Heston Kjerstad grabbed a bat to hit on the field yesterday afternoon but paused to satisfy a reporter’s request for a minute of his time. That’s exactly how much of it he could spare, doing so with the usual smile and polite nature.
Kjerstad would begin the game on the bench, hours after learning that he made Baseball America’s Minor League All-Star Team, along with shortstop Jackson Holliday and catcher Samuel Basallo. He delivered a pinch-hit, RBI double in the eighth inning. Three of his first six career hits have gone for extra bases.
The honors keep finding him, even in Baltimore.
“I spent the majority of the season down there, and you consider that I’ve only been up here a little bit,” he said. “Definitely a solid year, cool to be a part of that and everything. There’s a lot of O’s players on that list, too. It just shows the organization we’re in.
“It’s awesome to be up here and getting things rolling. It’s been awesome to be a part of this clubhouse so far.”
The body is at Camden Yards, but the mind is allowed to wander to Norfolk.
Kjerstad was tracking the Tides’ series against Durham this week for the International League championship, the winner playing Oklahoma City Saturday in Las Vegas for the Triple-A title. He’d join in late, after the Orioles were done.
Got to support his friends.
“Oh yeah, 100 percent,” he said.
“As soon as our game’s over I normally go see how they did the past two days. Those are my boys down there, so I definitely text them or Facetime them after the game. Whatever. There’s definitely a lot of good players down there who have been doing good. It’s a good crew down there, too, for sure.”
Nailed it in one minute.
Reliever DL Hall, who tossed 1 2/3 perfect innings last night, also had immense interest in Norfolk’s series.
“Obviously, I haven’t been able to keep up with his play-by-play, but I checked both nights right after the game. We came in and I’d see how they’re doing,” he said.
“Obviously, super pumped that they forced a Game 3.”
They won it, 7-0, to advance. Cade Povich tossed four scoreless innings, followed by three from Kyle Dowdy. Holliday and Coby Mayo homered in the eighth. Mayo had four hits, four RBIs and three runs scored. Colton Cowser doubled and Connor Norby tripled.
Hall would rather be in the majors, of course, but he feels an attachment to his former club.
“Those are our teammates, too,” he said. “A lot of those guys are probably going to be used in the playoffs up here, too. So, definitely want to root for them every chance I can. We’re going to need all of them.”
* Tyler Wells turned his fourth relief appearance last night, and his third since rejoining the Orioles, into his first save since Sept. 23, 2021. Three ground balls in the ninth inning with fans on their feet, urging him to finish. Waiting for the fireworks.
They’d also explode.
Wells has retired all 12 batters faced after the Orioles recalled him.
“He’s a great story,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “We all know the story, the Rule 5. Makes the team, we’re not very good, and next thing you know he’s closing on a bad club. But he’s pitching in kind of high-pressure situations and responded extremely well. Had a great first half in the rotation and he ran out of gas. He wasn’t built up to handle that workload.
“To go swallow his pride a bit, honestly, and pitch in Double-A and Triple-A games and see if we could use him sometime in the last third of the game. Let’s take a chance, and he’s come through.”
* The Orioles have won 16 of Dean Kremer’s 19 home starts, including 10 in a row. The longest streak since 12 in a row with Chris Tillman in 2016.
They also won nine straight at Camden Yards with Tillman starting in 2014.
The club won 10 straight with Ben McDonald starting in 1993, and Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan in 1982.
* Red Sox manager Alex Cora rattled off some reasons yesterday why he's impressed with the Orioles. A division rival tipping his cap.
“When you look at those guys, they all have plate discipline,” he said. "(Anthony) Santander had a chance to play as a Rule 5 guy and learned on the big league level. (Cedric) Mullins, he decided to go from the left side and he controlled the strike zone.
“They do a good job in the minor leagues if you pay attention to what they do. Look where they have their hands, all of those young kids. There is something they’re doing in player development that is working here at the big league level. They’re tight with their hands and they’re short to the ball.
“They’re really good. Brandon lived the experience in Chicago. He was the perfect guy to go through all those years of development. He took his punches and now he takes punches to us because they’re good at what they do. They’re about to win the American League East. They deserve everything they’re about to do.”
* Last night's game ended on Trevor Story's ground ball to third base, near the No. 5 that's spray painted in the grass in foul territory.
I leave you with that.