After drizzle, Dean Kremer and bullpen dazzle in Orioles’ fourth straight win, 1-0 over Pirates

Before the Orioles began their latest homestand Friday, manager Brandon Hyde said he expected a bounce-back outing from right-hander Dean Kremer.

It took a little longer than expected, but he got it.

After a rain delay of nearly two hours, the Orioles beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 1-0, for their fourth straight win, with Kremer allowing no runs in his 6 1/3 innings. Kremer had a 6.94 ERA in five July starts but pitched well to keep Baltimore undefeated in August, retiring 14 straight Pirates before a one-out double in the seventh ended his night. Kremer joined veteran Jordan Lyles as Baltimore’s only starters to record an out in the seventh inning multiple times this year. Kremer’s outing allowed the Orioles to eventually break through on a night they wasted scoring opportunities in four of the first five innings.

“Usually, when you squander that many early, you’re expecting something not good to happen,” Hyde said. “But fortunately for us, Dean Kremer, for me, that was his best outing of the year. I thought he did a good job of mixing in his curveball and his changeup along with a good fastball and the cutter. Pitched with a ton of confidence tonight. That’s what I take away from this game. That’s huge for us and for him.”

With the victory, the Orioles (55-51) kept pace with the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League wild-card race, remaining two games out of a playoff spot. The 55 wins are the most in a season during Hyde’s four-season tenure.

With closer Jorge López traded to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, Hyde asked what was his primary pair of setup men for the final eight outs behind Kremer. Left-hander Cionel Pérez got the first five, finishing with a strikeout and a flourish, before Félix Bautista recorded his first save since inheriting the closer’s role from López.

“I did it a little differently than we have in the past,” Hyde said. “These guys are gonna be put in a little different positions right now just because of Lopey not being here and they’re gonna have to get both sides-of-the-plate guys out now a little bit more, all the way down the road. [Joey] Krehbiel, [Bryan Baker], all those type of guys are gonna have to step it up a little bit and take on a little bit bigger roles than they’ve taken on.”

The game’s lone run came in the bottom of the sixth. Anthony Santander doubled to open the frame before Ryan Mountcastle grounded out, the Orioles’ 10th straight fruitless at-bat with a runner in scoring position to open the game. Rookie infielder Terrin Vavra continued his on-base brigade with an infield single off Pirates starter Mitch Keller, with Ramón Urías then chopping a single into left to score Santander.

Amid his three-hit night, Vavra at one point reached in seven straight plate appearances dating to Monday, the first Orioles rookie with such a streak since Jerry Hairston Jr. in 1999.

The Orioles finished 2-for-15 with runners on second or third, but Kremer, Pérez and Bautista held Pittsburgh hitless in those situations for Baltimore’s 10th shutout, tied for the club’s fourth most in the past 30 years with 56 games to play. Their four 1-0 wins are the franchise’s most since 1983, the last time it won the World Series.

Strange strikeout

Second-base umpire Carlos Torres missed the game after dealing with an illness, leaving the clubs with a three-umpire crew. That circumstance led to an odd situation in the seventh inning.

After Kremer exited and gave way to Pérez, the Orioles’ left-hander got ahead 1-2 on Pittsburgh’s Oneil Cruz then prompted a check-swing at a slider in the dirt. Catcher Adley Rutschman pointed toward third base for a ruling on whether Cruz swung, but no umpire was there. Home-plate umpire Edwin Moscoso then declared that Cruz had swung and thus struck out, prompting some objection from the Pirates’ bench.

Pirates manager Derek Shelton was ejected in the bottom of the eighth after Moscoso ruled that Orioles outfielder Brett Phillips didn’t swing on a similar play.

The strikeout of Cruz was the first of five outs from Pérez, with Hyde noting pregame he would ask more of his remaining backend relievers after this week’s trade of López.

“The mentality stays the same,” Pérez said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones. “Nothing changes. We gotta go out there and perform and help the team win and just do the best we can.”

Bautista stranded two in the ninth with a pair of strikeouts for his first save since inheriting the closer’s role. All 17 of Bautista’s fastballs in the outing were 100 mph or more, per Baseball Savant, as he joined St. Louis’ Jordan Hicks as the only relievers this series with that many 100 mph pitches in one outing.

Baltimore entered Friday with the fourth-lowest bullpen ERA in the majors after having the worst mark in the league in 2021.

“They’ve got a little bit everything,” Kremer said. “Anything you can think of, they got it, except we don’t have any submarine guys. But that’s about it.”

Hays’ Heart and Hustle honor

Longtime Orioles minor league coach Alan Mills used to joke with Austin Hays that he “would find a way to get dirty in the bathtub,” Hays joked Friday, referencing his style of play that often features him sliding in the infield dirt or diving across the outfield grass.

Hays was unable to do either Friday, out of the lineup for the third time in four games with what he called “oblique tightness.” But that didn’t quell his excitement in being named the Orioles’ representative for the Heart and Hustle Award from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. The honors recognizes players who “demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and traditions of the game,” per the MLBPAA. Hays also recently partnered with the Orioles to create a $20,000 scholarship for a Maryland student to pursue higher education.

“I just give my all for my teammates, the organization and the city, just give them everything I have every day,” Hays said. “Just try to uphold the values and the character of the game, day in and day out, for 162 every year, so it just makes me really proud to to accept that award for the Orioles.”

Hays said he was out of Friday’s lineup because he and the Orioles don’t want to make his injury any worse by rushing him back. In his absence, Phillips made his first start with Baltimore.

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