ARLINGTON, Texas – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde knew that Dean Kremer wanted the ball in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. The high stakes, the confidence he brings to the mound, the impressive starts in two clinchers last month.
Hyde approached Kremer yesterday, prior to Game 2, and updated him on the team’s plans. He was the choice. But Hyde checked back this morning amid the violent conflict with Hamas in Israel, where at least 900 people were killed over the weekend in a surprise attack. Israel declared war on Sunday.
Kremer has Israeli dual citizenship and makes yearly visits to his family. He pitched for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic during spring training, his proudest moment in a baseball uniform.
“I saw him at breakfast this morning,” Hyde said at today’s workout at Globe Life Field. “We had a nice conversation. Gave him my support and sympathies for him and his family that's involved, and he seemed OK. He seemed like he was ready to pitch. He seemed like he felt comfortable with where his family situation was at with the whole thing.
“Obviously, he's very disturbed and there's a lot of things going on, but I didn't sense that it was going to affect (him). I think he's really looking forward to pitching tomorrow, so I didn't think it was going to affect him.”
Kremer said his family is fine. He appreciates the concerns and support. It's impossible to keep his thoughts from splintering.
“Obviously, it's a very sad situation,” he said. “A lot of things are being brought to light. But everybody's OK right now.
“(Hyde) came up to me yesterday. I mean, he's had his hands full with all the stuff going on with the playoffs. But him and almost every single person in the clubhouse has come in and checked on me at some point over the last 48 hours. And I'm very grateful for that.”
Any hesitation to start Tuesday night?
“No,” he said. “I still want to pitch, but, I mean, it's going to be in the back of my head.”
In the biggest start of his life, with the Orioles down 2-0 in the best-of-five series. Another loss and they pack up and wait for spring training.
“It's definitely a must-win for us tomorrow,” Hyde said. “Definitely, our backs are against the wall. We haven't played our best baseball the first two games. Hopefully, we can play well tomorrow. Everybody will be, all hands will be on deck tomorrow. And hopefully Dean can give us some innings, get a nice start for us.”
“I'm honored,” Kremer said. “I mean, it's been quite a fun season, so just adding to that, it’s the best.”
Hyde didn’t announce his Game 4 starter, but Kyle Gibson is the logical choice if the Orioles avoid elimination. Availability could be a factor. And those hands on deck include Game 1 starter Kyle Bradish, who threw 84 pitches Saturday.
“Couple tough games,” Hyde said. “Just didn't play our best baseball. Things didn't kind of go our way. We've won three games in a row quite a bit this year. I feel like we've played really well on the road this year. We've kind of had our backs up against the wall before where, feel like we needed some must-win games, and we're in that situation right now, unfortunately. But I feel good about our club.
“I think we're going to play good baseball here, and it starts with Dean tomorrow. Hopefully Dean can give us a good start and get us on the right track.”
Kremer is 13-5 with a 4.12 ERA in 32 starts. He registered a 3.09 ERA in his last 15 appearances.
Champagne celebrations followed on Sept. 17, after he allowed one run in five innings against the Rays, and on Sept. 28, when he tossed five scoreless innings against the Red Sox. The Orioles locked up their first playoff berth since 2016 and their first division title since 2014.
“He pitched probably his best in two of our biggest games of the regular season,” Hyde said. “I think he's going to pitch with a ton of confidence. I think his confidence has grown over the course of the year. He had a tough start, tough April. From May on, he's had a really good season. We believe in the pitch mix that he has and I really like his stuff. So, hopefully it works tomorrow.”
Those experiences could aid Kremer in a game that the Orioles simply can’t lose.
“I'd like to think so,” he said. “Both those games had a pretty electric atmosphere. And I don't know, just kind of stick to a plan that we come up with and just try to execute as best we can.”
Kremer is the third consecutive Orioles starter to get his first playoff exposure, following Bradish and rookie Grayson Rodriguez.
“He's had a nice year for us and he's kind of in the mix all along,” Hyde said. “We were just kind of waiting to see where we were a little bit. But Dean's throwing the ball extremely well. Had a nice season for us. We're looking forward to watching him start tomorrow.”
The nerves and butterflies haven’t found Kremer, who faced the Rangers on May 27 in Baltimore and allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings, but he can’t hide.
“So far, they haven't hit me yet. I think they'll hit me at some point in the morning,” he said.
“Just kind of treat it like every other start. That's what I'm planning on doing and hope it goes that way.”
The ability to bounce back is one of the Orioles’ strongest traits, with no sweeps in the last 91 series and no losing streaks this season longer than four games.
“I like to think that it's just a combination of guys just not really caring what happened the night before,” Kremer said, “and just kind of have that mentality of whatever happened yesterday doesn't really matter and just trying to compete that next day because that's what matters.”
The Rangers are starting 33-year-old veteran Nathan Eovaldi, whose registered a 3.63 ERA and 1.139 WHIP in 25 starts and is 8-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 18 career starts against the Orioles.
Eovaldi has made 12 playoff appearances and posted a 2.90 ERA and 0.966 WHIP in 49 2/3 innings.
The Orioles want to keep playing. Through Game 4 and back to Baltimore for the decisive Game 5.
“I think the only way to go about it is to flip the page,” said first baseman Ryan O’Hearn. “Find a way to come out tomorrow and win a baseball game. We know our backs are against the wall, we know where we’re at in the season. And personally, I’m not ready to be done playing with these guys. I think we have a lot left to give, and hopefully we can win the next three. But it starts with one at a time.”
Gibson said the mood around the team is “pretty similar.” No signs of panic. Keep it loose and lean on their confidence and track records.
“Sitting on the bus last night, I was kind of interested to see how many times we lost two games in a row and what we did after that, and quite a few times we won two more games after we lost two,” he said.
“It starts with tomorrow. Got to win one game, do what you can to win, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. But obviously, it’s the biggest game of the year, so you try to stay relaxed and just be the best version of yourself that you can be. If 26 guys do that, we’ll be all right.”
* Closer Félix Bautista underwent Tommy John surgery this morning at Trinity Park Surgery Center in Arlington. Dr. Keith Meister handled the procedure, which the Orioles called “successful” in a social media post.
Bautista won’t pitch in 2024.