With the way Dean Kremer evaluates his outings, the six innings he worked Monday in his final start of the season would be below his lofty standards. The Orioles right-hander aims for perfection — or as close to it as he can achieve — and he fell short of that.
But with three earned runs against him, Kremer recorded Baltimore’s 41st quality start this year, tying the number the Orioles managed in 2020 and 2021 combined. Once more, Kremer gave Baltimore a chance, something an improved pitching staff has done far more this season.
The offense didn’t back up Kremer, dampened by the chill and rain that were constants in Monday’s 5-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays that was called in the eighth inning after a rain delay. But with six innings and three earned runs against him, there was another reminder of why the Orioles (82-78) are guaranteed a winning season with two games remaining.
“Not easy to play in,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Just kind of a tough night all around. Wet, cold.”
The starting rotation, even when not at its best, keeps games close. And Kremer has been the best example of that, closing his season with a serviceable start that included four runs on six hits before another run came across against right-hander Yennier Cano in the eighth.
Kremer battled the endless rain, which led to a stumble off the mound in the first inning, a wild pitch and throwing error in the fifth and the application of fresh quick dry dirt to the mound early and often.
“You’re going to have nights like this,” Kremer said. “Balls were slick, it was raining. It’s gross, cold. Yeah, it is what it is. Got through it.”
Kremer allowed three earned runs, although the only hard-hit ball of the bunch was Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 422-foot homer in the third inning over the left field wall. Whit Merrifield came through twice, with a two-run single in the second and a bunt single to lead off the fifth. He advanced to second on Kremer’s errant throw to first and took home when a pitch got away from him.
The damage wasn’t heavy, but with an Orioles offense that managed three hits, it was enough to saddle Kremer with the loss. With bases loaded in the third inning, Anthony Santander came a few feet shy of a grand slam, instead settling for a sacrifice fly when Teoscar Hernández made a leaping grab at the right field wall. And with right-hander José Berríos’ strikeout of Ryan Mountcastle one batter later, Baltimore finished 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position.
“That’s tough conditions,” interim Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “I thought [Berríos] was really locating his sinker well to a lot of their lefties, staying focused with the mound being kind of a mess.”
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Kremer ends the season with a 3.23 ERA — the lowest among Orioles starters to throw at least 100 innings — to complete a major turnaround from last year, when he had a 7.55 ERA in 53 2/3 innings. He was anticipated to feature as a long reliever to begin this year before injuries elsewhere pressed him into duty. And then Kremer stepped up to hold down his spot the rest of the way, propelling himself into plans for the 2023 rotation.
It came in a loss. But for the Orioles, a quality start wasn’t so common over the last two seasons. So there has to be something positive in the difference on the mound, even if not felt on the scoreboard each night.
“The most important thing [between this year and last year] was just not backing down from anybody who stepped in the box, no matter what their name was or who they played for or anything like that,” Kremer said. “That’s the biggest difference.”
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
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