Somewhere around the third inning, MASN announcer Scott Garceau says to fellow announcer Ben McDonald, “I think we kinda flipped the script from Game 1 to Game 2, Ben.” A horrified Ben replies to Scott: “You had to say that, didn’t you.”
Scott Garceau was right. In Game 1, balls were flying out of the yard as Toronto ace Hyun-Jin Ryu suddenly looked like a sitting duck and Ryan McKenna suddenly looked like a slugger. Then in Game 2, the score was 0-0 for the almost half the game and the Blue Jays bats were silent.
But seriously, even the master of the unintentional spoonerism, the king of the faux pas himself should know the iron rule of baseball, right? You don’t talk about no-hitters when you’re in the middle of one!
So then like clockwork, Keegan Akin tosses six no-hit innings, comes out for the seventh (which remember, is more like the ninth inning under the new doubleheader rules), and then the first two Blue Jays hitters go and do this: single (their first hit of the game), two-run home run (their first lead of the game).
But it gets worse. A single later, Akin is lifted for Tanner Scott, who allows a two-run home run, two singles, a sac fly, a single, a three-run home run, and a single. Six earned runs, all by himself. Then Manny Barreda comes in and gives up a three-home run of his own before finally bringing a miserable eleven-run inning to a close.
Given my options, I blame Scott Garceau.
Let’s focus on the positives, because after all, we’re Orioles fans and what else are we going to do? Keegan Akin, the same pitcher who had an 8.23 ERA in 16 starts this season, was dominant tonight: he retired 15 Jays in a row at one point and didn’t allow a hit for six innings. The Blue Jays have one of the best offenses in baseball right now, and basically, there was no hard contact until the last inning of the game.
It wasn’t the Blue Jays looking bad, either. It was Akin looking good. In a breezy second inning he drew a 52-mph tapper, a decisive whiff of catcher Alejandro Kirk, and got a groundout on a nifty spinning field-and-throw play from third baseman Kelvin Gutiérrez, whom I am enjoying watching out there at third base more and more. Akin’s three-up, three-down fourth inning was another highlight: he sat down in order Marcus Semien, Vlad Guerrero, Jr., and Bo Bichette without much of a struggle. Those are good names.
What’s the difference between the bad Keegan Akin and the good Akin that’s replaced him in the lineup ever since? “Landing his offspeed pitches” is Ben McDonald’s theory, and I see it. Akin used his offspeed pitches to his advantage all game. For instance, he landed a sharp curveball to onetime Oriole killer Randal Grichuk, then blew him away with a fastball. He buried a 2-0 changeup to George Springer, hit the inside corner with a fastball, then froze him like a statue for the third out.
Akin also looks good when he locates his fastball at the top of the zone to draw whiffs and weak contact, which he did tonight, as well. It’s not a powerful fastball, but up in the zone, it looks extremely hard to hit. Said McDonald: “There must be some extra life on Keegan Akin’s fastball tonight.”
At least, for six innings.
But please don’t blame Akin for this loss. It was 1-0 Orioles for most of the game, thanks entirely due to Cedric Mullins being awesome. In the third inning, Mullins ended the scoreless pitchers’ duel by blasting an 0-2 fastball onto the flag court for his 29th home run of the year. High-fiving Mullins on his way into the dugout, Brandon Hyde looked like a proud papa trying to hide a smile.
Unfortunately, as good as the Orioles’ hitting approach was in Game 1, failing to take advantage of a wild, inexperienced pitcher in Game 2 was an unforced error. In literally his third MLB start, Thomas Hatch showed nice stuff. But his wildness was evident all game and the O’s did not cash in.
In the first, Trey Mancini got plunked in the ribs and got stranded. In the second, DJ Stewart singled and Gutiérrez drew a walk from Hatch, none of whose pitches were close to the strike zone. “Right now, Hatch is all over the place,” summarized Ben McDonald. Still nothing.
After the Mullins home run, Mancini and Anthony Santander strung together loud consecutive hits for a second-and-third, no-outs opportunity. Thomas Hatch, it has to be said, made some big-time two-strike pitches to get out of trouble. But this has happened too often to this Orioles team to be an accident.
Even with those missed opportunities, this one really looked to be in the bag for the Orioles headed into the seventh and final inning. Until it didn’t, and instead became a really embarrassing loss. I guess O’s hitters deserve a little credit for plating a useless second run at that point on a Richie Martin double and Cedric Mullins reaching on an error. Meh, shrugsies.
What a Saturday. First the Orioles fritter away a 10-8 lead with one out to go in Game 1, then they take a six-inning no-hitter in Game 2 and turn it into an 11-2 ass-whupping. They gave up an astonishing 22 runs in fourteen innings of baseball. Kind of leaves you at a loss for words.
Well, as Ben McDonald says, baseball is a great game because you quickly turn the page and do it again tomorrow. I hope Orioles fans have thick skin and a short memory. Sheesh.