With the 25th anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr.’s record-setting 2,131st consecutive game celebrated Sunday at Camden Yards and around baseball and providing so many with a reason to look back and smile, young Orioles pitcher Dean Kremer stole the spotlight and turned it directly to a bright future.
In a 5-1 win over the New York Yankees that gave the Orioles a series win against the collapsing title contenders and improved them to 19-21 with 20 games left, Kremer struck out seven in six innings of one-hit, one-run ball in his major league debut.
“This is fun to watch,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Young guys making their debuts, young guys gaining this experience and performing. It sets up well for the future.”
Kremer’s spectacular stepping-out came on a weekend when, combined with a similarly impressive start from fellow rookie Keegan Akin on Saturday, continued production from rookie Ryan Mountcastle, and a long-awaited offensive breakout from 2015 first-round pick DJ Stewart, the Orioles continued to lay down markers of what kind of upward trajectory their rebuilding project is on.
Kremer came through on short notice.
He said Hyde and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias called him on speakerphone late Saturday night and asked whether he wanted to pitch for them Sunday.
“Absolutely, I’d love to pitch,” Kremer told them. With strikeouts of the first two batters he faced, he immediately looked like he belonged.
The 24-year-old right-hander, who was one of five players acquired when the Orioles traded Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2018, struggled with his command in the second inning and loaded the bases on a walk and two hits before third baseman Rio Ruiz couldn’t turn a difficult double play, allowing a run to score on a fielder’s choice.
Kremer’s limiting that to a one-run inning was what impressed Hyde the most.
“I think you saw his stuff and composure on the mound,” Hyde said. “To be able to wiggle out of it, only allowing a run, that showed a lot about his character and his poise.”
After that, Kremer was masterful. He retired the Yankees in order on nine, 11 and 10 pitches in the third, fourth and fifth innings, respectively, and didn’t allow another base runner until a one-out walk of Luke Voit in the sixth inning. Kremer, though, got Clint Frazier to chase a slider with two outs for his seventh strikeout of the game to cap an impressive debut.
He called his debut “a dream come true” and credited his success with “making sure that I stay aggressive and not try to tinker around the zone, but just attack hitters.”
Catcher Bryan Holaday said: “I thought he did a tremendous job keeping his composure out there he just attacked the strike zone and stuck to his strengths. That’s really all you can ask out of him. ... He really handled it well. He maintained his composure and he really acted like he’s been there before. That presence he brought was huge. You wouldn’t have been able to tell it was his first time out there. That speaks a lot to his character and absolutely helps his talent come out on the field.”
Only four Orioles pitchers have struck out more batters in a major league debut than Kremer, most recently when John Parrish struck out nine Yankees on July 24, 2000. With a game score of 70, Kremer’s debut was the best for an Oriole since Mike Wright carried a shutout into the eighth inning in his debut May 17, 2015.
For almost the whole game, Kremer was pitching with a lead. With Cedric Mullins (undisclosed), José Iglesias (quadriceps), and Renato Núñez (hamstring) out with injury, Hyde had to shuffle his lineup Sunday.
Leadoff man Hanser Alberto began the game with a bunt single and scored when Stewart, who entered Saturday with no hits but homered twice in that game, hit a third in as many at-bats to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Stewart also scored an insurance run after singling against the shift in the seventh inning, coming across on a sacrifice fly by Mountcastle.
In between, the Orioles scored twice in the sixth inning — thanks to a bases-loaded walk Holaday and an infield single by Andrew Velazquez —after Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka left the game.
That lead was more than enough for Tanner Scott, Hunter Harvey and Cole Sulser to hang on to with three innings of combined scoreless relief.
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Without fans in the ballpark, there wasn’t much of a celebration of Ripken’s famous achievement.
Earlier this week, he recorded a ceremonial first pitch with his son, Orioles farmhand Ryan Ripken, behind the plate. That was shown on the video board Sunday at Camden Yards and before every other major league game.
Additionally, the Orioles wore jersey patches commemorating his 2,131st consecutive game, and Ripken appeared remotely on the team’s television and radio broadcasts.
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