Before Saturday’s afternoon contest at Yankee Stadium, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde noted the difficulties for a young pitcher facing the same team in a second straight start.
He had a recent enough example to point to: After shutting out the New York Yankees over 5 1/3 innings last week at Camden Yards, Keegan Akin couldn’t get out of the first inning Friday. Fellow rookie Dean Kremer was tasked with avoiding the same fate Saturday.
He more than managed to do so, but the offense backing him struggled once againin a 2-1 loss in 10 inningsthat left the Orioles 4 1/2 games behind New Yorkfor the American League’s final playoff spot. The Orioles' bullpen followed Kremer’s five innings of one-run ball with four scoreless frames before the Yankees ended the game on Luke Voit’s walk-off sacrifice fly after Baltimore started the top of the 10th win a runner automatically at second and failed to score.
Entering Sunday’s finale of this four-game series, the Orioles have managed two runs in 24 innings at-bat, striking out 28 times. The lack of production follows an output of 52 runs in their first eight September games.
“Bottom line is we’re just having a tough time scoring runs here,” Hyde said.
After the Yankees struck for a first-run against him, Kremer once again showed the dominant form he displayed in his major league debut against them six days prior. A product of the 2018 trade that sent star infielder Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kremer became only the second pitcher in Orioles history and their first since Tom Phoebus in 1966 to work at least five innings and strike out seven or more batters while allowing no more than one earned run in both of his first two major league appearances.
“Once again, showed poise, aggressiveness with his fastball, good breaking ball, good slider," Hyde said. "That’s not an easy thing to do, to face that team twice in five or six days, and he did it, and pitched excellent both times.”
Added Kremer: “I’m very critical of myself, so nothing is ever good enough. But my main goal is going out there and competing and giving our team a chance to win.”
He did that, though he was tested far more than he was last week in Baltimore, when he allowed one run on only one hit across six innings. Saturday, he needed 99 pitches to get through five frames, none of which were clean. But he stranded three Yankees in scoring position, holding New York hitless in five at-bats in such situations.
DJ LeMahieu’s leadoff double and subsequent advancement on two fly balls accounted for the only damage against Kremer, and with the Orioles' offensive struggles carrying over from Friday’s doubleheader sweep, it seemed as if that one run might be enough early. Yankees left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who took the mound with a 5.72 ERA in seven starts, got five of his first six outs with strikeouts.
Two came after Ryan Mountcastle walked to put two on with one out in the first, beginning a string of 11 straight outs from Orioles batters. A Montgomery error began the fifth, but he retired the next three Baltimore batters, recording his ninth strikeout as New York took a 1-0 lead into the sixth.
“We just chased way too much outside the strike zone," Hyde said. "That’s why we’re streaky is because when pitchers are throwing strikes to us and we’re aggressive, we’ll have some good nights, and then here, we’re leaving the zone just too often and putting way too much pressure on our pitching staff.”
Hanser Alberto led off the sixth inning with a single off Montgomery, advancing to second on an error by left fielder Brett Gardner. After Alberto took third on José Iglesias' lineout, Mountcastle popped up Montgomery’s first pitch into shallow center, but second baseman Thairo Estrada couldn’t make a basket catch, the ball ticking off his glove and allowing Alberto to score the tying run.
From there, both bullpens exchanged zeroes. Chad Green replaced Montgomery a batter later and got the final out of the sixth then pitched a scoreless seventh. Between, Dillon Tate and Tanner Scott combined to leave a pair on in the bottom of the sixth.
Soft-tossing César Valdez worked a perfect bottom of the seventh before former Orioles closer Zack Britton, traded to New York in 2018 for a package that included Tate, pitched around Mountcastle’s two-out double. Mountcastle accounted for three of the five times an Oriole reached base safely. Since his Aug. 21 debut, the Orioles' No. 5 prospect is batting .368 with a 1.039 OPS.
Valdez matched Britton by stranding Gardner after his two-out triple in the eighth, and after Aroldis Chapman’s clean ninth, Valdez echoed that in the bottom half to send the game to extras. In 10 1/3 innings as an Oriole, the 35-year-old journeyman has yet to allow an earned run.
“That’s unbelievable. Incredible," Hyde said. "Three innings, tie game, no panic. Just throwing the dead fish up there, letting them tap it out in front of them. Just great pitching. Uses all of his pitches and different arm angles, different looks, and pitches. It’s fun to watch.”
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Despite beginning the top of the 10th with pinch-runner Andrew Velazquezautomatically at second base and getting him to third with one out, the Orioles (20-25) were unable to score. Hunter Harvey’s first pitch in the bottom of the 10th was wild, allowing LeMahieu, New York’s automatic runner, to advance to third. Voit then lofted a fly to center that was deep enough to allow LeMahieu to score the winning run easily, handing Baltimore its fourth straight loss.
“I think I speak for everyone: We’re not happy about losing," Kremer said. "But tomorrow’s another day, and hopefully, it’ll turn around.”
Santander out for season
Hyde confirmed Saturday that the right oblique strain that outfielder Anthony Santander suffered last week against the Yankees will end his 2020 season.
“He should be ready to go spring training next year,” Hyde said.
Before the injury, Santander established himself at the Orioles' top offensive force in 2020 with a batting line of .261/.315/.575 and 11 home runs. When he landed on the injured list, Santander’s 32 RBIs were tied for third in the American League.
Around the horn
Hyde said Akin, who threw only 39 pitches in Friday’s short start, is not an option to start Tuesday. A spot starter will pitch, Hyde said. … Dilson Herrera, who had been designated for assignment, cleared waivers and was assigned to the Orioles' alternate site.