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O’s offense sputters, bullpen blows lead in 4-3 loss to Phillies

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Keegan Akin was terrific, but his bullpen could not hold a lead, and his offense didn’t provide much support.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles made it exciting, but ultimately could not put up enough offense or hold a late lead, falling 4-3 to the Phillies in the team’s interleague finale for the 2021 season.

It was a bit of an imperfect pitcher’s duel through the game’s first five innings. Both starters were allowing baserunners, but the game remained scoreless. Baltimore’s Keegan Akin stumbled through Philadelphia’s batting order the first time, scattering a slew of singles. While potential Cy Young candidate Zach Wheeler tip toed around some trouble of his own. The two hurlers would leave the game with similarly stellar lines.

Akin departed in the middle of the sixth inning after allowing a one-out base hit. That hit turned into an earned run when reliever Eric Hanhold came on and served up a two-run bomb to Andrew McCutchen.

Wheeler made it through the sixth inning, but no further. His lone blemish was an Austin Hays double, which scored Ryan Mountcastle, who had walked moments prior.

From there it was a battle of bullpens that both had some trouble. The O’s scrapped across a tying run in the top of the seventh as Richie Martin singled, moved to second on a walk, and then scored on Trey Mancini’s ground out.

But the knotted score would not last long as Conner Greene struggled in the seventh inning. Matt Vierling led off with a single and meandered over to third on a Brad Miller double. Vierling scored on a Jean Segura sacrifice fly, and Miller did the same on a J.T. Realmuto single to make it 4-2 Phillies.

The Orioles would not go down quietly, however. They cut the lead in half with a Pedro Severino double in the eighth inning to bring home Hays, who had reached on a walk and gotten into scoring position on a passed ball by Realmuto.

Baltimore threatened again in the ninth inning against Philadelphia closer Ian Kennedy. Jahmai Jones and Cedric Mullins worked back-to-back, two-out walks ahead of Ryan Mountcastle. The slugging rookie made the veteran Kennedy work, though, throwing eight pitches in the at-bat. But the pitcher prevailed as Mountcastle flew out to deep right field, concluding a tough loss for the Birds.

The most important take away from this game was that Akin was good, which has been a more common occurence in the second half of this season. It’s unclear if the lefty will be a starter long term, but he has proven to be a capable major league-caliber pitcher, and that’s something. The Orioles need the pitching staff to be better next year. Akin being reliable would play a huge role in making that a reality.

Greene’s tough night is disappointing, but it’s something that is bound to happen to a reliever, especially a rookie. The Orioles should continue to pitch him in important spots, when possible, and see how he responds. It would be a huge boost if he could prove to be a viable middle reliever for this team in 2022.

The offense, in general, had a tough night. They had plenty of base runners, but struggled to string hits together, as evidenced by their 2-for-10 batting line with runners in scoring position. They can be forgiven a bit for many of those at-bats coming against Wheeler.

The Orioles will need to take their spoiler hat off for a few days as they head back to the Charm City to take on the woeful Rangers, kicking off the final homestand of the season. Rookie lefty Zac Lowther (0-2, 9.61 ERA) is going to get another turn for the O’s. He will be opposed by righty Glenn Otto (0-2, 9.37 ERA). First pitch is slated for the ever-reliable time of 7:05 from Camden Yards.