A pair of former top prospects and another well on his way took their turns in the spotlight Saturday. The trio did not disappoint.
Tristan McKenzie struck out seven over five innings while Dane Dunning and Dean Kremer — squaring off against each other — combined to allow a run over 10 2/3 innings with 11 strikeouts in a matchup of young arms.
McKenzie worked through traffic during his third outing and second start of the season. The 23-year-old scattered five hits and walked four but allowed just one run and was in line for the win before Cincinnati rallied for a 3-2 win. McKenzie also collected his first Major League hit on a line-drive single to right field off Sonny Gray in the third.
But it was on the mound where the right-hander really shined.
McKenzie generated a game-high 14 swings and misses during his 87-pitch outing while registering four of of his first six outs via the punchout. Through his first three appearances of 2021, the 2015 Draft pick has limited opposing batters to a .209 average although he has walked 10 through 12 2/3 innings.
While McKenzie danced in and out of trouble, Dunning and Kramer went toe-to-toe with both hurlers earning no-decisions in the Orioles’ 6-1 win. One of the best pitchers in baseball through the season’s first two weeks, Dunning lowered his ERA to 0.60 after tossing six scoreless frames. The 26-year-old surrendered five singles, struck out five and did not walk a batter for the second time in three starts. Dunning has a 0.80 WHIP and a 16-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 innings.
The right-hander needed just 75 pitches (53 strikes) to navigate six frames. Dunning allowed a run in the opening frame of his season debut but none since, a span of 14 consecutive innings.
Though Kremer left trailing, 1-0, the No. 7 Orioles prospect turned in his best outing of the season while tallying a season-high six strikeouts. Dating back to his final outing of 2020, Kremer had surrendered 14 runs on 16 hits and eight walks in 8 2/3 innings. The 25-year-old was consistently in the strike zone against the Rangers, walking one and tossing 50 of his 79 pitches for strikes while inducing 10 swings and misses.
Here are more top rookie performances from Saturday’s games:
Jazz Chisholm Jr., 2B, MIA (MLB No. 58)
The fourth-ranked Marlins prospect reached base five times, collected a pair of hits and scored twice – including the team’s game-winning run. Chisholm legged out an infield hit to third in the fifth inning and led off the ninth with a single through the left side of the infield before scoring on a Jorge Alfaro RBI knock. Chisholm was also hit by a pitch in the first, worked a walk in the third and walked again in the 10th before flying around the bases to score the Marlins’ winning run from first on a two-out double by Alfaro. Gameday >>
Tyler Stephenson, C, CIN (MLB No. 85)
Stephenson’s pinch-hit walk-off single in the 10th inning scored Eugenio Suárez to complete Cincinnati’s comeback. Rallying from a 2-1 deficit in the ninth, the 24-year-old ripped a 1-0 pitch from Oliver Pérez into right field for his third hit in four at-bats this season with runners in scoring position. Stephenson upped his average to .364 and has driven in five runs through his first 25 plate appearances of 2021. Gameday >>
Pavin Smith, 1B/OF, ARI
Starting at first base and batting fifth, Smith tagged a sinker from Washington’s Erick Fedde 105.4 mph off the bat for a single in the second inning. Although it was his only hit of the day, he produced exit velocities above 100 mph twice more (a 102.5 mph flyout in the third and a 106.7 mph flyout in the eighth). On defense, the 25-year-old moved into center field in the third inning, and in the sixth charged far into the gap to his right to take extra bases away from Juan Soto with a diving catch. Gameday >>
Alejandro Kirk, C, TOR
Kirk’s RBI double produced a 102 mph exit velocity and opened the scoring for the Blue Jays which continued a recent hot streak for the 22-year-old. After beginning the season 0-for-13, the Baja California, Mexico native has gone 4-for-10 with a homer and three RBIs during a four-game hitting streak. Gameday >>
Alex Lange, RHP, DET
The 29th-ranked Tigers prospect did not allow a hit or a walk while fanning a pair over 1 1/3 frames against Oakland. The righty entered the game in a bases loaded, two-out jam in the seventh and limited the damage to an inherited runner scoring on a wild pitch. Lange got Seth Brown to fly out to right on a 1-0 fastball to end the threat before retiring the side in order on 13 pitches in the eighth. The 25-year-old has yielded one run on two hits and a pair of walks while whiffing five over 3 1/3 frames (four appearances) this season. Gameday »