There was a hint of a smile as Anthony Santander rounded first base, and it wouldn’t be the last for the Orioles to flash at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday. The ball had jumped off Santander’s bat, flew an estimated 455 feet and ended up with a splash in the fountain behind the fence in the center right.
The emphatic bang of the bat was an early indication of what was to come for Baltimore in the series finale against the Kansas City Royals, breaking out at the plate to even break out the four-game series at two games apiece. After Santander’s blast, a four-run second inning continued the offensive outburst in a 10-7 victory before a flight to Toronto.
So many times this season, the bullpen has kept a game under control after a spotty performance from a starter. The reverse happened on Sunday, with five of the six points earned in Kansas City by the relievers, although the offense pushed the game far enough out of reach to endure the Royals’ comeback attempt.
“It didn’t go as I expected, to be honest,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “We played two doubles balls wrong, and if you do that in the big leagues, it can come back to bite you. And it did today. We conceded five runs because we played two doubles balls wrong.”
The first error came from short stop Richie Martin in the sixth inning, who rushed a throw to second base when he tried to double up Bobby Witt Jr. Instead, the throw went into right field and Witt selected the No. 2 overall after Adley Rutschman blazed around the bases in the 2018 draft to get Kansas City on the board.
The second error came two innings later, with third baseman Tyler Nevin having a chance to end the inning by turning two. Another point scored on the game.
Martin’s error ended Kremer’s two battering outing in the sixth inning, but he still worked deeper than last week’s start, when he held out 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Cleveland Guardians.
In that outing, a remaining substitution in the zone was his lone error, resulting in a three-run bomb in the first inning. Hyde wanted Kremer to avoid the big inning, and he did it best on Sunday, giving up four hits and two runs (one earned), while striking out two and walking twice to lower his ERA to 3.86 .
“I think my stuff was a little better last time,” Kremer said. “But through those first few innings, I calmed down a bit and my stuff came back. So solid.”
He also had adequate walking support. Royals righthander Brad Keller was chased after only 1 2/3 innings, as he allowed long balls to Ryan Mountcastle and Rougned Odor before singles by Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays brought home two more runners.
Kremer’s season was cut short before it started when, during the season-opening streak with the Tampa Bay Rays, he suffered an oblique strain while warming up in the bullpen. The offensive outburst behind him helped relieve the pressure on his second start since his return.
“You can’t complain about giving 10,” Kremer said. “It’s much more relaxed pitching with a good lead.”
That lead didn’t help the bullpen, though.
With lefthander Keegan Akin relieved in the sixth, Hunter Dozier launched a two-run homer. And an inning later, Akin gave up a solo shot to Michael A. Taylor. Akin, who pitched for the first time since June 4, had given up two homeruns in 35 2/3 innings this season before the three he gave up in two innings on Sunday, with Witt joining the jump-off.
“Keegan is going to fill the attack zone, he’s going to be aggressive,” Hyde said. “Hitters know that, so he just has to pitch a little better quality. That was different from him.”
Righthander Bryan Baker gave up two more runs before righthander Félix Bautista completed a two-run eighth. It was a frustrating run for Hyde, who watched his bullpen shrink a seven-point lead to awkward margins twice. He had to turn to lefthanded Cionel Pérez for a save – an almost unthinkable necessity as the Orioles led 7-0 in the sixth inning and 10-3 in the seventh.
But Santander’s early firepower—combined with the late add-ons—created enough cushion, one that covered a shaky bullpen to split the four-game series.
“We let them back into the game,” Hyde said, “and made that game closer than it should have been.”
Finding his footing
Martin’s error in the sixth inning briefly marred his day, giving the Royals a three-run frame. But in the top of the seventh, Martin made up with a bang to the left center wall for his second triple of the game.
“I love triples,” said Martin, who thought the last time he had two triples in a game would have been during high school or travel ball.
That final triple scored two runs and Mullins – the last Oriole to hit two triples in a game in September 2020 – then singled Martin moments later.
Martin has been in the organization since the Orioles selected him in the 2018 Rule 5 draft. The former first-round squad played 120 games in 2019 and 37 in 2021, and he was called up to join Baltimore on Friday night.
This year was his best yet at the minor league level, hitting .294 for Triple-A Norfolk. And through two games, Martin continued that success at the saucer, going 4-for-9 between the two games. His defensive versatility offers much of what the Orioles loved about Chris Owings, although there is potential for more offensive advantage.
“Just keep working and trusting my preparation and the process,” said Martin. “I’m just trying to look at things from day to day now. That’s all I can do.”
around the horn
>> The Orioles put Owings on parole, ending his time with the team. Owings struggled at the plate for Baltimore, hitting .107 before being designated for the assignment last week. The veteran offered more defensively, with the benefit of playing in the outfield or center of the infield.
>> The Orioles signed shortstop Chris Givin to a minor league contract, adding organizational depth and assigning the 25-year-old to Double-A Bowie. Givin was released on May 31 by the Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres after hitting .239 in 29 games.
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