There are a few goals remaining for the Orioles as they fall out of the playoff race. Keep trying to win as many games as possible and have players and a couple of young starters leave on a high note.
One more week of evaluations and providing opportunities to gain valuable experience. To get a bigger jump on spring training and the 2021 season.
Work in the field will be judged, as well. Including miscues that sabotage a young starter’s work.
The Orioles committed two errors in the second inning that led to three Red Sox runs and the disappearance of an early lead, and finished the night with three in an 8-3 loss at Fenway Park.
Christian Vázquez hit a three-run homer off Evan Phillips in the sixth inning to break open the game. Phillips walked off the field with assistant athletic trainer Mark Shires after throwing a slider to Jackie Bradley Jr., apparently sustaining an injury to his right arm.
Catcher Pedro Severino rose out of his crouch and motioned to the dugout as Phillips turned his back to the plate. Phillips rehabbed an elbow injury during the shutdown and had struck out eight batters in his last two appearances over 3 1/3 innings while lowering his ERA to 3.14.
Akin allowed two earned runs and four total in four innings and the Orioles fell to 23-32, leaving them two games ahead of the last-place Red Sox in the American League East. The playoff dream is dead.
Renato Núñez led off the sixth inning against reliever Marcus Walden with his second home run since Sept. 4. Michael Chavis misplayed a couple of balls in left field, including Rio Ruiz’s double, and the lead was cut to 4-3. Ryan Weber stranded two runners.
DJ Stewart hasn’t homered in his last eight games, but his run-scoring single in the first inning after two Nick Pivetta walks gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
It vanished in the second after another Ruiz throwing error.
Ruiz’s defensive slump is one of the bigger curiosities of the season. The Orioles missed his reliability at the corner when he was sidelined, a point made multiple times by manger Brandon Hyde, but he’s been inaccurate with his throws on the run and with feet planted.
The Red Sox put two runners on base with no outs in the second and Bobby Dalbec followed with an RBI double. Bradley moved to third base and came home on Chavis’ fly ball.
Jonathan Araúz struck out and Alex Verdugo flied to shallow left field, where Stewart charged the ball and dropped it to give Boston a 3-1 lead.
Two runs were unearned and Akin’s pitch count swelled to 52.
Stewart had a few difficulties in right field during the last homestand. He moved to left last night because Austin Hays was needed to cover the more expansive ground in right.
An abundance of outfield candidates next spring, including the returns of Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander, applies more pressure on a player like Stewart, who endured another optioning this summer and is fighting to stay on the roster.
Akin didn’t walk a batter and struck out six in four innings. His low 90s fastball again eluding bats or freezing hitters, as it did while he recorded nine strikeouts in his previous start.
“If you look at the tempo of his delivery and kind of his arm slot and how his arm works, it’s just real quick,” Hyde said earlier today in a Zoom conference call with the media.
“I think you heard the Braves guys talk about it after the game where he might have been throwing 92 (mph), but it felt like 100, and it’s just the way his arm works and the tempo of his delivery and how quick his arm is. And the ball’s got a ton of ride. The ball stays in the air a long time and you can see that from the dugout.
“The velos do surprise you on the board because it does feel harder and looks harder than the velos show. That’s the science part of it. I just know it’s a quick arm and it’s a quick delivery. It’s a short arm slot and the ball really gets on guys.”
The Red Sox increased the lead to 4-1 with three singles in the third inning, the last by Dalbec scoring Xander Bogaerts. The put runners on the corners with no outs in the fourth on two more singles, but Severino picked off Araúz at third base and Rafael Devers struck out for a third time.
Pivetta was making his Red Sox debut after registering a 15.88 ERA in three relief appearances with the Phillies. He held the Orioles to one run and struck out eight batters in five innings.
Phillips inherited a runner from Paul Fry with two outs in the sixth and surrendered an RBI single to Martinez after walking Bogaerts on four pitches. Vázquez followed with a shot over the Green Monster and Phillips left the game with the count full to Bradley.
The Red Sox put the leadoff hitter on base in the first seven innings. The Orioles loaded them in the ninth and didn’t score.
Hyde on Phillips: “Evan came out with some elbow soreness and so he’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow.”
Hyde on Akin: “I thought he threw the ball OK. We didn’t play very good defense again behind him and that really hurt him. A couple routine plays that weren’t made, a lot more traffic, caused a big inning there, the long inning. I felt like he was a little too quick. He was kind of rushing through his delivery at times, but I love his competitiveness, I love how aggressive he is. I think he’s just going to get better and better. This wasn’t his best start, but I thought he was really competitive and we just didn’t help him behind him.”
Hyde on defense hurting Akin: “We’ve got to catch the ball behind him. That doesn’t help him out. That inning was right around 30 pitches because of a couple misplays. That’s huge. You’ve got to be able to play defense in this league, you’ve got to be able to make the routine play, and in a couple of his starts we just haven’t been able to do that. Hurt him tonight from a pitch count standpoint. I think he’s going to be fine. I really do. I think Keegan’s going to continue to get better. I think his secondary stuff is going to continue to improve. I love the life to his fastball, I love how aggressive he is with it. You’re going to see starts going forward the next couple years where he’s 70 pitches into the seventh inning just because of his aggressiveness in the strike zone and we’re playing major league defense behind him.”
Akin on long innings: “You never want to have a long inning like that. It’s tough. You try to make the most out of it and try to get out of it as quick as you can and minimize the damage. Obviously a tough second inning, but I was able to bounce back.”
Akin on evaluating himself this summer: “I’ve been pretty happy with it, to be honest with you. Not the way I wanted to end it. I hope I get one more crack at it Sunday. But looking back at it, my evaluation of it is I’m pretty happy where I am right now.”
Stewart on what he needs to improve: “Everything. I want to be more consistent with the bats. Obviously, I was hot a couple weeks ago, had a few hits tonight. But just try to eliminate those long periods of time without hits and getting on base and stuff like that. Obviously, defense has always been a priority of mine. Tonight wasn’t a good night for me, but come out tomorrow and practice before the game.”