Kremer goes seven innings and Webb handles closing duties in Orioles' 4-2 win (updated)

One of the biggest potential influencers in tonight’s game was doing important work on the field before batting practice. Craig Kimbrel stretched while holding a weighted ball, played catch and walked to the bullpen for a lengthy session. The Orioles needed proof that the tightness was gone in his upper back and he could be a consideration in a save situation.

On Wednesday, as it turned out.

Manager Brandon Hyde was giving Kimbrel another game to recover after the veteran closer was removed Sunday in the ninth inning, his third appearance in five days. But don’t tell the Yankees your plans. Let them think he’s ready.

Let him appear to demonstrate that he could take the ball in the ninth and see how the game played out.

Don’t worry about putting the cart before the horse. Figure it out before knowing whether a lead would require protecting.

It did, and the Orioles won again without Kimbrel.

Dean Kremer made certain that the bullpen would cover only the last two innings, Jacob Webb retired the final four batters with ease, and the Orioles won 4-2 before an announced crowd of 21,949 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the fourth, improved to 19-10 and increased their division lead over the Yankees beyond mere percentage points.

Kremer retired eight in a row before Juan Soto obliterated a full-count sinker in the sixth, sending it 447 feet to Eutaw Street at 112.6 mph and slicing the Orioles’ lead to 4-2. Soto stared down Kremer, but the right-hander completed seven innings for the second time this season. Austin Wells was stranded in the seventh after a two-out single and Kremer finished at 93 pitches, with two runs and four hits and with his ERA lowered to 4.19.

"That was unbelievable," Hyde said of Kremer's outing, "because we had very few guys that I was going to pitch tonight. For him to battle, compete, mix, he's just really turning into a really good starting pitcher since the second half of last year. He knows how to pitch now, four pitches for strikes. Has confidence in his sinker, gets the cutter in the right places, can dunk curveballs in. And the split-finger is getting better and better. Really impressed with how Dean is throwing the ball."

Danny Coulombe and Yennier Cano pitched on back-to-back days and in four of the last six, which eliminated them from consideration tonight. Keegan Akin threw 32 pitches Sunday in two innings. Cionel Pérez threw 13 last night, but he was fresh off the injured list.

Yohan Ramírez hadn’t appeared in a game since April 23. Mike Baumann, with his last two appearances on April 22 and Saturday, and Webb, whose last two were Friday and Sunday, also were available.

No one in the trio had recorded a save with the Orioles. Baumann doesn’t have one in the majors.

Akin replaced Kremer and got two outs in the eighth, retiring Soto on a fly ball after Anthony Volpe singled. Webb struck out Aaron Judge with the count full.

Brought back for the ninth, Webb struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo and retired Gleyber Torres on a ground ball for his fifth career save. Pérez was warming.

"That's what you call gutsy out of the 'pen," Hyde said. "That's two guys that pitched the eighth and ninth innings there totally fatigued and just totally stepped up, bulldog mentality. I had Webby up three times yesterday and Ak went 30-plus, two innings a couple days ago, and they both sucked it up before the game knowing how short we were in the bullpen. Staying away from a lot of people tonight and just outstanding. Shows you the kind of competitors both of those guys are."

"Every guy out there, man, it's awesome to see that we all work as a team," Webb said. "We rely on each other out there a lot and it's awesome to see."

Asked about Webb, Kremer said, "He's been lights out for us in the past and he showed it again today."

The number of pitches from Kimbrel in his bullpen session wasn't allowing him to appear tonight.

"I'm hoping he's available tomorrow," Hyde said.

Webb hadn't recorded a save of more than one inning since June 10, 2019, with the Braves. He didn't know earlier that he'd get the ninth.

"It kind of evolved that way," he said. "It's awesome to be able to come in and save the game anytime. I think it's nice to have some trust from that side. Yeah, I think it was an awesome experience. I'm still on vibrate a little bit."

Judge could have shaken up the game in the eighth and Webb got him swinging.

"I'm trying to throw strikes and get guys out," Webb said. "Whatever that takes, that's how it goes."

The Orioles turned double plays in the first two innings after Kremer issued walks, and they weren’t routine.

Jordan Westburg made a nice stop to his left on Judge’s grounder in the first, and Ryan Mountcastle scooped Jorge Mateo’s throw. Mountcastle gloved Rizzo’s 103.1 mph shot in the second that almost knocked him backward and threw to Gunnar Henderson, who fired to Mateo covering the bag for the unconventional 3-6-4 DP.

"Huge," Hyde said.

"I mean, it's huge no matter what point in the game," Kremer said. "Our defense is one of the best if not the best in the league. Keep in on the ground, they'll get it done."

A 6-4-3 double play ended the sixth after Judge’s two-out walk.

Former Orioles Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes fell behind 1-0 in the second after inducing a fly ball and a grounder that his teammates couldn’t turn into outs.

Torres failed to run down Santander’s ball down the right field line, with no help from Soto, and Santander reached on a double. Jordan Westburg grounded to Torres, who tried to nab Santander at third base and drilled him in the back.

The lead didn’t last long. Wells homered on Kremer’s first pitch in the third inning.

Adley Rutschman extended his career-long hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the third that followed Henderson’s one-out walk. The Orioles loaded the bases with two outs and Westburg flied out.

Five of the first six batters reached against Cortes in the fourth and the Orioles took a 4-1 lead.

Jorge Mateo and James McCann doubled, Colton Cowser and Henderson reached on infield hits, and Rutschman lined an RBI single into right-center and improved to 8-for-15 versus Cortes.

Cedric Mullins was 1-for-20 against Cortes before his single in the fifth, and he appeared to steal his 100th career base before the call was overturned.

The Orioles haven't lost a series against division opponents in the last 16, a team record according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They've gone 5-0 in the American League East.

"Every game's important," Kremer said. "You can't take these games off because they start piling up. Winning as many early gives you leeway to take a breather, rest your starters or whatever, through the end of the year. Every series is important."

"I just feel good because of how our pitching was coming into this series so far, and we have a little bit of a reset now with a lot of guys not throwing tonight," Hyde said. "Losing two out of three there against Oakland at home where we pitched a lot of people and we don't win at the end, it was kind of limping into this series a little bit. So to play the way we have the last two nights has been nice."

Said Webb: "There's more of something behind it," Webb said of facing the Yankees. "They're the leading team, they're the competing team that we're trying to get after."

The Orioles are the leaders now.

* Kyle Stowers hit his ninth home run, Connor Norby his seventh, Coby Mayo his ninth and Daniel Johnson his fourth for Triple-A Norfolk. Jackson Holliday went 3-for-6 with an RBI.

Bruce Zimmermann tossed five scoreless innings.

Samuel Basallo caught tonight for Double-A Bowie and hit his fourth home run. Conner Pavolony hit his second.

Basallo also was charged with a throwing error.

John Rhodes had a pair of run-scoring singles.

High-A Aberdeen’s Levi Wells allowed six runs and five hits in the first inning.

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