BALTIMORE—Ever since the Orioles traded Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 18, 2018, fans have been waiting for tangible returns from the five players the team received in return.
Suddenly, the trade looks much, much better.
Dean Kremer, who wasn’t even the centerpiece of the Orioles’ haul, made his major league debut on a glorious Sunday afternoon and pitched brilliantly, allowing a run on just one hit in six innings in a 5-1 win over the New York Yankees at Camden Yards. It was the Orioles’ third straight victory over the Yankees after 19 consecutive losses.
Kremer, who found out about 10:30 on Saturday night in a phone call from executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde that he’d be the starter, struck out seven and walked three.
Elias indicated that Kremer might be getting a call, but Kremer wasn’t expecting it.
“I try not to read too much in the moves and play GM in my head,” Kremer said in his video conference call. “I just focus on my work and my pitching, and not the business side.”
Elias and Hyde got on speakerphone and asked Kremer if he wanted to pitch on Sunday.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely, I’d love to pitch.’ I was pretty excited. I got enough sleep, but my mind was racing late at night. I’m happy my body held up, and I could still perform.”
The postgame call featured several Israeli journalists, who seemed even more excited than the pitcher that Kremer became the first Israeli citizen to pitch in the major leagues.
“It’s awesome being able to hold the torch, so to speak,” Kremer said. “Even though I was born in America, I have been to Israel every year.”
The day began with Cal Ripken Jr. throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to his son Ryan in a prerecorded spot to mark the 25th anniversary of the Iron Man’s surpassing Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak of 2131.
Then Kremer, who was born four months after Ripken’s historic day, had a brilliant one of his own.
He struck out D.J. LeMahieu and Luke Voit to begin the game, and fanned Clint Frazier to end his first outing.
Other than the second inning, when he walked two, and allowed his only run, Kremer allowed only one other baserunner when he walked Voit in the sixth.
DJ Stewart, who began the season hitless in 17 at-bats, hit home runs in his final two at-bats on Saturday night and a two-run homer in the first on Sunday that scored Hanser Alberto, who singled to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
Kremer walked Frazier to begin the second. With one out, Miguel Andújar singled, and Mike Tauchman walked. Frazier scored on Erik Kratz’s force play.
The 24-year-old right-hander retired 15 of his final 16 batters, throwing 88 pitches.
“I think you saw stuff and composure on the mound,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I was really impressed with that second inning. He hit adversity for the first time. He had a little bit of a command issue in that second inning, and to be able to wiggle out of it and only allowing a run, that showed a lot about his character and his poise.
“He settled down after that and really pitched well the next four innings.”
Kremer became the fourth Oriole pitcher to work at least six innings in his first game and hold an opponent to a single hit. Chris Waters was the last in 2008.
In the sixth, the Orioles added two runs when Pedro Severino reached on Andújar’s error to begin the inning. With one out, Rio Ruiz singled against Masahiro Tanaka, and Pat Valaika singled when Luis Cessa came into the game.
With two outs, Cessa walked Bryan Holaday to score Severino, and Andrew Velazquez singled home Ruiz for a 4-1 lead.
Holaday, who has caught in the major leagues since 2012, was chosen by Hyde to catch Kremer.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of guys that can go out there and beat you with their pure stuff,” Holaday said. “That’s what they’re doing down there, refining that stuff, using it to be able to compete in the strike zone.
“As Dean showed us today what that can do … You wouldn’t be able to tell that that was his first time out there.”
Tanner Scott, Hunter Harvey and Cole Sulser combined for three scoreless innings.
Ryan Mountcastle’s sacrifice fly scored Stewart with the fifth run in the seventh.
On Saturday night, Keegan Akin threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings. After Kremer followed it up with his performance, there is hope that the team is beginning its turnaround.
“I just think you’re seeing young talented guys,” Hyde said. “You look around the field this series, and there’s not a whole lot of major league experience on the field, and you’re seeing youthful energy and talent. They played well this series, no doubt.”
The Orioles won three of four from the Yankees, and they’re 19-21. They’ve won three straight for the first time since August 7-13 when they won six in a row.
“I want to believe I’m an optimist, but I do think about all the games we should have won out of these first 40,” Hyde said. “I’m trying to turn the page on those.
“I’ve really said all along, I want to win as many games as possible, as many series as possible and not look down the road too far, and so I’m really happy with this series.”
Hyde watches Iglesias: Last month, before shortstop José Iglesias was placed on the 10-day injured because of a quadriceps muscle injury, Hyde said that he would have to be “managed.”
Since Iglesias’ return, he’s been the shortstop and the designated hitter. On Sunday, he was rested.
“José Iglesias, what he’s playing through, I give him a ton of credit,” Hyde said.
“This is something that we are going to manage the rest of the year. This is something that if it was over the course of a full season, he’d have to take significant time off, but because we’re in this short, sprint season, and what he means to our team, and he knows what he means to our club.
“He wants to be around, he wants to be in the lineup as much as possible. I think that there would be a lot of players that would cash in and Iggy has been the ultimate pro, and I give him a ton of credit for playing with something that’s bothering him, and he needs rest to recover.
“I talk to him every day. We go through the next few days of how we’re going to manage it, and we communicate on a daily basis, and he’s always upfront and honest with me. He wants to be in there as much as he possibly can. I want him in there. We’re a totally different team with him in there.
“We’re just going to continue with this mindset throughout the rest of the season. What he’s doing, I think, it’s a great example for our young players … of really showing a grind mindset of getting through a season banged up.”
Wojciechowski to bullpen: Asher Wojciechowski, whose place Kremer took in the rotation, is in the bullpen.
“Asher’s still going to be in a swing role,” Hyde said. “I think a lot can still happen over the next few weeks, so I wouldn’t totally dismiss him not making any more starts for the rest of the year.
“There’s going to be opportunity to make more starts, possibly. Right now, Dean is on regular rest. We wanted Dean to make this start. We want to see what he can do in September this year. We’re excited about how he’s been throwing the ball at Bowie. We look forward to him finishing the year here and making some starts.”
Hyde on Ripken: Hyde can not fathom another player besting Ripken’s streak.
“I’ve seen guys play every game early in their career for a year or two,” Hyde said. “What he did is mindboggling. We’re trying to get through a two-month season. We’re having a hard time staying on the field for a two-month season. I’m trying to give guys breaks.
“We’re playing with strained quads and hamstrings and all sorts of things. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. It will never be duplicated. I can see it short-term, very, very short-term, but not over a period, close to the period of time that Cal did that amazing feat.”
Odds and ends: Renato Núñez is day-to-day because a sore hamstring … Cedric Mullins is also day-to-day because of an undisclosed injury … John Means will pitch against the New York Mets on Tuesday at Citi Field. The Orioles haven’t named Wednesday’s pitcher, and New York hasn’t named its starters … Carson Fulmer, the right-handed pitcher the Orioles claimed on waivers from Pittsburgh on Saturday, must go through Covid-19 protocols before he’s cleared to join the Orioles … The Orioles’ doubleheader against Tampa Bay on September 17th will begin at 4:35 p.m., a half-hour earlier than scheduled.