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.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.