ATLANTA – One mistake pitch, a meatball in the heart of the plate. Is that asking too much?
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde hoped that Atlanta left-hander Max Fried was due. Or perhaps it was just wishful thinking.
Hyde can recite Fried’s line from the four-hit shutout tossed at Camden Yards in 2021, right down to the zero walks. He knows about the three consecutive scoreless starts this season and the one run allowed in 20 innings.
Fried didn’t locate a fastball in the fourth inning tonight and Anthony Santander sent it over the left-center field fence to break a tie. That was the mistake. Cedric Mullins barreled a sinker leading off the seventh for another home run. That was a mistake.
So was the notion that Dean Kremer would lose a pitchers’ duel with Fried. Or that the harder part of the schedule would crush the Orioles.
Kremer held Atlanta to one run and kept them scoreless over his last five innings, Santander hit his first career grand slam off reliever Joe Jimenez in the seventh, and the Orioles remained perfect in series openers with a 9-4 victory before an announced sellout crowd of 40,176 at Truist Park.
Ramón Urías had three more hits after going 2-for-2 with four RBIs yesterday in Kansas City, and the Orioles improved to 22-10 overall and 11-0 in the first game of a series. The Braves are 22-11 and no longer possess the second-base record in baseball.
The Orioles tied the club record for most series opening wins in a row in any stretch of the season.
Sean Murphy hit a three-run homer off Mike Baumann in the eighth after the Orioles built a 9-1 lead, but they won for the 14th time in 17 games, the 16th in 20 and the 18th and 23.
"I haven't heard any talk about softer schedule or tougher schedule or what," Hyde said. "I think we're just showing up at the park, prepare extremely well, expect to win. Like our chances."
The Orioles scored six more runs after Mullins’ left-on-left homer, and Fried didn’t retire a batter in the inning. Ryan McKenna reached on a bunt single – small ball after the long ball – Gunnar Henderson walked and Jorge Mateo laid down a sacrifice bunt and motored to second base on Fried’s second throwing error of the night. Adley Rutschman walked to load the bases, and Joe Jimenez entered the game.
Ryan Mountcastle flied out, but Santander homered on the next pitch, holding his bat and admiring his work while the lead grew to 8-1.
"I think that our dugout, that was one of the loudest it's been, just because of the situation and how far he hit it," Hyde said. "It was just a huge hit at the time."
"We were jumping for joy," Kremer said.
Santander enjoyed every second of it.
"He usually does," Hyde said. "I enjoyed it myself. I sat there and watched it from the dugout. He's got massive power, so that was awesome."
"Amazing," Santander said. "I think they enjoyed that homer. That was awesome right there."
Kyle Gibson applied a bear hug to Santander against the railing and shook him. Santander didn't know what Gibson said to him, and the smile on his face showed that he didn't care.
"He won something," Santander said. "I didn't understand what he say right there, but he was excited. He was happy about something."
Mullins had an RBI single after James McCann doubled and Urías reached on an infield hit. The bases were loaded again before Jimenez struck out the next two batters. The Orioles sent 13 to the plate.
Fried was charged with five earned runs and seven total in six-plus innings, the most earned runs allowed since April 7, 2022. Seven total were the most since April 13, 2021.
Urías singled with two outs in the second inning, so the Orioles wouldn’t wait long for a baserunner. They scored an unearned run in the third on McKenna’s infield single, Fried’s two-base throwing error on a pickoff attempt, and Henderson’s ground ball with the infield playing back.
Santander homered for the second time in two games, carrying a four-seamer 402 feet for a 2-1 lead. He’d make it three times later, his slump disappearing like the Jimenez fastball.
"Oh, incredible. It felt really good right there, especially to open (up) that game right there against a big lineup," he said, after the Orioles won for the first time when he homered from both sides of the plate. "That was huge, especially late in the inning."
"He got off to a little bit of a slow start," Hyde said. "There was no panic on our end because of what he did last year and what kind of hitter he can be, and he's showing it the last week."
According to STATS, the Braves began tonight ranked first in the majors with 55 runs scored in the first two innings, a .324 average, 19 home runs, 38 extra-base hits, a .600 slugging percentage and a .966 OPS. They worked Kremer for 24 pitches in the first and led 1-0 on Murphy’s two-out single that scored Matt Olson.
