Dean Kremer was handed the ball today and given no promises.
Lots of run support, but no promises.
The 29th man for a September doubleheader knows his way back to the minors. But there are no rules against him staying, just that someone must be optioned after the nightcap.
Kremer’s first start with the Orioles in more than two months lasted four innings and included more strikes, but also three home runs among six extra-base hits and leads that shrank or disappeared.
The Orioles wouldn’t let him lose. They just couldn’t nail down the win.
Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells tried for the four-out save, but he allowed four runs in the seventh inning after 11 consecutive scoreless appearances. George Springer hit a two-run homer with two outs and the Blue Jays won 11-10 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles collected 14 hits but also left seven runners on base. They fell to 46-95 overall, 5-9 against the Jays and 5-5 this month. They’ve gone 8-9 since their 19-game losing streak.
The bases were left loaded in the bottom of the sixth and the Orioles paid a heavy price. Teoscar Hernández led off the seventh with a double, Corey Dickerson walked and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. delivered a run-scoring single off the out-of-town scoreboard. Jake Lamb followed with a sacrifice fly, Danny Jansen flied to left and Springer unloaded on a slider.
Anthony Santander and Austin Hays hit home runs off left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu, Ryan McKenna delivered a bases-loaded, two-run double in the third to force the Blue Jays into a pitching change, Hays and Ryan Mountcastle went back-to-back against Ross Stripling in the fourth and the Orioles appeared to stay hot in September until the massive gut punch.
Mountcastle’s 27th homer tied Eddie Murray for second-most by an Orioles rookie in a season. Cal Ripken Jr. hit 28 in 1982.
“He’s taking great at-bats,” manager Brandon Hyde said of Hays, “really driving the baseball.”
Santander hit a two-run homer off Ryu in the bottom of the first inning, giving the Orioles another quick lead, but Gurriel tied the game in the second with a two-run shot.
Hays followed Richie Martin’s RBI grounder in the third with a two-run shot that extended the lead to 5-2 and his hitting streak to 17 games. But the Jays kept coming after Kremer, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hitting his 43rd home run on an 0-2 curveball in the third.
The Jays had five hits, all for extra bases, and Bo Bichette followed with a single. Kremer struck out Hernández and Dickerson, the last on his 50th pitch. Thirty-five were strikes.
“I thought he showed flashes of being pretty good,” Hyde said. “This is a really tough team to pitch against. They have some young superstars, they have really good veteran players in the lineup who understand how to take an AB and are extremely dangerous. He only walked one, which was good. I thought he really challenged hitters. They were aggressive against him early, got on his fastball a little bit, but he made some adjustments, threw some nice cutters. He was OK.”
Jansen hit a two-run homer in the fourth, leaving Kremer with five runs and seven hits to go with one walk, two strikeouts and a wild pitch. He still hasn’t won since his major league debut on Sept. 6, 2020.
“If I recall correctly, my last time here was a complete meltdown,” Kremer said, “so definitely trending in the right direction.”
Hyde was hoping to see better command from Kremer, who learned a few days ago that he’d start and had the necessary preparation. Hyde wanted the same uptick in stuff to be displayed back to Baltimore.
“He has shown that in Norfolk,” Hyde said this afternoon. “If you look at his last couple starts, a lot more strikes, minimal walks. We really believe in his stuff. He’s got a four-pitch mix and now it’s about kind of getting his confidence back, attacking the strike zone with it.”
Kremer’s last three Orioles starts have come against the Blue Jays, a quality outing at Camden Yards followed by the meltdown in Buffalo with six runs and five walks in one-third of an inning.
The Orioles optioned Kremer, sensing that his confidence was shaken, and vowed to leave him at Triple-A for an extended period rather than give him the usual reset.
“Going down there,” Kremer said, “I got the chance to clear my head and kind of back off a little bit, kind of ease the pressure I put on myself, and then got back to really focusing on, OK, what makes me good? And then try to build off that.”
Kremer made it through the first inning today in his initial sign of progress since his return, allowing a one-out double to Marcus Semien and a couple of loud outs. He threw only 10 pitches, eight for strikes.
A leadoff double for Hernández in the second was followed by a diving stop and throw by Kelvin Gutiérrez to rob Dickerson and then Gurriel’s home run on a high fastball. Gurriel hit a grand slam off Kremer in Buffalo.
Ryu, working at a snail’s pace, walked Mancini leading off the bottom of the third. Santander and Severino singled to load the bases with one out and McKenna lined his double to the left field fence. Ryu tied his season high with seven runs allowed, and his 2 1/3 innings were the fewest since April 8, 2019.
The damage could have been a little worse after he left, but Bichette made a diving stop of Gutiérrez’s grounder and threw home to get Severino.
Rookie Mike Baumann wasn’t available in relief today, but Hyde got back Wells after withholding him last night and sending Cole Sulser back out for the ninth. Hyde described the shape of his bullpen as “about a seven out of 10.”
Marcos Diplán loaded the bases in the fifth and Lamb singled with two outs to reduce the lead to 10-7. Diplán has a 5.49 ERA.
Dillon Tate stranded two runners on Jansen’s fly ball into the right field corner. Wells stranded a runner on third base with two outs in the sixth, returned for the seventh when the Orioles failed to pad their lead and took a beating.
Keegan Akin starts the nightcap. Zac Lowther starts Sunday afternoon’s series finale. Chris Ellis held the Blue Jays to one run over five innings in the series opener. Baumann and Alexander Wells are in the bullpen, with the latter a possibility to start again.
There’s an excitement brewing on the club over the influx of pitching prospects, with Ellis absent on lists after being a waiver claim but crushing his audition.
“It’s fun watching young guys learn their way through the big leagues,” Hyde said earlier. “There’s going to be good starts, there’s going to be bad starts, and we’re aware of that, especially with the lineups that we’re going to be facing. It’s very, very challenging for a young pitcher.
“We’re giving these guys a nice taste of what the big leagues is like and not a better one than facing playoff contending teams that are trying to win every single game with loaded-up lineups that they improved after the deadline. So, it’s a great challenge for our guys and we get a really good evaluation on where they are.”
Said Kremer: “It’s nice having a lot of familiar faces, guys I’ve come up with. I’m super happy for those guys. They deserve it.”
Tyler Wells has cemented his spot in 2022. He just didn’t have the usual stuff today.
“I think he’s facing a really good team and Tyler Wells is not going to be perfect,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “This is his rookie year and he’s facing some really good hitters. ... It’s a good team, it’s a loaded offense and Wellsy’s not going to be perfect, and it just wasn’t his night tonight.”
A roster move is pending because Spenser Watkins has rejoined the club, according to sources. He was optioned Aug. 29.
Update: Watkins was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk and Diplán was optioned to the Tides.
“We need a fresh arm for the second game and maybe going into tomorrow, also,” Hyde said. “Our bullpen is pretty taxed after last night and now this first game. So, bringing Watkins here, a guy who can give us some innings out of the ‘pen.”
Game 2 lineup:
Cedric Mullins CF, Trey Mancini 1B, Anthony Santander DH, Austin Hays LF, DJ Stewart RF, Jorge Mateo SS, Jahmai Jones 2B, Kelvin Gutiérrez 3B, Austin Wynns C. Keegan Akin LHP