O's look to build on impressive June behind confident Kremer

SEATTLE – By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the fact that the Orioles have secured their first winning month since Aug. 2017. That’s a really long time. 

What’s been behind that winning month? 

The O’s have gone 14-10 in June, outscoring their opponents 121-96, good for a +25 run differential. The offense has averaged 5.03 runs per game over that stretch, which is third-best in the American League.

Last night’s nine runs showcased just how potent this offense can be. 

“Excited with how we swung the bat last night,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “We did a great job of grinding out a starter, spoiling a bunch of pitches. Even our outs were loud at times.”

Who's been hot over the stretch of success? 

Let’s start with Adley Rutschman. The first 15 games of his career went as you’d expect the first 15 games of anyone’s major league career to go – not too well. The No. 1 prospect in baseball hit just .143 during that span. In his last 15 games, the catcher has completely flipped the script, notching a .327/.373/.673 slash line with three home runs and 10 doubles. Rutschman has recorded an extra-base hit in six straight games, the longest active streak in baseball. 

Since June 1, Ryan Mountcastle is hitting nearly .290 with an OPS of .950, slugging seven home runs in the process. Austin Hays keeps adding to his impressive resumé, mashing 14 extra-base hits in the 24-game span. 

Cedric Mullins has been hitting .304 since the calendar flipped. Trey Mancini has an OPS close to .800 in his 20 games played this month, and Anthony Santander’s OPS is even more impressive at .825. 

You get the picture. Things are turning around, and it's apparent across the board. 

“It (the wins) definitely affects how guys come to the ballpark,” Hyde said. “We’ve been playing pretty good baseball this year, we’re playing really good as of late. I think there’s a ton of confidence in our clubhouse, a ton of confidence in our dugout, and it’s made it a lot of fun.”

The same can be said for the pitching, and for tonight’s starter Dean Kremer. The right-hander has only made four starts so far this season, all in June. But over that small sample size, the 26-year-old has posted an impressive 1.71 ERA, and has not allowed an earned run in either of his two previous starts. 

“I see a lot more confidence this year,” said Hyde. “The stuff has always been there, now he’s commanding stuff better, really because of his confidence.”

The strikeout numbers may not have been what they were in his previous two big league seasons, but his walk numbers have drastically improved. In the shortened 2020 season, Kremer walked a whopping 5.79 batters per nine innings. In 2021, that number improved to 4.19. But this season, that number has been cut nearly in half, as Kremer has walked just 2.14 batters per nine innings through his first four starts of the year. 

“I think it’s more strikes,” Hyde said. “I’m more concerned about their strike-throwing ability than I am the punchouts.”

What else has kept the ERA so low? Kremer’s home run numbers. Last season, the right-hander allowed close to three long balls per nine innings. But this year, the number is just 0.4. 

So even with the modest amount of punchouts, Kremer is keeping men off the basepaths and keeping the ball in the yard. 

“For me, he (Dean) deserves the most credit,” added Hyde. “He’s really driven. Sometimes early pitfalls in guys’ careers aren’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Now I’m no scientist, but it seems to me that good hitting and good pitching leads to more wins, and more winning months. 

June may have been the first winning month for the O’s since 2017. But with the way Baltimore has been playing as of late, July could tell a similar story. 

Looking at tonight’s lineup, it’s just a regular off-day for Mancini. 

“He’s got hit in both hands the last week or so,” Hyde said with a chuckle. “I expect him to come off the bench in a big spot when we need him, but kind of giving him a little bit of a break.”

Hyde added that Ramón Urías is improving every day, even though the oblique is always tricky. 

“Took batting practice yesterday, and everything feels like it’s getting close now,” said Urías. “Swinging with more freedom and not much pain right now. Maybe a little tightness, but hopefully going to be alright soon.”

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