CLEVELAND – Dean Kremer struck out Kole Calhoun tonight to leave the bases loaded in the second inning and shouted as he began his walk to the visiting dugout. Maybe frustrated with himself for allowing 13 batters to reach base and surrendering an early lead. Maybe reacting to the importance of the pitch and how it kept the game from getting away from him.
Maybe right on both counts.
The Orioles responded by scoring three runs against Shane Bieber in the top of the third inning, but two errors in the fourth led to three unearned runs and another Guardians advantage. Kremer didn’t scream at the top of his lungs, but he would have been justified.
The game was filled with frustrations that could have led to a group vent, culminating in David Fry's two-run walk-off double against Yennier Cano in the Guardians' 9-8 win over the Orioles before an announced crowd of 22,567 at Progressive Field.
Despite suffering their third straight defeat, the Orioles (95-59) saw their magic number for clinching the American League East shrink to six as the the Blue Jays beat the Rays 6-2 in St. Petersburg.
"That's a tough loss," said manager Brandon Hyde. "We just didn't pitch well tonight. We got beat by so many advantage-count mistakes that it's going to be tough. Hung in there, got a really nice rally there in the ninth to go up one, but then another two-strike mistake to lead off the inning and it's a tough loss."
"That's going to be baseball sometimes," Cano said via interpreter Brandon Quinones, "but I have 100 percent confidence that we're going to be able to play really good the rest of the way and win the division."
Will Brennan’s tie-breaking single off Jorge López in the seventh inning wasn't the final nail for the Orioles. Aaron Hicks poked a double down the left field line off All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase with two outs in the ninth, while down to his last strike, to put the Orioles ahead 8-7.
Cano tried for his eighth save, but Andrés Giménez’s leadoff double and a one-out intentional walk were followed by Fry's drive to left-center field on a first-pitch sinker that almost landed in the seats. He came off the bench early to replace injured catcher Bo Naylor.
The Orioles put the winning run on base hoping for a double play, but the move backfired.
"Cano's numbers against right-handed hitters are so good and he's just a heavy ground ball guy," Hyde said. "Got the right-handed catcher who came into the game a few innings ago and a righty (Myles Straw) on deck. Wanted to take my chances with the right-handers there. Cano usually gets a ground ball, and he just center-cut one and the guy hit it off the wall."
Anthony Santander had three RBIs, including a game-tying single in the seventh, but Danny Coulombe entered in the bottom half of the inning with three consecutive left-handers due. He retired only one, with a walk and infield single putting runners on the corners.
López retired Gabriel Arías on a popup and got ahead of Brennan 1-2, but a changeup was lined into right field to give Cleveland a 7-6 lead.
The Guardians turned a dazzling 4-6-3 double play in the eighth on Ramón Urías’ ground ball, but Clase hit Santander with two outs and Ryan O'Hearn reached on an infield hit. A wild pitch set up Hicks, who went the other way with a cutter and got the ball past José Ramírez’s backhand attempt.
Six more relievers were used tonight, running the total to 32 in the last six games. More bullpen drama.
"We're battling," Hyde said "They're hanging in there. Tonight wasn't our best night on the mound. A few guys threw the ball well. We didn't play great defense, we made a bunch of mistakes, like I said, with two strikes. This is a pesky team that puts the ball in play, so you've got to play good defense. You've got to be able to put guys away, too, and get some softer contact, and we just didn't do that tonight."
"They've handled it pretty well, if you ask me," Kremer said. "They've really carried the team throughout most of the season when we haven't stepped up. They're a big reason why we're here."
Cano has allowed eight runs (six earned) in eight innings in his last 10 appearances, with only two strikeouts among 35 batters faced. He's also trying to find another gear.
"I don't really think it's been a difficult stretch (for the bullpen), I just think it's been a long season and we're just in one of those stretches right now," he said. "The games have been going like that lately, and the team on the other side right now, they don't really have too much to play for right now, so they're kind of playing loose and playing good baseball over there and hitting the ball well. They just hit really good pitches tonight.
"I feel really good, honestly. The same, I'd say. Maybe every now and then I go an extra day without pitching, but I haven't really had to change anything. I still feel the same, still feel good. That's baseball, staying ready to go out there whenever the coach needs me."
