Boy. When you’re a 24-52 baseball team, and when you’re a pitcher with a 6.42 ERA, things can get really, really bad in a really, really small amount of time.
The Baltimore Orioles, and Keegan Akin, provided the latest example Saturday afternoon.
Akin struggled again and the Orioles were handled by the homer-happy Toronto Blue Jays of Buffalo and their trio of four-run innings, 12-4.
It goes down in the box score as another one of “those games” for the Orioles and their pitcher, both of whom are in the middle of difficult 2021 seasons. Akin allowed six runs, all earned, on seven hits in 4.1 innings.
But this wasn’t a case of Akin going out to the mound today and having nothing to work with. Instead, the 26-year-old got off to a fine start, rolling through the first two innings and getting the first two batters of the third, making that a full trip through the lineup with one hit allowed. There was reason to be encouraged.
And then, as if on cue, the lineup flipped over and everything went wrong. Leadoff hitter Marcus Semien ripped a hard ground ball down the third base line, fair by inches. It was a heartbeat away from being a foul ball, and nothing to worry about.
But when you have a 6.42 ERA, it’s fair, and it goes for a double.
Next came Bo Bichette, and Akin made a decent pitch, low and away. But when you have a 6.42 ERA, it’s hit the other way into the gap for a double, and it scores Semien for a 1-0 lead. Akin seemed to know just how close he was to getting out of the inning, dropping his head the moment he saw where Bichette’s line drive was headed.
It was as if Akin was caught trying to sneak out of the inning undetected, and the Blue Jays made him pay. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was up next, and he smoked Akin’s first pitch to left for a two-run home run. The next batter was Teoscar Hernandez, and when Pedro Severino called for a pitch low and away and Akin instead strayed inside, Hernandez blasted that to left to make it 4-0 and back-to-back home runs for the Jays.
Akin seemed to bounce back with a scoreless fourth, but he wasn’t going to make it through the heart of the order again. Bichette doubled to right with one out and Guerrero walked, prompting Brandon Hyde to lift Akin and summon Konner Wade for his major league debut.
Wade got one out, but couldn’t escape the jam unscathed. George Springer hit a seemingly harmless pop-up to shallow left, but it was perfectly placed down the line to be a long run away from everyone. Pat Valaika, who had moved to shortstop - more on that later - tried to make a sliding over-the-shoulder catch, but the ball popped out of his glove for a single that scored Bichette.
Those bad breaks always seem to prove costly, and this was no exception. Randal Grichuk turned on a Wade offering in the next at-bat for a three-run homer, and it was 8-0 Toronto.
The Jays continued the trend of two-out scoring in the sixth, with Hernandez driving in two runs with a single and Springer and Grichuk adding RBI singles.
Two Orioles made their debuts. Wade was the first, and finished with six runs allowed on seven hits in 1.2 innings, while Alexander Wells, the team’s 17th-ranked prospect, pitched two scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth.
It wasn’t a much better day for the Oriole hitters. Once again, Hyun Jin Ryu had the lineup’s number, and the O’s didn’t manage any hits between a Galvis bunt single in the second and an Anthony Santander double in the seventh. Ryu allowed one run in seven innings in his last appearance against Baltimore, and he was just as sharp through most of Saturday.
Even the Orioles’ best chance at the plate came with bad news. Austin Hays ripped a single to left to lead off the second, and Galvis dropped the perfect bunt down the third base line for an infield single that put runners at first and second with no outs. The mood was dampened, however, when Galvis pulled up halfway down the line, and the O’s lost their shortstop when he left the game due to what the team termed “quadricep discomfort.”
The rally ended up dying, anyway, when Maikel Franco grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and Severino grounded to third. The Orioles wouldn’t challenge again with the game in question.
They did, however, have their own big inning. In the seventh, Santander stung the one-out double off the center field wall, and Hays followed with an infield single when Bichette made a diving stop on his grounder but had nowhere to go with the ball.
After a groundout, a walk loaded the bases, and Severino put the Orioles on the board with a single to left that scored Hays and Stevie Wilkerson. After a swinging bunt single by Pat Valaika, Cedric Mullins did what he’s been doing all year, lining a double into right field to score Franco and Severino and make it 12-4.
That was it for the good news. But hey, for the last three innings, the Orioles beat the Jays 4-0. Take the victories where you can get them.