Rutschman grand slam can't send Orioles to win in series opener (updated)

KANSAS CITY – The outs were piling up for Dean Kremer tonight. So were the missed opportunities by the Orioles to give him support.

Kremer retired the first 11 Kansas City batters and only one ball left the infield before Vinnie Pasquantino pulled a splitter into the bullpen in right field. He allowed one other hit until his removal with two outs in the fifth inning, but the team that generated the most runs in the American League had a cold engine.

It finally got hot in the seventh, as usual, and after Kremer was gone. The bullpen, however, wouldn’t allow for a ninth comeback win.

Adley Rutschman hit his first career grand slam after Will Smith loaded the bases with no outs, but damage the previous inning was too much to overcome in a 9-4 loss at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals scored five times in the sixth, all of them with Keegan Akin pitching, MJ Melendez hit a three-run homer off Dillon Tate in the seventh, and the Orioles fell to 12-7 despite making loud noises again in the late stages.

They’ve scored 19 runs in the seventh this season, and tonight’s rally began with singles by Cedric Mullins, pinch-hitter Austin Hays and Jordan Westburg. Mullins extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Hays was 3-for-41.

Ramón Urías pinch-hit for Jackson Holliday, who was 0-for-2, and fouled out to catcher Salvador Perez on the ninth pitch. Gunnar Henderson struck out, but Rutschman mashed a four-seam fastball to make the Orioles 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and probably make Kremer wonder what took so long.

Pedro Severino was the last Orioles catcher to hit a grand slam, on Aug. 26, 2021 versus the Angels.

"Big hit by Adley to kind of get us back in it," said manager Brandon Hyde, "but we just didn't pitch great out of the 'pen."

Rutschman's ball landed in the left field seats and the Orioles believed that they'd get out of here with a dramatic win. That's always the mindset.

"Other than maybe like a blowout game, I think we always have a chance," Kremer said. "As long as we're within a few runs, things can change fairly quickly."

"I think our team doesn't feel like we're out of any game at any given point," Rutschman said. "That's what makes us such a special group. We've got a lot of guys who are committed to our process and are relentless."

Melendez’s 424-foot-shot to right off Tate broke the tension that the Orioles created. In addition to losing following a three-game home sweep of the Twins, they failed to tie the major league record held by the 1987 club of hitting three or more home runs in six consecutive games.

Akin lost a couple of left-on-left matchups after inheriting two runners from Kremer. Melendez snapped an 0-for-23 streak with a ground ball into right field that scored Bobby Witt Jr. Michael Massey followed a walk to Nelson Velázquez with a two-run single.

Hunter Renfroe had a two-run double before Akin got the final out. Kremer was charged with three runs.

"Two ground balls that got in the four hole there, all with two outs, and Tate gives up the home run to Melendez with two outs," Hyde said. "Just had a tough time getting that third out in both innings."

"I've got faith in Keegan," Kremer said, "and I've got faith in the rest of the bullpen to get it done more often than not."

Akin and Tate had combined before tonight to allow three earned runs in 15 2/3 innings.

"That's the thing about baseball is sometimes it happens and I think everyone's got complete faith in them and they're phenomenal pitchers," Rutschman said. "I don't think anyone's worried at all."

The first two batters reached against Alec Marsh in the top of the first inning when Henderson walked and Rutschman lined a single into left-center field. They moved up on Ryan O’Hearn’s grounder to the right side, but Perez picked off Henderson at third base and Anthony Santander flied out.

Rutschman singled again leading off the fourth, center fielder Kyle Isbel tracked O’Hearn’s fly ball near the fence and made a leaping catch, and Santander and Ryan Mountcastle walked to load the bases. Mullins swung at a first-pitch curveball down the middle and flied to shallow left, and Colton Cowser grounded out.

Marsh was removed after Santander’s two-out double in the sixth and Mountcastle grounded to the right side of the mound.

Kremer retired 15 of 18 batters through the fifth inning, stranding Massey in the fifth after a one-out double. He issued back-to-back walks to Witt and Pasquantino in the sixth, retired Perez on a fly ball and exited at 91 pitches.

"I thought Dean threw the ball great," Hyde said. "Couple walks there in the sixth, that hurt against the top of the order, but left with two outs in a 1-0 game. We've got to do a better job of kind of shutting the door for him there."

"I thought he was getting ahead, locating his pitches and getting some quick contact and was able to finish guys," Rutschman said.

The walks bit Kremer after he left.

"That's one of the things that definitely put us in a bad position there in the sixth, but I did a poor job getting ahead all night," he said. "Didn't execute when I needed to."

Jackson Holliday is 1-for-27 with 15 strikeouts to begin his major league career. He struck out in the third inning and flied to medium center field in the fifth.

Holliday probably will sit Saturday against Royals left-hander Cole Ragans. Urías singled in the ninth and has a hit in his last five games with an at-bat.

* Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Heston Kjerstad homered twice tonight to give him 10. He also singled. Maverick Handley had an RBI double.

Cade Povich struck out nine batters in 5 1/3 scoreless innings. He allowed three hits and walked four.

Collin Burnes had a two-run triple for Double-A Bowie.

High-A Aberdeen’s Creed Willems had three doubles and two RBIs through five innings. Hudson Haskin, on an injury rehab assignment, hit his first home run.

Tavian Josenberger stole three bases.

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