Félix Bautista threw in the bullpen again today but can’t help a club that surely needs him.
"I think not only us, but baseball overall misses him," Cano said. "Obviously, he went out there and did that better than anybody, so he's definitely missed, but we just try to go out there and get the job done. Tonight we lost the battle, but we haven't really lost the entire war yet. We're just going to go out there and continue doing our best and trying to make it work."
Santander singled into left field off Enyel De Los Santos in the seventh to score Gunnar Henderson, who walked and advanced on Adley Rutschman’s single. The Orioles loaded the bases with one out but didn’t take the lead, with Cedric Mullins striking out on three pitches while pinch-hitting for Austin Hays.
Kremer lasted only 3 1/3 innings, his third-shortest start of the season, and was charged with three earned runs and six total with seven hits. He threw 91 pitches before Tyler Wells, recalled earlier today, made his first relief appearance since his five scoreless innings April 3 in Texas.
"I felt OK," Kremer said. "I was a little erratic there throughout parts of innings. Balls found the grass."
Wells retired all six batters he faced on 19 pitches. An inherited runner scored on Calhoun’s sacrifice fly. Wells hadn’t gone more than an inning in his seven games with Triple-A Norfolk.
The Orioles struck early against Bieber. Santander’s 40th double scored Henderson, who led off with a single. Santander scored on a ground ball and wild pitch, giving the Orioles a quick 2-0 lead.
It was fleeting. And then it returned. And then it was gone again.
The Guardians collected three hits off Kremer in the bottom of the first, including Calhoun’s RBI double. Giménez tied the game with a sacrifice fly, and Santander prevented the go-ahead run by racing toward the right field line and making a diving catch to rob Arías.
Kremer was up to 56 pitches after two innings. Brennan had a leadoff double and scored on Myles Straw’s single to move Cleveland ahead 3-2. A double and walk loaded the bases with two outs and Kremer ran the count full to Calhoun, but he got the strikeout on a 95.6 mph fastball.
Rutschman held onto the foul tip and made his usual trip to the line to meet Kremer.
Bieber, reinstated from the 60-day injured list this afternoon, was pushed around in the third. The game and mood seemed to turn on Kremer’s strikeout. That feeling also was fleeting.
Urías led off with a triple and came home on Henderson’s double. The rookie was halfway to the cycle.
Henderson scored when Bieber fielded Rutschman’s comebacker, tried for the out at third base and made a wild throw. Santander followed with a run-scoring single. The veteran was halfway to the cycle.
A leadoff walk to Bo Naylor in the fourth began the trouble. Santander planted his feet to catch Straw’s liner and fell, with the ball rolling behind him. Kwan struck out looking, but Ramírez singled to score Naylor, and Josh Naylor’s 107.2 mph ground ball took a weird hop off the mound and handcuffed Henderson for another error.
Hyde removed Kremer, and Calhoun’s fly ball broke the tie.
Santander had a full night. A run-scoring double, two run-scoring singles, a diving catch, a fielding error, and a sliding catch to deny Ramírez and end the sixth after Shintaro Fujinami replaced Wells.
The month of September has been challenging for Kremer, who’s allowed nine earned runs and 12 total with 20 hits in 17 1/3 innings.
"I thought his stuff looked good," Hyde said. "I just didn't think he executed with two strikes."
The last week has been a challenge for the entire club.
"It's definitely put us to the test," Kremer said. "We're all a little tired. It's toward the end of the season. But I need to find ways to eat more innings. That way, we can give the bullpen a bit more rest. And we knew that going in when we were playing 17 straight. The off-day on Monday's definitely going to help."
* The Orioles will celebrate Hall of Famer Jim Palmer’s 60th year with the club during a pregame ceremony next Friday at Camden Yards. Palmer signed as an amateur free agent on Aug. 16, 1963
* Cole Irvin started tonight with Triple-A Norfolk and allowed four earned runs (five total) and seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. Austin Voth allowed three runs and four hits with three walks and four strikeouts in three innings.
Josh Lester had two hits and Kyle Stowers doubled in a 9-2 loss in Memphis. Maverick Handley had a run-scoring single.