Murphy lined a sinker into center field after Olson singled with one out.
Left-handed hitters were batting .390 with a 1.056 OPS against Kramer before tonight. The Braves had five left-handers in their lineup, and Olson started the rally. But they wouldn’t be much of a factor.
Kremer held his breath with two outs in the third on Murphy’s fly ball to the center field warning track with two runners on base. The game stayed tied.
The Braves put two runners on base with one out in the fourth and couldn’t score. The Orioles turned a double play in a nine-pitch fifth. Eddie Rosario singled with one in the sixth, Ozzie Albies struck out and Rutschman bolted from his crouch and threw out Rosario.
Kremer pounded his fist in his glove, pumped his fist and shouted. He’d throw 93 pitches in six innings, allow the one run and turn in his second-best start after the 6 2/3 scoreless in D.C.
Asked what was different about Kremer tonight, Hyde said, "I thought everything was different."
"He gave up some hard contact, but I thought he really competed well," Hyde said. "His presence was good on the mound. I thought he showed great body language, because he's got really good stuff. I thought he pitched with a ton of confidence tonight."
"Felt good, felt in control of my mechanics and being able to repeat over and over again," Kremer said. "More quality pitches. I'd say that would be the biggest difference."
Kremer is the third Orioles pitcher to win four straight interleague starts and the first since Erik Bedard from May 21, 2005-June 28, 2006. Getting results tonight to match how good he's felt, he said, "definitely makes it easier to sleep at night."
"It's going to be a process over the course of the whole year, and just trying to get better in every start."
Fried threw only seven pitches in the top of the first while retiring the side in order. Sixteen of his 22 pitches were strikes through the second. He seemed to be cruising again, but the Orioles did the unthinkable – hammering away at him and building a sizeable margin.
"Third time around is always difficult for a starter," Mullins said. "Processing what we've seen earlier in the at-bats and do some damage late."
Hyde keeps saying that it’s OK to win by a lot. Murphy’s homer off Baumann brought Hyde out of the dugout, frustration evident with every step, and the next two batters singled off Keegan Akin. Marcell Ozuna grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.
"That is a dangerous lineup and they make this park look small," Hyde said. "I was so happy with our at-bats. Max Fried is an elite pitcher in our league and tough time early, but Santander with a huge home run off him, and then we just had a great rally in the seventh. ... Just did a great job of playing team baseball tonight."
A statement game for the Orioles?
"If it hasn't been said already, the AL East is pretty strong," Kremer said. "It's an incredibly tough division. We're here to make a name for ourselves."
"That was a huge win," Santander said. "We don't know. We've still got a lot of games coming ... but it was really good to win against a team that's playing really good right now."
"I just dedicate the win to just the stuff that we've been doing all year," Mullins said. "Sticking to our plan going out on the field, playing aggressive, playing fast and just playing under control."
* Austin Hays entered the game as a pinch-runner for McCann in the seventh, putting him in the designated hitter spot. But Adam Frazier batted for him in the eighth.
* Down on the farm, left-hander Cole Irvin allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings for Triple-A Norfolk, with no walks, four strikeouts and a home run. He’s surrendered three runs in 13 innings in his last two starts.
Joey Ortiz had an RBI double in the eighth after Durham led 2-0. Connor Norby, Jordan Westburg and Lewin Díaz each had two hits.
Heston Kjerstad hit his eighth home run for Double-A Bowie. Cade Povich allowed three earned runs and four total with six hits, no walks and seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Catcher Ramon Rodriguez went 3-for-3 with a walk.
Mychal Givens had a walk and three strikeouts in the sixth inning. Dillon Tate retired only one batter in the seventh and was charged with three runs.
High-A Aberdeen’s Max Costes, a Baltimore native who played at the University of Maryland, hit a grand slam and has three homers in his last two games. Jackson Holliday went 2-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored. Silas Ardoin had a single, double, walk and two RBIs.
Single-A Delmarva’s Creed Willems had a run-scoring single for his 20th RBI.