It wasn’t a great night for broadcaster Scott Garceau, who keeps getting tripped up by Hispanic last names like Urías (oo-REE-as), and who actually miscalled two plays in the sixth—once when he went to fill in his scorecard and missed a dropped fly ball, once when he called a run that didn’t score. But Garceau was dead-right when he said, “This one will not go to Cooperstown for the defense.”
Together, the Orioles and the Red Sox combined for five errors and three unearned runs. The Orioles’ miscues came to the detriment of rookie starter Keegan Akin, who’d been on something of a run his last four starts, including a dominant five shutout innings against a power-hitting Atlanta Braves club last week.
Tonight, Akin struggled through four innings where he allowed four runs (only two earned), eight hits, and no walks. It wasn’t amazing—his velocity went down over the outing, and he left too many pitches over the plate—but you have to figure that without the sloppy defense, Akin would have gone a lot deeper into this game. And possibly saved his bullpen a painful meltdown in the sixth.
Getting the start for the Red Sox was recent pickup Nick Pivetta, a one-time Phillies starter who’s never really put it together. It is quite possible that this wan Orioles offense made the 5.50-career-ERA Pivetta look better than he is. The Birds got to Pivetta in the first inning after walks to Austin Hays and Renato Núñez and an RBI single from DJ Stewart, 1-for-20 in his last seven games. 1-0 Birds.
Unfortunately, this has been kind of a pattern lately: early runs, followed by not much. And indeed, so it went.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox threatened all game, getting the leadoff hitter aboard for seven straight innings. Akin bent, but didn’t break. In the first, he wiggled out of trouble with a fastball that has a lot of different looks to it: a rising one to Rafael Devers, a knee-high dart to Xander Bogaerts, and one outside that J.D. Martinez rolled over one for a weak groundout. But in the second, things got ugly for him and the defense.
Leadoff man Christian Vazquez took first when third baseman Rio Ruiz airmailed the throw over first base. Jackie Bradley, Jr. split first and second with a sharp single, then rookie first baseman, Bobby Dalbec, mashed a changeup into left for a run-scoring double. A second run scored on a sac fly. Akin got a strikeout for out No. 2, and looked to be out of it when Alex Verdugo teed a ball to left, but left fielder DJ Stewart took his eye off the ball and it bounced harmlessly off the heel of his glove to put the Sox up 3-1.
By the third, Keegan Akin had thrown a laborious 57 pitches, and another rally by the Red Sox would shorten his outing even more. Bogaerts led off with a single before Akin froze Martinez with a fastball at the knees and drew a flyout. But then, more two-out futility: Dalbec hit an 80-mph roller against the shift to put the Sox up 4-1.
Akin actually got a lift from his defense in the fourth. After the first two batters singled, a sharp Severino fired to third to pick off the leadoff runner. Akin got out of trouble that inning, but after 94 pitches, but that was it for him. Cole Sulser, coming in in the fifth, allowed a double to the ice-cold J.D. Martinez, a bobbled roller by Urías (the O’s third error of the game), and a walk, but a key double play saved the O’s that inning.
After four innings of doing nothing against Pivetta—the O’s had just four hits against him all night—the O’s bats perked up in the sixth, aided by the Red Sox’s ill-advised decision to start an infielder in left field. Reliver Marcus Walden hung a sinker to Renato Núñez, who sent it flying into the night for his team-best 12th home run of the season.
Renato Nunez - Baltimore Orioles (12) Solo. pic.twitter.com/8wjdppCZMs— MLB HR Tracker (@hr_mlb) September 23, 2020
DJ Stewart singled to right, then Pedro Severino hit a ball right at left fielder Michael Chavis, making exactly his seventh career start as an outfielder. Broadcaster Scott Garceau announced, “Chavis is right there to catch that one,” and looked down to fill in his scorecard, missing the fact that the ball had actually sailed over Chavis’ head. With two outs, Rio Ruiz hit basically the same ball at Chavis. It, too, went for an ugly double, and the score was now 4-3. Ramón Urías singled to right, and Garceau offered, “And this one is tied.” But it wasn’t. Rio Ruiz hadn’t gone past third base. Instead, the Sox brought in a new reliever and Cedric Mullins struck out. It wasn’t a great inning for Orioles bats, or for Scott Garceau, either.
In a bullpen meltdown reminiscent of 2019, this one got out of hand in the sixth. Paul Fry walked the leadoff man, but roared back for two strikeouts. This wasn’t enough to appease manager Brandon Hyde, who pulled Fry for Evan Phillips. In hindsight, it was a mistake. Phillips walked Bogaerts, gave up a run-scoring single, then allowed an Earl Weaver Special to Christian Vazquez before exiting with an apparent arm strain. Tom Eshelman, always at his best in a mop-up role, valiantly relieved Phillips in the sixth, pulled a Houdini in the seventh after a leadoff double and a single, and got through the eighth. But by that point, the Orioles weren’t climbing back out of an 8-3 hole.
In the eighth, perhaps for comedic measure (or to pick up his .220 average), Rio Ruiz doubled off the wall and over the head (again!) of the comically hapless Michael Chavis in left. It was a nice parting image of this game, but not much more than that.