O’s game blog: Kremer against Cole in the Bronx

When the Orioles play the Yankees tonight in Game 2 of a three-game series, right-hander Dean Kremer will make his first start of the season. After his call-up last year, his first two big league starts were against the Yankees.

And Kremer pitched well in both games.

He allowed one run in six innings in the first and one run in five innings in the second. So he went 11 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, with six walks and fanned 14. The first two big league batters he faced were DJ LeMahieu, who hit .364 with an OPS of 1.011 for the 2020 season, and Luke Voit, who hit 22 homers in the shortened season with an OPS of .948. Kremer fanned LeMahieu with a 95 mph fastball and Voit with a 77 mph curveball. In the two games, on Sept. 6 and 12, New York batters hit .135 (5-for-37) against him.

Thumbnail image for Kremer-Delivers-White-Wide-Sidebar.jpgKremer went 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his first three starts late last year. After allowing seven runs in his last outing, his ERA ended up at 4.82 over four outings. He had a 5.8 walk-rate and 10.6 strikeout rate without allowing a homer over 18 2/3 innings.

When baseball shut down last March, Kremer went home and improved his game. He morphed his inconsistent slider into a cutter that proved to be a good pitch for him. This became a real weapon as a third pitch after his fastball and curveball. Of those three last year, he produced his best whiff rate (swings divided by swings and misses) of 35.5 percent with the cutter. Opponents hit just .200 off the pitch.

The pitch was effective against both lefty batters, who hit .125 against it, and right-handers. While righty batters hit .286, they also swung and missed 47 percent of the time. It was in the small sample of four starts, but Kremer may have found a most reliable third pitch.

“So I always like tinkered with a slider, but could never really get a full slider to break as much as it needed to,” Kremer said during a spring training interview. “So during quarantine, while I was already built up, I figured I’d work on a cutter and try to keep it smaller and firmer. Just toyed around with release points and ended up turning out to be a pretty good pitch so far.”

It sure was and he’ll need everything in his bag tonight when he faces Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Cole, who went 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA last season, made his third opening day start last Thursday. He did not get a decision against Toronto, in a game the Yankees would lose in 10 innings. He went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and two runs with two walks and eight strikeouts. He threw 97 pitches, 62 for strikes. He threw 45 four-seamers that averaged 96.8 mph and topped at 99.5. In that game he added 27 sliders, 14 changeups and 11 knuckle curves. He got 13 whiffs on 47 swings, including 6 against 12 sliders that the Blue Jays offered at.

A three-time All-Star, Cole has finished in the top five four times for the Cy Young Award. He was fourth last year and second in 2019.

In three starts last year versus the Orioles, he went 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA. He fanned 26 and walked five in 19 2/3 innings. In five career starts, he is 2-1 with a 1.65 ERA and 0.765 WHIP against Baltimore. Over 32 2/3 innings, he has allowed 19 hits and six earned runs with six walks to 44 strikeouts.

The Orioles have lost 11 in a row at Yankee Stadium and are 3-24 versus New York since April 4, 2019. Over their last five games against the Orioles - since Sept. 11, 2020 and all at Yankee Stadium - Yankees pitchers have held the Orioles to three runs (two earned) 51 strikeouts in 42 innings for an ERA of 0.43 ERA.

O’s outfielder Ryan McKenna and righty Mac Sceroler each made their major league debuts in last night’s gam, McKenna making the start in right field and batting ninth, and Sceroler entering the game out of the ‘pen in the sixth inning.

Sceroler worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out four. He became the 19th pitcher in O’s history (starter or reliever) to work at least 2 2/3 innings and not allow a run in his debut. Sceroler’s outing is one of just three in club history in which an O’s pitcher made their major league debut and did not allow a hit in at least 2 2/3 innings of work. The others were Bill Dillman, going five innings, in 1967 and John Miller, going three innings in 1962.

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