On night of great pitching, O's also made gains in wild card race

In recent days, some fans in Birdland have begun to slowly check out a bit on the 2022 Major League Baseball season. But just when some headed out, did the Orioles pull them back in?

Looks that way.

With a stunning run of pitching that includes allowing just one run over the last three games, the Orioles are now three games behind Seattle for the third American League wild-card spot. Tampa Bay and Toronto (84-67) are tied for the top two spots with the Orioles 4 1/2 games behind both clubs.

Is edging out Toronto, in what would be a stunning late-season run, the Orioles' best path to the playoffs? Probably yes, because of the three games the teams still have to play to end the regular season at Oriole Park.

Now 4 1/2 games behind Toronto, the Birds would need to gain 1 1/2 games on Toronto in the next 10 days to be within three games with three to play when the clubs begin that series in Baltimore on Monday, Oct. 3.

So we're sayin' there's a chance.

Toronto, which has won two series this month over the Orioles, has now lost three games in a row. They lost by scores of 10-5 and 10-6 the last two days to Tampa Bay. The Blue Jays' next five games include two with Tampa Bay and three against New York. 

So, again, we're saying there is a chance.

A longshot is better than no shot, and when the O's were losing back-to-back games at home to Detroit this week, they looked like they might be done.

But right-hander Dean Kremer's four-hit shutout last night in a 6-0 win - the Birds' first complete-game shutout since John Means' no-hitter on May 5, 2021 - has pumped more life into this club and this race.

Kremer's 106-pitch gem improved his record to 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA over his past eight starts, and he has allowed just one run over 16 2/3 innings in two starts against Houston.

More notes on O's pitching:

* In going 4-1 against Houston this year, the Orioles have allowed just four runs on 20 hits with three shutouts.

* O's starting pitchers have allowed just two runs and 13 hits in 39 1/3 innings against Houston for an ERA of 0.46.

* In their four wins versus Houston, O's pitchers have allowed just one run. One total run.

* The last three games - the series-finale with Detroit and two with the Astros - O's pitching has allowed one run and nine hits with two walks and 23 strikeouts.

* Per ESPN Stats and Info, O's starters have thrown at least 8 2/3 innings three consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 26-29, 1995, when it was done by Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson and Kevin Brown.

* Kremer last night became the 13th player in the majors this year to pitch a shutout.

* Last night's win was the O's 15th shutout, their most since throwing 16 in 1992. The O's single-season record is 21 in 1961. From 2019-2021, a total of 384 games, the O's pitched only 11 shutouts. 

* The Orioles team ERA this year against Houston is now 0.82. Their ERA in the four wins is 0.25.

"Dean and (Kyle) Bradish had four of those games, and they both have thrown extremely well in the games they started against them," O's manager Brandon Hyde said. "Not a ton of hard contact given up by Dean tonight, either. I just think we're pitching well, and it's a great team over there. We're competing. Maybe it's a little bit contagious. Maybe Bradish saw what Jordan (Lyles) did and Dean saw what Bradish and Jordan, and just want to keep it going.

"We still have two more games against these guys, facing a guy (Framber Valdez) tomorrow that is on a big-time roll, and it's a new day tomorrow. But I'm just really happy and proud of our young pitchers and how much they're improving and competing so well."

A reminder for any fans attending tonight's game, which starts at 7:05 p.m.: The Orioles will celebrate the 45th anniversary of Brooks Robinson's retirement in 1977 as they again pay tribute to "Mr. Oriole." Robinson will welcome fans as he is driven around the warning track, a nod to the original "Thanks, Brooks Day." Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:30 p.m. for the ceremony. 

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