Hyun Jin Ryu was rolling, piling up the outs while keeping the Orioles off the bases, and it was starting to feel like one of those nights that seem to happen a lot more to Baltimore than anyone else these days.
And then, just like that, the O’s bats came to life.
Ramon Urias had the big hit during a game-deciding three-run rally in the sixth, Keegan Akin delivered a fine start that Jorge Lopez, Tyler Wells and Cole Sulser capably finished off, and the Orioles came away with a 4-2 win over the hard-hitting Blue Jays in Toronto.
The Orioles have had so many losses this season that seemed to be their night for all but the last few innings. This was the opposite. This seemed to be Hyun Jin Ryu’s night, as the lefty hurler with the 3-0 record and sub-3.00 ERA against Baltimore was pitching his shiniest gem yet with five no-hit innings to start, and then two quick outs to commence the sixth.
And then the Orioles found some two-out toughness. Ryan Mountcastle inside-outted a hit down the right field line for a double, breaking up Ryu’s no-hit bid. The next batter, Austin Hays, rapped a hard-hit single up the middle that eluded the glove of Marcus Semien, allowing Mountcastle to score and tie the game at 1.
The Birds - the orange and black ones - weren’t done. Anthony Santander walked on four pitches, and Urias ripped a line drive down the left field line that kept rolling for a double. Hays scored easily, and Santander beat the relay in for a second run that made it 3-1 and chased Ryu moments after he moved 13 outs away from a no-hitter.
Baltimore put a number on the board again in the seventh. Jorge Mateo drew a leadoff walk, and after Toronto retired Ryan McKenna, Mateo went to third when Adam Cimber threw wildly in a pickoff attempt. Jahmai Jones was up next, and after working the count to 3-1, Jones was given a difficult break when a pitch off the inside part of the plate by nearly a foot was nevertheless called strike two.
No matter. Jones came through with a soft single to center, allowing Mateo to score easily and make the score 4-2.
That score ended up standing, but after the Orioles took the lead, Toronto didn’t let them turn it into a win easily. After Baltimore went ahead, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who had flown out to the warning track in the first and third innings, hit maybe the most predictable home run of all time, greeting reliever Jorge Lopez with a 377-foot home run to right field that made it 3-2.
Lopez steadied from there, but the Blue Jays tried again to fight back in the seventh. Corey Dickerson hit a one-out single, and after a fielder’s choice that left George Springer at first, Semien hit a single to left that made for the terrifying reality of putting the tying run on base for Guerrero.
That spelled an end to Lopez’s night, but Wells was up for the task, needing one pitch to get Guerrero to fly to center to end the inning. In the eighth, Hernandez singled with one out, but Wells prevented any more damage from coming to maintain the lead. And in the ninth, Sulser pitched a 1-2-3 inning to end it.
The bullpen came through, but the lion’s share of the credit belongs with the first pitcher of the night. Keegan Akin was excellent, showing superb command and pitching around every threat Toronto threw at him. He struck out five in five innings of one-run ball - a Danny Jansen home run in the third was the lone blemish - and allowed only two hits.
Akin looked just the way people hoped he would when he was climbing the ladder as one of the top prospects in the Orioles system, and given that it came on the heels of the seven innings of one-run ball he pitched in his last start against the Angels, it looks like the 26-year-old may have turned a corner and figured some things out after seeing his ERA climb over 8. It’s certainly as optimistic a picture for Akin as he’s ever had at the major league level.
It’s nice to see these games where all phases click and help each other out. These games haven’t happened often for Baltimore this year, but that doesn’t make them less enjoyable when one unfolds right before our eyes.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Sept. 4, 2021?
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Chris Ellis (5 IP, 3 BB, 0 R, 0 H, 2 K)
Cedric Mullins (2-for-5, heads up run scored)
Trey Mancini (3-for-3, 2 BB, R)
Cole Sulser (1.1 IP, shutdown ninth, W)
Pedro Severino (1-for-4, 2B, go-ahead sac fly)