Before the ball had even left the yard, Dean Kremer stood at the edge of the mound, glove up, waiting for another ball from home plate umpire Pat Hoberg.
The Orioles right-hander had left a four-seam fastball over the heart of the plate to Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mickey Moniak, and the leadoff hitter made no mistake. He crushed it, putting the Angels ahead after just five pitches from Kremer. On another day, perhaps even just last month, Kremer might’ve held a different expression on the mound, or he might’ve allowed the one long ball to snowball into more.
But on Tuesday, early in Baltimore’s 7-3 victory, Kremer was stone-faced. He wanted another baseball. And with that poise, that ability to turn the page quickly, Kremer showed what might be his most significant improvement from one month to the next.
“It’s just kind of going back to capitalizing on what I did last year,” Kremer said, “and trying to continue that.”
To end April, Kremer allowed a career-high 11 hits against the Detroit Tigers. While he walked just two batters, he allowed five runs. Against the Atlanta Braves, however, Kremer locked down one of the best lineups in the National League, conceding six hits and one run. Best of all, manager Brandon Hyde said, was Kremer’s body language on the mound.
From there, the Orioles (27-15) starter pitched six shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays with just four hits against him. And while the Angels tagged him for three runs Tuesday, Kremer didn’t walk a batter — and he might’ve escaped with just two runs had Bryan Baker not allowed an inherited runner to come home in the sixth inning.
“He really turned the corner in Atlanta,” Hyde said. “That was where you noticed the presence on the mound was different, the overall package of poise and you could tell he was moving on to the next pitch. Didn’t let bad things get to him.”
Across Kremer’s last 17 2/3 innings, he has given up just four runs. That’s the level of consistency he expects from himself, first off — but also what the Orioles expect out of the 27-year-old, who made this his norm last season but began this year with at least four runs against him in five of his first six outings.
“If a hitter or an opposing team sees you have slumped shoulders or whatever, kind of down body language or defeated body language, that can play a part with things not going your way,” Kremer said last week. “If they see that, then it’s kind of like blood in the water.”
Kremer labored through that opening frame Tuesday, requiring 31 pitches to get through the frame without any other damage after Moniak’s leadoff homer. He went on to retire nine of the next 10 batters he faced on a combined 34 pitches, cruising until he allowed a second run in the fifth.
Then, with two outs in the sixth, a soft single snuck between a diving Gunnar Henderson and a running Jorge Mateo. That marked the end of Kremer’s night, and the dribbler that found a hole turned into a third earned run for Kremer with Baker on the mound. Still, Kremer put together a third consecutive strong outing, particularly with how he bounced back early.
“Especially first batter of the game, hits a home run, if you’re not mentally tough then things can spiral on you quick,” said Ryan O’Hearn, who hit the first Orioles homer of his career in the second inning. “So big props to Dean for having the ability to turn the page, come back out, get back in his game.”
That has been an area of focus for Kremer, as well as other Orioles starters. And Kremer’s ability to move on from a leadoff homer propelled him on his way to throw 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday with three runs against him. The final run momentarily closed the gap for the Angels.
Then the offense took over. Ryan Mountcastle joined O’Hearn with a homer from the designated hitter spot, and Terrin Vavra, Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins all registered at least one RBI. That allowed left-hander Cionel Pérez and right-hander Yennier Cano to retire the final nine Los Angeles batters in a low-pressure setting.
It was set up by Kremer, though, even earlier, and his ability to turn the page after a misplaced fastball in his first plate appearance.
“He’s got great stuff, man, against a great lineup, some superstars in that lineup,” O’Hearn said, “He threw the ball great, I thought, and he competed his ass off to give us a chance to win the game.”