BALTIMORE—The trade of closer Jorge López on Tuesday forced Orioles manager Brandon Hyde to change the roles of his relievers. And after starter Dean Kremer threw 6 1/3 strong innings, Cionel Pérez and Félix Bautista combined for the final eight outs as the Orioles beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 1-0, before an announced crowd of 25,613 at Camden Yards on Friday night.
It was the Orioles fourth straight win and their 10th shutout of the season. The Orioles (55-51) are four games over .500 for the first time since August 15th, 2020.
The Orioles’ leadoff hitter reached base in each of the first four innings, and they had a runner on second with nobody out in three of them but couldn’t score.
The first inning set the tone. On his bobblehead night, Cedric Mullins led off with a double high off the right-field wall on the first pitch against Pirate starter Mitch Keller (3-8). Adley Rutschman then walked.
After Anthony Santander flied to shallow center, Mullins and Rutschman pulled off a double steal. Ryan Mountcastle then hit a soft liner to shortstop Oneil Cruz, and Mullins didn’t wait to see if the ball cleared the infield. Cruz threw to third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes for the easy force of Mullins.
The Orioles finally broke through in the sixth. Santander doubled and moved to third when Terrin Vavra, who had three hits, singled on a ball that hit off Keller.
Ramón Urias hit a chopper that bounced over the head of Hayes and scored Santander. The Orioles won despite hitting 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
“Usually, when you squander that many early, you’re expecting something not good to happen,” Hyde said.
Something good did happen because of Kremer and the bullpen.
Kremer allowed four hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out two without walking a batter.
“That was his best outing of the year,” Hyde said. “He pitched with a ton of confidence tonight. That’s huge for us and for him.”
Kremer (4-3) gave up a single to Bryan Reynolds, the game’s second batter, and one-out singles to Kevin Newman and Bligh Madris in the second. Cal Mitchell hit into a double play to end the second, the first of 15 consecutive batters retired by Kremer.
After Hayes doubled with one out in the seventh, Pérez struck out Cruz and retired Newman on a grounder to third.
“We lost a couple of good pieces in Trey [Mancini] and Lopie,” Kremer said. “They’re here to pick up slack and our bullpen’s been really good throughout the whole year. It’s been fun to watch them the whole season.
“They’ve got a little bit of everything. Anything you can think of, they’ve got it, except we don’t have any submarine guys, but that’s about it.”
Pérez pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing a two-out single to Jason Delay, and ended the inning with a called third strike on Tucupita Marcano. Pérez punched the air and hopped off the mound to celebrate.
“It was super important to get out of that inning with a clean inning,” Pérez said through a translator. “Whenever I’m able to let my emotions show, I do that.”
His 1 2/3 innings was his longest outing since May 22nd.
“Tonight I did it a little differently than I had in the past,” Hyde said. “These guys are going to be put in a little bit different positions right now… [Joey] Krehbiel, [Bryan Baker], all those type of guys are going to have step up and take on a little bit bigger roles than they’ve taken on.”
Bautista came in to pitch the ninth, started with a 100-mph fastball — eventually hitting 102 — but got in a jam. With one out, Ben Gamel singled and Hayes walked to put runners on first and second.
He got out of it by striking out Cruz and Newman on splitters and registered his fourth save. Seventeen of Bautista’s pitches were over 100 mph, the most by an Orioles pitcher since Statcast began measuring pitch speeds in 2015.
Notes: Vavra, who was the designated hitter, became the first Oriole rookie to reach base in seven straight plate appearances since Jerry Hairston Jr. on September 6th-8th, 1999. … Carlos Torres, who was scheduled to be the second base umpire, left with a non-Covid illness and the game was played with three umpires. … Austin Voth (1-1, 5.54) will face JT Brubaker on Saturday at 5:05 p.m. … The 30th anniversary celebration of Camden Yards will take place at 4:30 … The game’s start was delayed by rain by one hour, 49 minutes. Oriole games have been delayed 10 hours, 33 minutes this season. … Pirates manager Derek Shelton was ejected in the eighth inning when he argued that Brett Phillips had not checked his swing.
Minor league update: Bruce Zimmermann allowed two runs on seven hits in five innings as Triple-A Norfolk beat Nashville, 7-2. Zimmermann (3-1) walked one and struck out four.
Third baseman Gunnar Henderson hit his ninth home run. Rightfielder Yusniel Diaz hit his fourth and designated hitter Robert Neustrom hit a two-run shot, his 13th.
Shortstop Joey Ortiz hit his 11th home run and rightfielder Colton Cowser hit his eighth as Double-A Bowie won its sixth straight game, 5-4, over Harrisburg.
Shortstop Collin Burns and designated hitter Trendon Craig each had two hits as High-A Aberdeen completed its suspended game of Thursday with a 7-6 win over Wilmington. The IronBirds won the regularly scheduled game, which was shortened to seven innings, 6-3. Third baseman Darell Hernaiz had three hits and drove in two runs. Rightfielder Heston Kjerstad also drove in two.
Darlin Alcantara allowed seven runs, five earned, in 2 1/3 innings in Single-A Delmarva’s 14-2 loss to Augusta. Catcher Brayan Hernandez hit his third home run.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB