Kremer tosses 4-hitter, Rutschman HR, Orioles blank Astros

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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BALTIMORE – Dean Kremer pitched a four-hitter, Adley Rutschman homered and the Baltimore Orioles kept themselves squarely in the playoff hunt by defeating the Houston Astros 6-0 Friday night.

Baltimore started the day trailing Seattle by four games in the race for the third and final AL wild-card spot. It’s been an uplifting season for a team that went 52-110 last year, although the Orioles will need to remain hot and get some help to reach the postseason for the first time since 2016.

Kremer (8-5) walked two, struck out six and did not allow a runner past second base in his first career complete game. Last season, the 26-year-old righty was 0-7 for Baltimore.

It was the third straight impressive performance by an Orioles starter, following Jordan Lyles‘ three-hitter against Detroit and Kyle Bradish pitching into the ninth inning of a shutout against AL West-leading Houston on Thursday night.

Baltimore has 15 shutouts this season – its most since 1992 – including three against the Astros.

Rutschman’s 12th home run staked the Orioles to a 1-0 lead against Jose Urquidy (13-8). Baltimore pulled away with a five-run seventh against the Houston bullpen.

Houston (99-53) has already clinched the division and is on pace to enter the postseason with the best record in the AL. The Astros need eight more wins to match the franchise single-season record, set in 2019.

In spite of their success this season, the Astros are 1-4 against Baltimore and have been outscored 14-4.

Urquidy gave up one run and three hits in 5 1/3 innings. He left with two on in the sixth, and Baltimore eventually loaded the bases with two outs against Bryan Abreu.

Gunnar Henderson then hit a sharp grounder that third baseman Alex Bregman snagged with a backhand pickup while shifted into the hole. His off-balance throw was on time, keeping the score 1-0.

But the Orioles broke it open in the seventh against Hector Neris, getting a two-run single from Cedric Mullins and an RBI single from Rutschman in the pivotal inning.

Houston’s Jose Altuve led off the game by hitting a sharp grounder inside the third base line that rolled into the left-field corner. He was cut down trying to stretch it into a triple, and the Astros got only one runner to second base the rest of the way.

DENIED

Astros manager Dusty Baker still need one more victory to join Sparky Anderson, Tony La Russa and Whitey Herzog as the only managers in big league history to win 100 games in a single season in both the AL and NL.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: Altuve returned to action after missing Thursday night’s game with a sore left elbow, an injury that occurred when he was hit by a pitch Wednesday against Tampa Bay. “What Altuve wants, Altuve gets, and he wants to play,” Baker said. … OF Kyle Tucker was given the night off.

Orioles: RHP Tyler Wells was placed on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation and appears done for the season. Wells gave up five runs in three innings against Detroit on Monday, then complained of a sore shoulder on Tuesday. RHP Spenser Watkins was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk and will be used initially in long relief. … INF Ramon Urias was scratched from the starting lineup with neck and back spasms.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Framber Valdez (16-5, 2.57 ERA) starts Saturday night against the Orioles. He is 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA in his last seven outings.

Orioles: RHP Mike Baumann (1-3, 4.29) makes his third career start.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.