Dean Kremer’s three most important pitches tonight didn’t require a batter or plate umpire. His line and the score wouldn’t be impacted.
He did, however, draw a small crowd near the mound. An unexpected pod.
Aaron Judge lined a fastball up the middle that slammed off the back of Kremer’s leg in the first inning, threatening the rookie’s start just two batters into the game.
An exit velocity near 110 mph could have sent Kremer to the clubhouse almost as quickly. But Kremer convinced manager Brandon Hyde and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel that he was fine after three warm-up tosses, then loaded the bases with no outs for Giancarlo Stanton.
The same player who hit a 471-foot grand slam last night struck out. Gleyber Torres, a 471-foot thorn in the Orioles’ side, worked the count full and struck out. Clint Frazier struck out on three pitches, the last one a 94 mph fastball down the middle that froze him.
The Orioles are learning about their young pitchers and players while also trying to win games. They’re working with small sample sizes. They learned more about the width and depth of Kremer’s heart and pain tolerance in a 7-2 loss to the Yankees.
Mountcastle avoided the final out of the game, the call standing after a review. Running hard out of the box again.
“Ryan’s done that since he’s been here when he came up last year,” Hyde said. “He gets down the line hard, got some infield singles last year, kind of that same fashion. He’s a sneaky fast runner for a big guy and it was really good to see the hustle there. Our guys are doing a good job of getting down the line. I have no complaints there. Our guys play hard. We’ve run into some pretty good pitching.”
Kremer gutted out three-plus innings and left with the bases loaded again and no outs. The second-shortest start of his fledgling career ended in defeat, but with a little more respect.
Only the “L” shows up in the box score.
“It got me in the meat, so luckily not above the waist or anything in a bad spot,” Kremer said. “It got me in the meat. It tightened up pretty quick, but then as I continued to move around, it kind of loosened up and mentally it was just, ‘All right, I’m fine, let’s keep going.’ “
The walks in the fourth inning occurred, Kremer said, because he got away from the game plan.
“Just try to place things and try to be too perfect,” he said. “Went away from attacking the zone.”
Jay Bruce led off the second inning with a fly ball that kept carrying until it splashed down in the right field seats, a classic Yankee Stadium home run and the first surrendered by the right-hander in the majors.
Adam Plutko was the latest reliever dumped into a massive jam in the third when he replaced Kremer, who threw 85 pitches and left with the Orioles still trailing 1-0. DJ LeMahieu grounded into a double play to score Bruce and Judge followed with an RBI single to complete Kremer’s line.
The Orioles have lost 12 straight games in the Bronx, the longest streak in club history.
Plutko tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings in his Orioles debut in Boston and three tonight.
Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells made his second major league appearance and was victimized by Stanton’s run-scoring double in the seventh inning. Wade LeBlanc made his season debut in the eighth and gave up a single, double and Judge’s three-run homer.
Will the Orioles be judged more on their series in Boston or the Bronx?
Kremer surrendered back-to-back singles to Stanton and Torres with two outs in the third, but Frazier popped up. A pitch count of 65 assured that he wouldn’t get deep into the game.
“Dean pitched well,” Hyde said. “The fourth inning, he just ran out of gas a little bit. He escaped trouble there in the first inning, took a line drive off the hamstring, battled through that, put up a zero that inning. Kind of a flyball home run to Bruce in the second. He just threw a lot of pitches those first few innings and a tough time commanding the baseball there in the fourth.”
Hyde didn’t believe the line drive impacted Kremer’s start.
“It didn’t seem to affect him,” Hyde said. “I thought actually he threw the ball great in the second and third inning. He threw so many pitches those first few innings that the fourth just got to him a little bit.”
Cedric Mullins reached third base with no outs in the first inning on a single, stolen base and wild pitch, but he was thrown out at the plate on Anthony Santander’s ground ball to Bruce at first base.
The at-bat produced Mullins’ 11th hit in 18 at-bats. He’s the everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter, especially with Austin Hays on the injured list, rather than trying to stick as a fourth outfielder and pinch-runner.
“Cedric the Enter Later” would have been a sweet nickname, but is no longer applicable.
Chance Sisco, batting ninth as the designated hitter, struck out in his first two trips to give him six in a row over two starts. He flied out in the eighth.
Gerrit Cole fanned 13 batters and allowed four hits in seven innings. The Orioles struck out 15 times Sunday, 13 last night and 14 tonight.
They’ll try to avoid the sweep Wednesday night with John Means back on the hill.
Hyde was asked what’s been wrong with the offense. Obvious response to follow.
“Well, we faced Gerrit Cole tonight and he is a really good pitcher, so we had a tough time with him,” Hyde said. “He was on, he punched out 13 in seven innings, didn’t walk a batter, had all his pitches working. He was throwing 99 (mph) at the top of the zone with a really good slider, curveball, changeup, and he’s an All-Star type pitcher and we just had a tough time.”