As Gio Urshela’s go-ahead home run was sailing far over his head into the seats, Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins still leapt and climbed the wall to try to bring it back in, and with good reason.
This would have been a win worth saving.
The bottom of the Orioles order started a rare rally. Rookie right-hander Dean Kremer largely got the better of the visiting Yankees. But Urshela’s pinch-hit blast to end a nine-pitch battle with reliever Travis Lakins Sr. was the difference in a 5-4 Orioles loss before a sellout crowd of 10,809 at Camden Yards on Friday night.
“Just a run short tonight,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
The Orioles had taken the lead in a fifth inning that they entered trailing 2-1. DJ Stewart had a hustle double and scored on a double by No. 8 hitter Pedro Severino. A batter later, Pat Valaika singled to score Severino — a rare outburst of production from the bottom few spots in the Orioles lineup that has been among the league’s least productive this year.
Valaika took second for his first stolen base of the year and scored on a double by Trey Mancini, though Austin Hays was thrown out at home trying to build on that lead.
It turns out they would need it. After five strong innings from Kremer and a scoreless sixth by Adam Plutko, Cole Sulser put two runners on and gave way to Lakins, who made eight good pitches to Urshela before the ninth ended up over the center-field fence in the seventh.
Sulser and Lakins haven’t pitched much for the Orioles this year in late leading situations that might be considered high-leverage, but Hyde liked the matchups at that point with Paul Fry, Tanner Scott, and César Valdez still in reserve behind them.
Hyde said he liked Sulser against the left-handed Brett Gardner to begin the inning, and would have kept Sulser in even after allowing the hit and the walk if Urshela hadn’t hit for the left-handed Tyler Wade.
“If Wade hits, I keep Sulser in,” Hyde said. “He hits Urshela for him, I’m bringing in a right-on-right matchup there [with Lakins]. Great at-bat there by Urshela. Really hurt us with that homer.”
Stewart singled again to begin the ninth inning, giving him a season high three hits, but nothing came of it.
Judge tough on Kremer
Kremer faced the Yankees yet again Friday, his fifth time out against New York in 11 big league starts. And after allowing six runs to them on April 28, this time Kremer only had one real issue: Aaron Judge.
The Bronx behemoth slugged solo home runs off Kremer in the first and fourth inning to give him 10 on the season and five against the Orioles. Kremer otherwise allowed three singles and struck out four without a walk, though with Judge leading off the sixth inning, manager Brandon Hyde opted to pass that task off to Adam Plutko and end Kremer’s day on a good note.
“I think it was pretty good tonight,” Kremer said. “Made a couple mistakes to the wrong guy and he’s got enough power to do some damage, so overall, I think it went pretty well. We stuck to our approach and I tried to execute it as best as I could.”
Kremer, who has been tasked with being more aggressive with his fastball, especially up in the zone, has seen success with that of late. He has a 3.38 ERA in May.
“I feel like I’m at my best when I throw my best heater through the middle or through the top of the zone. And I don’t get damage and it gives me confidence that I can beat anybody in-zone rather than have to nitpick around the edges and kind of try to pitch my way around people instead of just going through people,” Kremer said.
Santander on the mend
Outfielder Anthony Santander, who has been out since April 20 with a sprained ankle, began a rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie Friday, going 1-for-4 with a single and a strikeout.
Hyde said before the game that Santander was expected to play there through this weekend, then would need to go through COVID-19 intake protocol before he could be activated to the major league roster next week.
Saturday, 7:05 p.m.
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