The Orioles were the biggest surprise in the major leagues last season. They’re on pace to be even bigger overachievers this year.
Baltimore entered the 2022 campaign expected to be the worst team in the major leagues, with FanGraphs projecting the rebuilding club to win 63 games. Those Orioles suddenly emerged in the summer as playoff contenders, vastly outshooting that projection to win 83.
The 2023 Orioles won their 83rd contest Tuesday — a 9-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox — and still have 30 games to go. They were projected entering the season to win just 75 games. They’re now on pace to win 100.
“I didn’t put any sort of win goal or anything on the year. I honestly just wanted to improve from last year,” manager Brandon Hyde said before Tuesday’s win. “I’ve been so impressed with our team. Our players deserve so much credit for the season they’ve had up to this point. They’ve come together extremely well as a team.
“These guys really like each other, they like to win together. There’s unbelievable camaraderie.”
Tuesday’s win at Camden Yards was like many they’ve had this year. The Orioles trailed 1-0 early but rallied to earn their 41st comeback victory. Starting pitcher Dean Kremer delivered another quality start with six innings of one-run ball, and Anthony Santander delivered a go-ahead, three-run double with two outs in the seventh inning to break the tie.
Before Santander’s double, the White Sox (52-81) had their own chance to take the lead. Danny Coulombe replaced Kremer with runners on first and second and no outs in the seventh, but the left-hander escaped the jam as he often has this season, retiring three straight batters on two bunt attempts and a soft groundout.
After Santander’s clutch hit, the Orioles repeated their eighth-inning output from Monday’s win, plating five runs in the frame while bringing nine batters to the plate. After Cedric Mullins’ RBI groundout, five straight Orioles recorded base hits to break the game open. Ryan McKenna, whose two-out, pinch-hit single in the seventh sparked the rally Santander actualized, hit a two-run double, stole third for his second swipe of the night and scored on Adley Rutschman’s single. Santander then drove in his fourth run with a single to score Rutschman.
Baltimore (83-49) remains 2 1/2 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays atop the American League standings. The Orioles have a 99.9% chance to make the playoffs and 65% odds to win the AL East, according to FanGraphs.
“We still have a whole month left, and we’ve already been able to get to where we were last year, which is a really big turnaround for us,” said Austin Hays, who went 2-for-4 and made a leaping catch in left field to end the top of the eighth. “It’s a great accomplishment for us, but we know we’re not done and there’s a lot of baseball left. Just got to keep going.”
After the Orioles retired 27 of 30 White Sox batters Monday, Kremer went six up, six down to begin Tuesday’s game. White Sox starter Jesse Scholtens followed suit with three perfect innings of his own.
The lone run Kremer allowed was a solo homer to Lenyn Sosa in the third inning. Adam Frazier tied the game two innings later with an RBI single to score Hays. Frazier has been a slightly below-average hitter this season by OPS, but he’s hitting .295 with a .947 OPS in 106 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. With 52 RBIs, he’s one away from his career-high of 53 set in 2017.
Kremer worked around one single in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to continue his recent dominance. Over his past 10 starts, Kremer has a 2.90 ERA. His quality start Tuesday was his fourth straight and seventh since July.
“Giving up one in six innings of work, I’ll take that every day of the week,” the right-hander said.
The Orioles are 20-7 in games Kremer has started this season. Since his poor April ended, they’re 17-4, and the club is 9-1 in his 10 starts since July.
Tuesday’s victory might not have been if not for Coulombe. After stranding Kremer’s two runners, the veteran lefty has done so for 32 of the 41 runners he’s inherited this season.
“That was big,” Kremer said about Coulombe’s inning. “It could’ve changed the game there if they would’ve tacked on a couple runs, so it was huge having Danny get out of that.”
Coulombe retired the first two batters of the eighth with a 4-1 lead before Hyde brought in Yennier Cano take face Luis Robert Jr., whose deep fly ball was robbed by both Camden Yards’ irregular left field wall and Hays’ leaping grab on the warning track. Chicago plated two runs off Shintaro Fujinami in the ninth, opening the inning with three straight hard-hit singles and ending the volatile reliever’s recent stretch of success in low-leverage situations.
Santander’s double down the right field line off left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer was his team-leading 31st. He also leads the Orioles in home runs (25) and RBIs (77).
“He’s our guy in the middle of the lineup that seems like every time he comes up there in a big moment,” Hays said of the switch-hitter. “He gets it done, whether it’s a homer or like the ball tonight, he fought it off to the right side. He just finds a way to come in clutch when we battle to get guys on base and give him that opportunity. More times than not, he comes through for us.”
The series win is Baltimore’s fourth straight dating to their sweep of the Oakland Athletics. The Orioles have won or tied 30 of 43 series this season, and they’ll go for their ninth sweep Wednesday afternoon.
The Orioles have won six of their last seven and nine of 11. Their 18-8 mark in August has helped stave off the surging Rays, who are 16-8 in the month.
“We’re just trying to go out and win every night, whether it’s May, June, July or August,” Kremer said. “We’re just trying to be as resilient as possible.”
Around the horn
- Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Kyle Stowers was hit in the face by a pitch Tuesday and is being evaluated, the Orioles said. Stowers, the club’s No. 12 prospect according to Baseball America, opened the 2023 season in the majors but has spent most of it in the minors. He entered the game slashing .232/.361/.470 for an .830 OPS with the Tides.
- Double-A Bowie outfielder Max Wagner was also removed from his game after an errant throw struck him in the head, the Orioles said. He is also being evaluated. Wagner, the club’s No. 18 prospect, entered Tuesday hitting .230 with a .736 OPS this season between High-A Aberdeen and Bowie.
White Sox at Orioles
Wednesday, 1:05 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)