Kremer struggles, Henderson homers again, but O's fall in road trip opener (updated)

ST. LOUIS – Sometimes the strike call you don’t get leads to the fastball you throw that leaves the ballpark.

That happened to the Orioles tonight, and it was a frustrating way to begin their week-long road trip to St. Louis and Chicago.

This game sure had its frustrations for the Orioles.

Take the Cardinals' four-run last of the fourth, which gave them a 5-0 lead.

No. 9 hitter Michael Siani hit a three-run homer in that inning, but only after home plate umpire Laz Diaz clearly missed an 0-2 pitch and called ball one instead of strike three. Two pitches later, Siani hit a Dean Kremer fastball over the inner half for a jack into the right-field bullpen and a 5-0 lead.

The early edge allowed the Cardinals to withstand a three-run homer from the amazing Gunnar Henderson, his 16th of the year, and they beat the Orioles 6-3 in the series opener in front of 35,598 at Busch Stadium.

With the Orioles down 5-0 and being no-hit through five innings by Cards right-hander Sonny Gray, Henderson’s homer gave the Birds some life in the top of the sixth.

The inning began with two errors on St. Louis shortstop Masyn Winn. To that point the O’s had no hits, but they did have a rally against Gray, who needed just 45 pitches to get the first 12 outs and 57 for the first 15.

Henderson drilled a 2-2 sweeper deep to center for his latest homer, one that gave him the major league lead by one over Houston’s Kyle Tucker. That also pulled the O’s within 5-3.

Henderson has homered in four straight games, becoming the first Oriole to do that since DJ Stewart from Sept. 5-9, 2020. This was also Henderson’s first homer of the year with more than one man on, and 12 of those were solo shots.

He has hit four in his last four games, six in the past 10. He has 13 homers the last 30 games, since April 15. He is on a pace to finish with, rounding up, 58 home runs.

But Kremer, pitching on seven days' rest, had some command issues and other issues, just about from the outset tonight. And that put the O's in a big early hole.

That fourth inning began with back-to-back singles, and then Kremer struck out Nolan Gorman. But No. 8 hitter Winn lined a double to left for a 2-0 lead, leaving two in scoring position for Siani.

Siani, batting .324 this month, delivered a big blast to open the five-run lead.

Over the weekend against Seattle, Baltimore starting pitchers allowed three runs in three games, but Kremer gave up six hits and five runs over four innings tonight.

The Baltimore pitching staff had a team ERA of 2.28 the previous 17 games.

A tough start to a week-long trip for the Orioles, now 29-16. With the Seattle Mariners' comeback win over the New York Yankees, the O’s remain two games out in the American League East.   

Kremer, making his ninth start of the 2024 season, had allowed just one run all year in the first and second innings of his outings. So that was one run over 16 innings. The Cardinals took the lead tonight with a second-inning run.

Kremer, making his second career start against St. Louis, pitched out of a two-on, none-out jam in the first inning, getting the No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters to fly out.

But it was Siani’s RBI single that gave St. Louis the 1-0 lead in the last of the second. Gorman walked with one out and stole second. Siani’s groundball single to center, off a 2-2 splitter, put the Cards ahead. It started his four-RBI day out of the nine hole.

Kremer threw 86 pitches over four innings to fall to 3-4 with a 4.32 ERA. He walked three and fanned two. It was the first time any O’s starter allowed five or more earned runs since Grayson Rodriguez gave up seven on April 23 versus the Angels.

Winn's infield RBI single made it 6-3 Cards in the home seventh. So the last two batters in the St. Louis lineup tonight combined for four hits and all six RBIs. 

The Cardinals are now 21-26 and winner of six of their last eight games. Since the start of the 2023 season, St. Louis is 14-5 (.737) against AL East teams, and no club has a better winning percentage against the division in that time.

Manager Brandon Hyde on Kremer’s struggles: “I just didn’t think he had his best fastball tonight, honestly. I know he was getting ahead of hitters early, (but) had a tough time putting guys away. The missed call on the punchout before the homer was big, then he gave up a three-run homer after that. You know, he had a little bit of extra layoff this time. I don’t know if that affected him or not, but for me he just didn’t have his best stuff tonight."

Hyde knows Gray is tough but didn't like his hitters' approach tonight: “I think we helped him too. I just think we were really undisciplined at the plate. Sonny works to the edges and has good stuff and knows what he is doing. But we were just chasing balls on the black of the plate. We just have to take better at-bats than that."

Kremer, was pitching with extra rest a challenge?: “No, I don’t think so. It’s my job to be ready every fifth day, and if it’s not a fifth day, it’s the sixth day or the seventh day or eighth day. That’s something that you have to take care of as a professional. Doesn’t matter how many days of rest you are, something you have to deal with.”

Henderson on being locked in at the plate: “Probably just making some good adjustments in the cage. Didn’t really feel right to me in the cage, and the hitting coaches now just kind of went to work on a good progress and just keeping that going."

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