to .273 which is fourth-best in the AL behind Texas (.297), Tampa Bay (.289) and Boston (.284).

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In Bowie, Jackson Holliday on the move to Double-A

jackson holliday

BOWIE, Md. – On Monday, 19-year-old Jackson Holliday will celebrate the one-year anniversary of being selected by the Orioles with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. He hoped to make it as far as Double-A Bowie during this his first full season in pro baseball.

He’s done it. The news was out on Sunday and tonight Holliday, after beginning this year playing 14 games with Low Single-A Delmarva and then moving on to High-A Aberdeen for 57, will debut at Bowie. He’s batting second and playing shortstop against Akron tonight, hitting after leadoff batter Billy Cook and before Jud Fabian.

The great 2023 season for Holliday, who has become the No. 1 ranked prospect via and No. 2 on the Baseball America list this year and who also recently played in the All-Star Futures Games, continues tonight as he arrives at the Double-A level maybe even faster than he figured on.

But a goal is achieved for him as he arrives at Double-A.

“Absolutely,” he said this afternoon in the Baysox dugout. “I came into spring training as this was my goal for the end of the year. I’ve reached it so now there are new goals. So, who knows what can happen but I’m excited to be here. Time to keep playing and enjoying it.”

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A few O's questions as the second half is set to begin tonight

mateo throws white

As the season’s second half – the post-All-Star break portion of the schedule – begins tonight in Baltimore, the Orioles resume play at 54-35. They are two games behind Tampa Bay for the American League East lead and hold the No. 1 AL wild card spot, leading by five games for that over Houston and Toronto.

Their win percentage of .607 projects to 98 wins over a full season and is their eighth-best win percentage all-time at the All-Star break.

Here are a few questions that will be answered in the second half:

What will the trade deadline look like for the club?

Well, one guess is that the Orioles will be rumored to have their hand in several potential deals. But the Orioles hold some nice cards here. For one, they have the No. 1 farm in the game and several top 100 prospects at higher levels that are already in the majors, are major league-ready or are close. These are the types of players that are coveted around the sport. The Orioles are loaded in what you could call “prospect capital.”

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More on the 100-pitch barrier and pitchers talk about breaking through it

bradish pitches orange

Yesterday in this space we discussed the 100-pitch mark for starting pitchers in big league baseball. It is becoming more and more rare for some to hit the century mark in pitch cout. The Orioles have just 11 games this year where their starter went 100 or more pitches. Yet they still rank 12th in MLB and seventh in the AL as their starters average 88.9 pitches per game.

There are just six teams in MLB that average 90 or more starter pitches per night at the All-Star break and the leader is the Chicago White Sox at 94.1. No MLB team even averages 95 pitches per game from their starting rotation.

The White Sox lead the majors with 33 games with a hurler going 100 pitches or more this year, per Stats Perform. Philadelphia is next with 27 followed by San Diego and Toronto with 25 and Atlanta with 23. At, the O's rank tied for 19th. Colorado is last with just two such games and Tampa Bay has second fewest with five. 

O’s manager Brandon Hyde discussed in this space yesterday the trend throughout the industry where, and he said, “for some very good reasons” teams don’t train pitchers on the farm to throw this many pitches. Some pitchers have to learn to get deeper only when they get to the majors.

“I’d love to push these guys as far as they possibly can go. Yeah,” Hyde said recently. “You know, it’s a lot easier to do when you are up 6-1 than in a 3-2 game when you walk the leadoff hitter in the sixth or seventh inning. Every circumstance is totally different and things change on a night-to-night basis. But I go into a game, excluding Tyler Wells last year, saying I’m going to take our pitcher that day as far as I can possibly go to try and win the game. Thinking that way.”

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A challenge for starting pitchers MLB-wide: The 100-pitch barrier

bradish v MIN

It has become a barrier for starting pitchers in Major League Baseball. A pitch count that reaches 100. We don’t see it very often anymore. Commonplace back in the day, so to speak, not so much anymore.

In fact there are just six teams that average even 90 or more pitches per night from their starters among the 30 clubs in the major leagues right now.

94.1 - Chicago White Sox
92.1 - Houston
91.1 - Washington
91.0 - Toronto and St. Louis
90.6 - Los Angeles Angels

That is the list. No other team averages more than 90 pitches a game from their starters.

The team ranking last is a shocker. It’s Tampa Bay at 74.1. I imagine that's due in part to the Rays' frequent use of openers.

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