Friday was, to say the least, an impressive night for the Orioles.
They hit well, pitched well and defended well against an Atlanta team that won the World Series in 2021, won 101 games in 2022 and has won five straight National League East titles.
Atlanta sent out pitcher Max Fried and his 0.45 ERA, and the Orioles had him and the Braves down 9-1 in the seventh. They have scored 34 runs the last four games and that includes one game where they were shutout. They are 6-2 on this road trip, and 13-6 in road games after Friday's resounding 9-4 win.
What a way to start a 22-game stretch against clubs with winning records. And what a way to start a nine-game stretch versus first place teams in Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
Anthony Santander hitting two homers, including a grand slam, and Cedric Mullins hitting a big left-on-left homer were huge moments. But for me, seeing right-hander Dean Kremer pitch so well was the biggest development.
Starting pitching has been a weak link for the Orioles and Kremer had allowed four runs or more in five of his six starts, and his ERA was 6.67 at game time Friday. Then he allowed one run over six innings, throwing a 93-pitch gem of a start. The Orioles are now 7-0 when getting a quality start. They just need more of them.
What was different about Kremer on Friday after earlier struggles?
"I thought everything was different,” manager Brandon Hyde told reporters. “He gave up some hard contact, but I thought he really competed well. His presence was good on the mound. I thought he showed great body language, because he's got really good stuff. I thought he pitched with a ton of confidence tonight."
The Orioles had gone 11 consecutive games without a quality start, their longest stretch of the year. Kremer needed that, and so did his team.
And the sight of a World Series contender in the other dugout certainly didn’t produce any concern or trepidation from the Orioles. What they delivered instead was a convincing and complete win.
Hyde believes his team will have confidence playing all of these quality teams coming up because they held their own last year against some good clubs.
“I think the second half of last year we felt like (we could play with good teams),” he said before Thursday’s game in Kansas City. “We played really good baseball from May on and continued that so far this year, so I don’t think anything has changed from the second half. We are trying to win every series.
“I know what our calendar looks like, but I’m mostly focused on trying to win this series here today. Hope we can have a happy flight and head to Atlanta,” he said before the wild 13-10 win.
Then the Orioles went out Friday night and made Hyde’s words from a day earlier look very, very accurate. In response to a question in Kansas City about whether the club could hold its own with these teams, Hyde let us know he felt that answer would be yes.
“I think last year, with a really similar group, we did that. Our September schedule last year was unbelievable. I think a lot of people thought we would fall off when we were facing the Blue Jays 10 times and we didn’t. We hung in there and competed and played close games almost every single night. Won some series and I don’t think it’s anything different this year," Hyde said.
Last night a confident manager saw his players back up his confidence in them.