Reinvented Kremer continues breakout season

Baltimore's defense makes several highlight-reel worthy plays behind him

June 29th, 2022

SEATTLE -- This is a new Dean Kremer, both he and the Orioles see. It’s not just the results, now riding three straight scoreless outings after Tuesday night's 2-0 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park, but as much the processes, the confidence and the manner in which he’s found this groove.

Much of that confidence has come inward, working with mental skills coaches in order to rediscover a swagger that was dented from a 6.84 ERA in 17 starts across his last two seasons. But plenty has also been gained from those around him, pitching to contact more and thereby entrusting the defense surrounding him.

Several highlight-reel plays by Baltimore's defense propelled Kremer to 18 2/3 scoreless innings across three starts. On Tuesday, they were: a double play with the bases loaded in the the fourth; Austin Hays’ seventh outfield assist in the fifth before a jumping catch into the wall in the seventh; Tyler Nevin’s two acrobatic grabs in the sixth and Cedric Mullins’ tumbling grab to end the same frame.

Each invited Kremer to yell in triumph and slap his glove in excitement as he stalked off the mound.

“Very impressed, and it makes it easier to pitch,” Kremer said. “I feel like there's less consequences of throwing balls in the zone where I can just let them hit it and then have the defense go and get it, because that's what they're doing right now.”

“He pitched outstanding,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “Pitched out of trouble there late, but really impressed with how aggressive he is in the strike zone.”

That’s what was accomplished almost the entirety of Tuesday night, until two defensive miscues snagged the Orioles’ chances for victory. The first was a hectic unfolding off the bat of Mariners rookie Julio Rodríguez, his comebacker striking Félix Bautista off the leg, forcing Ryan Mountcastle to scamper away from the bag at the last second and collect the ball up the line. On the interchange, Mountcastle felt the ball “floating in my glove,” but it got away from him.

Back turned to him in the haze, Mountcastle didn’t see that the speedy Rodríguez missed first base and then unsuccessfully tried to cut down J.P. Crawford at third.

“It’s unfortunate,” Mountcastle said.

“Just an unfortunate play,” Hyde added.

That set the stage for Jesse Winker’s game-winning swing, a double lofted to right-center that Hays did well to camp himself under but couldn’t come down with. The Mariners would hold the lead for just one offensive at-bat, the Orioles unaided by mustering just one hit themselves.

"Their outfield defense with Hays and Mullins out there is pretty darn good,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “ … We caught a break."

Seattle needed such an unfolding given the defense the Orioles displayed previously. Hays (seven) is behind Cleveland’s Myle Straw (nine) for the most outfield assists in the Majors. As a team, the Orioles’ 17 are tied for third-most in the Majors.

Such defense has allowed Kremer to pitch with this newfound confidence, but it’s one equally of his own making. With three consecutive scoreless outings of at least five innings, Kremer tied an Orioles record accomplished last by Matt Harvey, Kevin Gausman, Fernando Valenzuela and Jim Palmer, among only eight prior to do so in O's history (since 1954).

Kremer entered the season without a scoreless outing -- of any length -- in his big league career. Now an ERA near 7.00 entering 2022 has morphed to 1.29 through five starts of ’22. His start Tuesday was the first seven-inning scoreless outing by an Oriole since John Means’ no-hitter last season, also in Seattle.

"He pitched his tail off tonight,” Winker said.

Both Kremer and Hyde call it a family affair in how the right-hander has rediscovered himself, a marriage of improved stuff and tweaked gameplanning alongside enhanced confidence. For Kremer, much came while he was away from the game after injuring his oblique warming up during the season’s opening week, which put him on the shelf until June.

Time away was time not wasted.

“It's been a combination of a bunch of different things,” Kremer explained. “Getting hurt, obviously you don't want that, but it gave me a chance to step away, rethink and whatnot. But that and then talking with coaches, talking with mental staff, as well, all take a part in what's happening.

“If you're in the right mental state and not down on yourself getting hurt and whatnot, it can be a positive thing. I spent a whole year in junior college redshirting. So, I mean, I had to sit out a year.”

Kremer can now sit back and watch the pitches he intentionally allows to get more of the plate be put in play. As he learned on Tuesday night -- and as Orioles pitchers have grown comfortable with all year -- that’s not something to recoil at.

“We're playing very well defensively, and that's why we're staying in games,” Hyde said. “Pitching and defense.”