Let’s be honest: before a pitch was even thrown tonight, the chances of this Tuesday night Orioles-Tigers matchup becoming a classic in franchise history were pretty much nil. Then throw in a two-hour rain delay, an emergency start by the 0-5 Keegan Akin, and Adley Rutschman’s brilliant debut for Triple-A Norfolk and I wouldn’t be surprised if only the players’ moms and high school coaches were watching tonight.
If you skipped this one because you predicted that it’d go something like: “Akin’s gonna allow a bunch of runs and get yanked early, and the bullpen will cough up a bunch more runs,” then good for you! That was the game in a nutshell.
In truth, Akin came out looking good enough that I thought things might be different this time: He struck out three of his first five batters, showing a little more zip on his fastball than usual, throwing his slider for strikes, and getting whiffs on his changeup.
But it just wasn’t sustainable. The second inning turned on him quickly: with two outs, Akin walked shortstop Niko Goodrum, then allowed a run-scoring scoreboard double to the No. 7 hitter, Willi Castro. No. 8, the lefty Akil Baddoo, thwacked a high fastball the other way for the Tigers’ second run, a rare Austin Hays misplay gifting him with a triple.
The Orioles got one back in the bottom half of the inning. Anthony Santander, looking like he’s finally figuring things out in 2021, put together a brilliant at-bat against Mize where he fouled off three balls before reaching down to golf a low slider over the scoreboard.
But in the third, a 2-1 deficit ballooned into a 6-1 one. The leadoff Tiger legged out an infield single, a little bit of hard luck for Akin. But Jonathan Schoop scorched an RBI double that was definitely no cheapie. Tigers 3, Orioles 1.
Akin got two consecutive strikeouts, making it look like things would stay within reason. But it was just déjà vu all over again: another chance to get out of the inning, another dreadful performance against the bottom of the Tigers order. An RBI single and a two-run triple made it Tigers 6, Orioles 1, puffing up Akin’s ERA to a very dubious 8.23.
Now staked a 6-1 lead, the Tigers’ Casey Mize had the chance to relax a little bit. But to Orioles hitters’ credit, they made him look fallible tonight. Anthony Santander cranked an authoritative second dinger off Mize in the fourth. That’s how you earn the home-run belt!
2-for-2, 2 HR.— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 11, 2021
Tony over the Tigers. pic.twitter.com/Sqp2XQTkOI
One out later, I was thinking mean things about DJ Stewart at exactly the time he launched a gorgeous dinger of his own. No coincidence, I guess, that the Orioles are leading the AL in home runs per game since the All-Star Break. Now, if only the pitching would cooperate. (Narrator: “It wouldn’t.”)
The Orioles scored one more run off Mize as the Tigers suddenly went all Keystone Cops in the fifth. Cedric Mullins stung a flabby curveball into center and read centerfielder Derek Hill’s bobble perfectly to take an extra base. (The hustle double, by the way, gives Mullins a best-in-the-majors 17-game hit streak.) A wild pitch sent Mullins to third. Ramón Urías hit a 3-2 tapper back to Mize, but the throw spun away from Schoop at first base, allowing Urías to reach second and Mullins to score the Orioles’ fourth run.
For a short while, it seemed like Orioles relievers might finally turn in a good outing. Marcos Diplán showed up in the fourth and threw an extremely sharp two innings, retiring all six Tigers he faced. “Nothing not to like about Diplán so far,” said MASN’s resident Cajun Ben McDonald, right as usual.
Paul Fry also came through in the sixth inning (an early look for him as Brandon Hyde apparently gets creative with reliever placement). Though Fry walked the leadoff batter, giving any remaining O’s viewers conniption fits, a double play wiped the mistake clean, and he drew a swinging strikeout to end the inning, the nasty Fry slider of olde making a reappearance.
The eighth inning has been the bane of the Orioles’ existence over the last week, with 22 runs scored in that inning alone in five games. Make that 24 in six. Adam Plutko turned in a clean seventh before walking the only certain future Hall of Famer on the field ahead of a home run by Jeimer Candelario. A 6-4 deficit feels surmountable; 8-4 in the eighth inning not so much.
The Orioles nearly pulled off a comeback rally in the eighth after a Ramón Urías walk, but Trey Mancini struck out and Santander was robbed of extra bases by an impressive-but-pyrrhic catch by Detroit centerfielder Hill that knocked him and left fielder Akil Baddoo out of the game in a collision that probably caused some broken ribs. Austin Hays singled to put runners on the corners, but DJ Stewart popped out.
Alex Wells threw in an underwhelming ninth, allowing three hits and another run to make it 9-4. Somehow the Orioles led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and a double from Maikel Franco and Jorge Mateo and still came up empty.
It was five minutes to midnight and on the broadcast some cute child in the stands screamed, “Let’s go O’s!” I thought, “Poor little guy. Who keeps their kid at a stinker of a game like this this late?”
Who knows, maybe there’s help for this bullpen on the way. Tyler Wells threw a simulated inning today and should be back soon. Tanner Scott threw in the bullpen, and Hunter Harvey is set to join the Florida Complex League team on a rehab stint, too. Let us hope, because this is getting downright unwatchable.