The Orioles had to dig deep for motivation tonight.
They didn’t play in front of 45,000 hostile fans. A home run record didn’t hang in the balance. They had already fallen out of the wild card chase and secured the first winning season since 2016.
The temperature at first pitch was 49 degrees, the coldest in Baltimore at the start in four years, with rain falling throughout the night. Weather that scaled back the crowd.
But the statistics count and the wins matter. They had a chance to claim one more series and perhaps influence where the Blue Jays will begin the playoffs.
Dean Kremer braved the elements and grinded through six innings in his final appearance, but the Orioles didn’t offer much support in a 5-1 loss, in a game delayed and then halted after Yennier Canó allowed a run in the eighth and loaded the bases with two outs.
The forecast is also ominous for Tuesday night, when the Orioles again try for their 83rd win in the penultimate game of the season.
"Just not easy to play in," said manager Brandon Hyde. "Just kind of a tough night all around. Wet, cold. Dean, affected him a little bit and his stuff wasn't the same as it is normally."
Kremer registered a quality start by definition with three earned runs allowed and four total. He scattered six hits, walked a batter, struck out four and finished with a 3.23 ERA in 125 1/3 innings.
"The mound was a little wet, but it's a part of it. You're going to have nights like this," he said.
"Balls were slick, it was raining, it's cold. It is what it is, but got through it."
The Orioles have recorded 41 quality starts. Eight belong to Kremer, who was demoted multiple times last year and lost all seven decisions with a 7.55 ERA and 1.640 WHIP in 13 games.
"I think the most important thing was just not backing down from anybody that's stepped in the box, no matter what their name was or who they played for or anything like that," he said. "That's like the biggest difference other than the stuff."
Kremer said he knew 2022 would be better.
"That's part of the competitor that's inside me and each and every one of the guys in here, no matter what it is the year before," he said. "It's like, 'OK, how do I go and get better from here?'
"There are some things that I want to sharpen, like, I'm always going to be chasing velocity, I'm always going to be chasing getting my stuff better and executing better and whatnot. Just like every other guys, we're just trying to have our trend upwards."
"I remember Dean had a tough night in Buffalo one night and couldn't get out of the first inning," Hyde said, "and to see where he's come from that night, a lot of credit goes to him for being mentally tough and trying to make some improvements, which he has."
The announcement came today that Kremer will pitch for Team Israel in next year's World Baseball Classic.
"Super excited," he said. "Been playing for their national team for a handful of years previously, and played in the last WBC. Anytime I get to represent the country, it's a really fun experience."
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 22nd career home run against the Orioles, a 422-foot solo shot in the third inning that increased Toronto’s lead to 3-0. Four of those homers have come against Kremer.
Whit Merrifield had a two-out, two-run single in the second inning after Teoscar Hernández singled and Matt Chapman walked.
The first hit off José Berríos was Jorge Mateo’s bunt single with one out in the third inning. Mateo swiped his 35th bag to break a tie with Cedric Mullins for the American League lead, and walks to Mullins and Adley Rutschman loaded the bases with one out.
Hernández raced along the warning track in right field and made a leaping catch at the fence to prevent Anthony Santander from getting more than a sacrifice fly.
Berríos held the Orioles to one run and three hits in six innings. He entered the game with a 5.37 ERA and 1.434 WHIP in 31 starts, and his 196 hits were tied with Jordan Lyles for most in the American League.
Berríos is 9-0 lifetime against the Orioles.
"I don't know if he has the best numbers this year, but he's a Cy Young candidate for the last few years," Hyde said. "He's been tough on a lot of people."
Kremer’s wild pitch, the ball bouncing in front of Rutschman and off his mask, scored Merrifield in the fifth inning for a 4-1 lead. Merrifield reached on a bunt single and advanced on Kremer’s throwing error.
The complete-game shutout against the Astros on Sept. 23 was followed by six earned runs allowed in 11 innings over two starts.
"I want to believe he's that pitcher that threw against Houston two starts ago," Hyde said. "Really matured a lot with his pitch development, and all four of his pitches improved. His fastball velocity got up. It was down today, down really his last start, too, a little bit. But just learned how to pitch more, and was able to execute a lot better this year. The curveball, which wasn't there tonight, became a factor. The changeup. The cutter's always been there. But now it's being able to throw four pitches for strikes.
"I thought he had a bunch of really good starts this year, so I'm excited about going into spring training with him next year."
Rutschman walked twice, giving him 65 in 112 games, and he singled in the fifth. He also threw out two runners attempting to steal.
The Jays had back-to-back singles off Keegan Akin in the seventh, but Rutschman threw out Merrifield, and the left-hander struck out Cavan Biggio and George Springer.
Canó worked the eighth inning, his second appearance with the Orioles, and he surrendered a run on Chapman’s slow ground ball through the right side with two outs that scored Bo Bichette. Canó issued his second walk to fill the bases and the grounds crew unrolled the tarp.
The weather pushed back the on-field presentation of Rutschman’s Most Valuable Oriole award to Wednesday.