After continuing the Orioles’ run of pitching dominance both of late and against the top team in the American League, Dean Kremer took three showers of various forms, and he might have required a fourth.
The first came moments after he finished a shutout in a 6-0 win over the Houston Astros, his first career complete game giving the Orioles three straight starts of least 8 2/3 innings for the first time since the year before he was born. Like Jordan Lyles and Kyle Bradish before him, Kremer received an on-field Gatorade bath from fellow pitchers while doing a television interview following a career night. Once inside Baltimore’s clubhouse, he found himself inside a laundry cart, where “any liquid or maybe not even liquid got dumped on my head” by teammates. The experience prompted a regular cleaning, but with some substance still matted in his long and wavy brown hair, he made his way back to the showers after discussing his remarkable performance with reporters.
“This is a special night,” Kremer said. “This may not happen ever again in my career. But this is a night to remember, for sure.”
The Orioles (79-71) entered Wednesday with only two outings of at least eight innings in manager Brandon Hyde’s four seasons but have since received three straight. Lyles, the staff veteran, pitched a one-run complete game in Wednesday’s series finale with the Detroit Tigers, and Bradish, a rookie on an impressive second-half run, came an out shy of a shutout in Thursday’s series opener with Houston. Kremer, a 26-year-old right-hander in his second full season, got one more out than Bradish and allowed one fewer run than Lyles for the Orioles’ first shutout by a starter since John Means’ no-hitter in May 2021.
It marked Baltimore’s 15th team shutout this season, their most since recording 16 in Camden Yards’ inaugural 1992 campaign. The Orioles hadn’t had three straight starters come within an out of a complete game or better since Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson and Kevin Brown on Sept. 26, 27 and 29, 1995, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“I guess they noticed what Jordan did and tried to follow suit,” Hyde said. “I’m just really happy and proud of our young pitchers and how much they’re improving and competing.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had anything quite like that,” said catcher Adley Rutschman, who was behind the plate for both Bradish’s and Kremer’s outings.
A 2-1 curveball from Kremer in the fourth got by the Orioles’ standout rookie, the first passed ball of Rutschman’s career. He entered the game with the second-most innings caught without one this season. It was perhaps the only miscue of the night for the battery. After Kremer worked out of that top of that inning, Rutschman homered in the bottom half as part of a day in which he reached base four times.
That run was enough for Kremer, who baffled Houston (99-53) for a second time in less than a month. In five games against the Astros, the Orioles have allowed four runs, with their starters holding them to two in 39 1/3 innings. One of the game’s top offenses statistically, the Astros have managed no more than two hits in the first six innings of any of the games.
“With these high-winning clubs, guys get tentative sometimes to try to pitch around guys and whatnot,” Kremer said. “And the motto for us this year is we don’t really care who’s in the box. Just go after them.”
Added Houston manager Dusty Baker: “A relaxed pitcher is a very dangerous pitcher. ... They’ve been kinda in our heads the past couple games.”
The victory meant the Orioles won the season series against the Astros for the first time since 2014, the final year before the rebuild that inspired Baltimore’s came to fruition. It also moved the Orioles within three games of the Seattle Mariners for the AL’s final wild-card spot, though they must finish with a better record than the Mariners because they lost that season series.
A Houston batter only twice reached second safely against Kremer. Jose Altuve hit a double to left to open the game but was thrown out at third trying to extend it. Rutschman’s passed ball moved Yordan Alvarez to second base, but he was also retired trying to advance an extra base when Alex Bregman hit a grounder to the left side. That began a run of eight outs in a row for Kremer before Alvarez opened the seventh with an infield single, but he retired the next three before the Orioles broke the game open.
Rutschman, whose solo shot to center gave him 12 homers for the season to tie for the second most by an Orioles rookie catcher, added a double in the seventh to contribute to that frame’s five-run outburst.
The inning opened with three softly hit singles, the last coming on a check swing by rookie Terrin Vavra, who was inserted into the lineup late because of Ramón Urías’ neck spasms. Jorge Mateo dropped down a sacrifice bunt attempt but reached on an error that loaded the bases for Cedric Mullins, who promptly rocketed a two-run single up the middle. After Mateo was thrown out trying to steal his third base of the night, Rutschman doubled to left to bring home Mullins. It was Rutschman’s 32nd double, tying him with Cal Ripken Jr. for the most by a rookie in franchise history.
He has also caught 10 of the Orioles’ shutouts.
“Two young pitchers and a really young catcher against a World Series club, it’s really impressive and can’t be understated how hard that is and how good he is back there,” Hyde said. “And the biggest thing to me, and I keep saying the word, is he cares. He cares about what’s happening on the mound. He cares about putting up a zero. And it’s very authentic, and you see it.”
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“Every time he’s back there, it’s a game-changing player,” Kremer added.
The offensive buffer allowed Hyde to push Kremer further than he had Bradish in Thursday’s 2-0 victory, having pulled him when a two-out single brought the tying run to the plate. Kremer allowed a single to open the ninth but recorded two groundouts around a strikeout to complete the game on 106 pitches.
“To see Jordan do it and then to see Kyle go into the ninth and then for me to do it, it’s indescribable,” Kremer said. “It can give you a hunger, like, ‘OK, it’s possible.’”
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