BALTIMORE—The Orioles are headed to Tropicana Field tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the American League East. The Orioles have never been alone in first place this season.
Tampa Bay, which began the season with 13 straight wins, has lost four straight, and the Orioles will play the first of four games on Thursday night leading the Rays by percentage points. The Orioles (58-37) have played four fewer games than Tampa Bay (60-39).
The Orioles were playing the hot Los Angeles Dodgers, who had won eight of nine and needed to win to prevent being swept for the first time since May 13th-15th, 2022.
The 8-5 win over the Dodgers before an announced crowd of 22,248 at Oriole Park on Wednesday wasn’t easy. First, the Orioles had to withstand a 41-minute delay at the start that was caused by the failure to cover up the Camden Yards field overnight when unexpected rain came.
Starting pitcher Dean Kremer, who was facing the team that traded him in the deal for Manny Machado in July 2018, allowed five runs on four hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Kremer was rescued by Danny Coulombe (3-1), who recorded his first career save on Saturday and followed that with a brilliant 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
“That was so impressive,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That was best-case scenario. There are just so many tough hitters in the lineup, and having the night we had last night, for me that was his performance of the year.”
On Tuesday night, starter Tyler Wells worked only two innings in a sloppy 10-3 loss, and after Kremer faltered, Coulombe was simply outstanding.
“That won us the game,” Hyde said. “Kept the score right there.”
Coulombe entered with the Orioles holding a 7-5 lead, and he, Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed just three hits.
“My pitch count was low, and I was ahead early,” Coulombe said. “I had some quick innings, so I knew I could go back out.”
The 2 1/3 were the longest of the season for Coulombe, and it helped the Orioles avoid the sweep. They’re the only team in the majors that hasn’t been swept this season.
“I didn’t know that,” Coulombe said. “That’s pretty cool.”
Coulombe said the Orioles’ mentality helps them keep an even keel.
“Every game is just separate for us. We don’t get down on ourselves. If we get down 0-2 in a series … it’s a battle for the other team,” Coulombe said.
Ramón Urías drove in three runs with two doubles, and Gunnar Henderson hit his 15th home run, his first against a left-hander.
“Not to be cocky, but I hope it won’t be the last one,” Henderson said. “Been feeling really comfortable against [left-handers]. I knew it was just a matter of time, just being able to see them consistently.”
Kremer allowed two runs in the first inning, and the Orioles answered with four in the bottom of the first.
The Orioles scored all eight runs against Dodgers starter Julio Urías (7-6), who allowed a career high eight earned runs.
James Outman hit the first home run over the reconfigured left-field wall, nearly 5 feet higher and 30 feet deeper before the 2022 season in the fourth, and Max Muncy hit a two-run home run in the fifth to cut the Orioles lead to 7-5.
After Kremer walked Will Smith, Coulombe came in.
“I ran out of gas at the end,” Kremer said. “That’s a good lineup, year-in and year-out. They’re probably one of the most patient teams and when you have to throw them strikes, and you’re a little bit off, they’ll do the damage as well.”
Kremer is the only remaining player of five who came over in the Machado trade.
“It’s new for me,” Kremer said.
A real division race is new for Kremer and his teammates, too.
“We went through the gauntlet in May, where we were playing all the teams well over .500,” Kremer said. “Now going through it again, trying to prepare us for potentially a playoff run.”
The Orioles swept Miami to start the second half of the season, extending their winning streak to eight games before losing two of three to Los Angeles.
“I’m really glad we’re not playing the Dodgers anymore,” Hyde said. “That lineup is absolutely relentless.”
Kyle Gibson, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and Wells will pitch for the Orioles against Tyler Glasnow, Zach Elfin, Shane McClanahan and Taj Bradley this weekend.
“It’s going to be a fun series,” Coulombe said. “This is what you want. This is what baseball wants. Two really good teams, and it’s going to be some fun games.”