Former pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, in town as the Orioles celebrate the 30th anniversary of Camden Yards, made a bold statement this afternoon that probably didn’t reach the players in the clubhouse. He said it during his media session on the seventh floor of the warehouse. And he clearly meant every word.
“If I could have one lineup in baseball right now,” he said, “and I know what the Dodgers have, I was there for the All-Star Game, I know what the Yankees have done, I would take the Oriole lineup right now.”
They weren’t challenged to back up what they didn’t hear, but efforts were made to live up to the compliment.
Runners on base in each of the first six innings against Pirates starter Mitch Keller, five of them leading off. No hits in eight chances with men in scoring position before the sixth. Pressure applied and unrewarded
Starter Dean Kremer didn’t need much. The Orioles provided just enough.
Ramón Urías’ high chopper in the sixth reached the outfield grass in left to score Anthony Santander, Kremer retired 14 straight batters to hold down the Pirates, and the Orioles won 1-0 before an announced crowd of 25,613.
Four consecutive victories have moved the Orioles (55-51) four games above .500 for the first time since Aug 15, 2020. They notched their 10th shutout.
A 1 hour, 49 minute rain delay pushed back first pitch but didn’t seem to bother Kremer, who blanked the Pirates over 6 1/3 innings with four hits allowed and no walks. He came out of the game after Ke’Bryan Hayes’ one-out double in the seventh that ended his streak of batters retired.
Cionel Pérez stranded Hayes, who stole third base, and he also stranded Jason Delay in the eighth to lower his ERA to 1.15. Félix Bautista, his fastball touching 102 mph, earned his fourth save after cleaning up a two-on, one-out mess.
Terrin Vavra reached base four more times on a single, error, infield hit and single. The Orioles had traffic in every inning.
"Usually when you squander that many early, you're expecting something not good to happen, but fortunately for us, Dean Kremer, for me that was his best outing of the year," Hyde said. "I thought he did a good job mixing in his curveball and his changeup, along with a good fastball and the cutter, and pitched with a ton of confidence tonight. That's huge for us and for him."
"The more I mix, the harder it is to sit on one thing," Kremer said. "I think it definitely helped."
Pérez came up big while Hyde extended him a little longer than usual now that Jorge López is closing for the Twins.
"Tonight I did it a little differently than I have in the past," Hyde said. "There was a pocket there where (Bautista) probably would have been in there. I probably would have saved Cionel for maybe that top of the order pocket there. But these guys are going to be put in a little bit different positions right now just because of Lopey not being here. And they're going to have to get both sides of guys out now a little bit more. ... All those types of guys are going to have to step it up a little bit and take on little bit bigger roles than they've taken on."
"All I know is that, whenever they tell me to go out there and perform, that's my job and that's what I'm going to do," Pérez said via interpreter Brandon Quinones.
"The mentality stays the same, nothing changes. We've got to go out there and perform and help the team win and just do the best we can."
Pérez let out the usual yell as part of his strikeout celebration to end the eighth.
"It was super important to get out of that inning with a clean inning," he said, "so whenever I'm able to let my emotions show, I make sure I do that."
The Orioles returned home after sweeping the Rangers in a three-game series in Arlington, where Hyde wondered if the trade deadline would cause an adverse reaction.
“I was nervous in Texas, how we would respond, because you just never know, honestly,” Hyde said. “You think you know your club, but when things happen, you lose a guy to an injury, you lose a guy to a trade, you just don’t know how we’re going to respond. So, I was so relieved and satisfied and felt so good about our guys, the way they played, especially those first two games offensively in Texas. That was great to see. And it just reinforces to me that these guys are playing to win every night and they expect to win and they’re playing with confidence.”
Cedric Mullins doubled on the first pitch thrown to him on his bobblehead night, Adley Rutschman walked and they executed a double steal with one out. Ryan Mountcastle lined into a 6-5 double play, with shortstop Oneil Cruz making the catch and quick throw to third base.
The Orioles turned their own double play as rain fell in the second, after Kevin Newman and Bligh Madris singled with one out. Cal Mitchell grounded to third baseman Ramón Urías for the 5-4-3 to begin Kremer’s streak.
Vavra led off the second inning with a single and was stranded. Brett Phillips led off the third with his first Orioles hit, a hustle double into right-center field, but Keller induced three ground balls to escape the jam.
Mountcastle began the fourth with a single into right field, Vavra reached on an error and was erased on Urías’ double play grounder, and Rougned Odor bounced out.
Mullins doubled with two outs in the fifth and Rutschman bounced out.
Through it all, Kremer kept hanging zeroes on the Pirates. He had back-to-back eight-pitch innings in the fourth and fifth and was at 74 after the sixth. Hyde removed him at 83.
"It was good," Kremer said. "Trying to get back to what I was doing when I first got here and try to continue that."
The bullpen didn't let him down.
"It's been fun to watch them the whole season," Kremer said. "They've got a little bit of everything. Anything you can think of, they've got it. Except we don't have any submarine guys, but that's about it."
Finally, the Orioles broke through in the bottom of the sixth. Santander led off with a double, Vavra reached with one out on a ball that deflected off Keller’s leg, and Urías’ bouncer sneaked into left.
The Orioles were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position after the next two batters were retired, but they had a lead.
Mountcastle led off the eighth with a single and Vavra followed with another of his own. An intentional walk to Odor loaded the bases with one out, but again, the Orioles were denied.
One run was plenty tonight. Going 2-for-15 with RISP and stranding 11 didn't cost them.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Vavra is the first Orioles rookie to reach safely in seven straight plate appearances – the streak ended with the error – since Jerry Hairston Jr. from September 6-8, 1999. He’s batting .462 with a 1.149 OPS.
"Great at-bats," Hyde said. "I'm so impressed with the ability to take pitches off the plate. I really like his short swing, I love the way he uses the opposite side of the field, and he's taking pro at-bats for us and got a couple huge hits for us tonight."
The game was played with a three-man umpiring crew after Carlos Torres, assigned to second base, came down with a non-COVID illness.
Pirates manager Derek Shelton was ejected in the eighth for arguing another check swing call.
The Orioles are 30-20 at Camden Yards, their best home record after 50 games since going 34-16 in 2016. They're 20-7 in their last 27 games overall, their best single-season stretch of that amount since going 20-7 from Aug. 28-Sept. 24, 2014.
They haven't been four games above .500 this late in the season since finishing 89-73 in 2016. And they lead the majors with four 1-0 victories, their most since 1983.
The 10 shutouts match their 2019 and 2021 totals combined.
Down on the farm, Robert Neustrom hit his 13th home run, Gunnar Henderson his ninth, and Yusniel Diaz his fourth for Triple-A Norfolk. Neustrom stole three bases.
Bruce Zimmermann allowed two runs and seven hits in five innings, and Denyi Reyes tossed three scoreless innings with only one hit allowed, no walks and five strikeouts.
Joey Ortiz hit his 11th home run and Colton Cowser hit his eight for Double-A Bowie.