The All-Star break gave us Trey Mancini in the home run derby and Cedric Mullins starting in center field. It provided Baltimore something it did not have since April— a fresh bullpen.
One game into the second half and the Orioles bullpen is already shouldering the workload.
Keegan Akin lasted just three innings and Baltimore took its all-too familiar place in the loss column Friday night. Kansas city tagged Akin for six runs and defeated the Orioles 9-2 in the first of a three-game set.
Whit Merrifield jumped on Akin right away with a single up the middle. Merrifield moved up to second on a ground out by Carlos Santana, and Salvador Perez stepped in and ripped a ball by a diving Ryan Mountcastle.. Two All Starts, two hits and a run scored for KC.
The Royals did a majority of their damage in the second inning. Akin walked Jorge Soler to start the frame and allowed a double down the left field line to former Oriole Hanser Alberto. Alberto swinging at the first pitch and having success against a lefty? Hard to believe, I know.
Nicky Lopez plated Soler and Alberto with a base hit to right field. Lopez advanced to second after the throw arrived late at home plate. Merrifield replaced Lopez at second with a double to left and the Royals quickly held a four run lead.
Perez returned to the plate and delivered another RBI single. Andrew Benintendi and Hunter Dozier reached to load the bases, but Soler popped out to end the inning. Still, the game already appeared out of reach.
The Royals tacked on three more in the seventh just for good measure. Soler singled, Lopez walked and Nicky Lopez drove them both in with a double. Merrifield scored Lopez with a single to left. Merrifield finished 4-4 with 3 RBIs and two runs scored. Lopez, Alberto, Benintendi and Perez all recorded multiple hits on the evening.
The Birds snuck on the board after an infield hit by Cedric Mullins in the fourth. Mullins advanced after a walk to Austin Hays and a wild pitch. The speedster scored on a groundout by Mancini, but the Orioles bats fell silent after that.
Pedro Severino provided the bright spot at the plate for Baltimore. The catcher recorded a one-out double in the fifth, blasted a solo home run in the top of the eighth, and singled in the ninth. Mullins and Severino tallied five of Baltimore’s six hits. Anthony Santander added a single in the ninth but somehow made the final out at third base in a seven-run ball game.
César Valdez worked in an extended relief role and delivered three shutout innings. He allowed three hits, struck out two and did not walk a batter. The dead fish appeared to be swimming tonight, and Valdez had command of multiple offspeed pitches.
The game provided the perfect return to reality after a fun All-Star break. The Orioles are still very bad at pitching and do not have the bats to compensate for it. Keegan Akin will likely receive more starts this season, but the Orioles must be wondering whether he has the stuff to take the ball every fifth day. Akin had the heater working but struggled to put hitters away late in the count.
Shaun Anderson allowed the three runs in the seventh but bounced back to throw a scoreless eighth. Anderson, like every other pitcher in the organization, will have every opportunity to fill innings during the second half. Anderson and Valdez did a nice job working multiple innings to avoid taxing Baltimore’s “high leverage” relievers.
The Orioles will look to bounce back tomorrow evening. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported that Jorge López is expected to start if he returns quickly enough from the bereavement list.
On an unrelated note, I managed to get some laundry done during the game. I found a mysterious stain on a vintage Cal Ripken shirt my dad gave me a while back. I’m tackling the situation now with some baking soda, dish soap and water. Here’s hoping I fair better than Akin did tonight.