Part of Dean Kremer’s rise to effective major league starter last season, with the periods of dominance, was attributed to his stinginess with the home run ball. Eleven allowed in 22 games, fewer than one per nine innings.
Opponents hit seven against Kremer in spring training this year, mostly solo shots, and have slugged five in his first three outings since the Orioles left Florida.
Brent Rooker, the cleanup hitter in Oakland’s punchless lineup, delivered a three-run shot tonight in the first inning. Kremer turned to watch the completion of the ball’s 420-foot trip to center field, waited for a new one and went back to work. Hopeful that he’d settle in and the offense would pick him up.
A bigger influencer in Kremer’s turnaround has been his ability to limit damage and prevent a game from spiraling out of control. Carlos Pérez led off the fifth with a homer after Kremer retired 11 of 13 batters, and the right-hander was removed with one out and his pitch count already at 90.
The Orioles had Kremer’s back in the same way that they did with rookie Grayson Rodriguez the previous night, scoring twice in the seventh inning to tie the game. But Oakland loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth and scored three times in an 8-4 victory before an announced crowd of 10,181 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles will try to avoid a split Thursday afternoon before boarding their flight to Chicago.
"I made a couple mistakes that led to a longball," Kremer said. "If I can keep the ball in the yard, I think I'd be doing a pretty good job. I've just got to figure out a way to do that.
Kremer said his stuff has improved compared to last year. Higher velocity, pitches have more movement.
"Just got to figure out how to keep it in the zone," he said.
"There's a lot of positives, obviously some negatives. Just got to figure out a way to keep the ball in the yard, really. Then I'll be right where I was last year."
A busy bullpen buckled tonight. Keegan Akin allowed back-to-back singles to Rooker and Jace Peterson in the eighth, Aledmys Díaz reached on a bunt single against Cionel Pérez while trying for the sacrifice, and runs scored on Jesús Aguilar’s liner to left, Kevin Smith’s bunt and Carlos Pérez’s single into center.
Peterson raced to third base when Austin Hays threw to second on the Aguilar sac fly, putting him in position to score on Smith’s bunt.
In all, a forgettable night for a team that slipped back to .500.
Adam Frazier singled with one out in the seventh, and veteran reliever Jeurys Familia replaced starter Ken Waldichuk. A passed ball charged to Pérez was followed by run-scoring singles from pinch-hitter Cedric Mullins and Adley Rutschman.
The Orioles had nothing left in the tank.
Rooker grounded into a double play against Mike Baumann in the fifth to leave Kremer with four runs and five hits allowed in 4 1/3 innings. Only 52 of the 90 pitches were strikes and his ERA grew to 9.49.
"A ton of deep counts," said manager Brandon Hyde. "The first, I thought he pitched OK the next innings, put up zeros. Just, the pitch count is an issue right now with some of our guys. He was at 90-plus pitches in the fifth.
"I think his fastball is good. ... He's just having a hard time getting guys out early in the count, and we've had some 0-2 mistakes the last two nights that hurts you, puts us in a 3-0 hole right away just because he hung one 0-2. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes and get better."
Kremer will watch more video and huddle with the pitching coaches to correct the home run vulnerability.
"I will go back to the drawing board and just figure out what's kind of leading to that," he said.
Kyle Gibson (twice) and Tyler Wells remain the only starters through 12 games to get past five-plus innings.
"We've just got to be able to put guys away a little bit earlier," Hyde said. "We've got to be able to get some early contact."
The first three homers allowed by Kremer this season came on his cut-fastball. On a two-strike count, Rooker barreled the sweeper that Kremer has incorporated into his repertoire, a pitch he used 12.6 percent of the time in his previous outings, per STATS.
Pérez’s first homer of the season came on a four-seamer and gave Oakland a 4-2 lead. Ryan Noda and Ramón Laureano drew consecutive walks with one out and manager Brandon Hyde signaled for Baumann.
Leadoff hitter Tony Kemp doubled with the count full in the first inning, Kremer hit Laureano with one out and Rooker fell behind on a pair of four-seam fastballs before hitting his first home run since Sept. 30, 2021 with the Twins.
Rooker flied to the center field fence to end the third inning, Kremer stranded Aguilar after a two-out single in the fourth and couldn’t get out of the fifth.
Jorge Mateo, batting seventh tonight in the Orioles’ 12th different lineup, doubled down the left field line with no outs in the second to score Ramón Urías, who led off with a single and advanced on Gunnar Henderson’s walk.
Then the game turned ironic.
Frazier lined out to short after his bunt up the first base line rolled foul, and Ryan McKenna followed with a routine fly to Rooker in right. If there’s such a thing anymore.
The ball hit Rooker’s glove and fell to the grass, resulting in a sacrifice fly and an error. McKenna could sympathize but also revel in being on the other side after his misplay in left at Fenway Park that led to Adam Duvall’s walk-off homer.
McKenna led off the fifth with a double and Hays walked, but Rutschman grounded into a double play. Mullins batted for McKenna in the seventh and fueled a rally that couldn’t push the Orioles in front.
Baumann allowed two singles in the sixth but escaped the jam with a double play, and he retired Pérez leading off the seventh before Akin replaced him.
Akin took the loss and his ERA rose to 8.31. Pérez was charged with two runs and five hits in 1 1/3 innings and has a 5.40 ERA.
"It just wasn't Cionel's night," Hyde said. "Unlucky. There were some things that happened. A great bunt by them. They did a nice job of putting the ball in play. We made a mistake in the outfield. Give them credit. Cionel's tough to hit, and they put the ball in play against him."
Logan Gillaspie, in his team-leading seventh appearance, induced a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth.
The bullpen has accumulated 49 1/3 innings in 12 games. Asked how taxing the short starts have been on the unit, Hyde said, "Very."
"I didn't want to use Gillaspie there," he said. "It was a dire emergency. I just didn't want Pérez to stay out there too long. This would have been three in a row for Bake (Bryan Baker). I wasn't going to do that. (Austin) Voth pitched one-plus last night and he's not ready for back-to-back bounce back.
"We're pretty taxed in the 'pen."
Henderson singled with two outs in the eighth to halt an 0-for-15 skid.
* Wells, Gibson and Grayson Rodriguez are starting in the three-game series in Chicago that begins Friday night. The White Sox are starting right-handers Mike Clevinger, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease.
Triple-A Norfolk’s upcoming starters are left-hander Bruce Zimmermann on Thursday against Nashville, followed by Spenser Watkins on Friday and DL Hall on Saturday.
* Colton Cowser has a run-scoring triple tonight for the Tides, and Lewin Díaz hit a two-run homer. Chris Vallimont allowed one run and two hits with seven strikeouts in four innings, and Joey Krehbiel tossed a scoreless fifth. Krehbiel hasn’t allowed a run in four appearances.
Ryan Watson was charged with seven runs (six earned) and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Chayce McDermott tossed five scoreless innings for Double-A Bowie, with three hits allowed and six strikeouts. Carlos Tavera allowed one run in three innings, and Nolan Hoffman earned his second save.
John Rhodes had a two-run double in the second inning. Heston Kjerstad started at first base again tonight. He still hasn’t played in the outfield.
Dylan Beavers hit his first home run for High-A Aberdeen. Catcher Adam Retzbach had a double, single and two RBIs after two at-bats.
Jackson Holliday had a two-run double for Single-A Delmarva. Reliever Edgar Portes tossed 3 1/3 scoreless and hitless innings.