Akin impresses, Mountcastle mashes in O’s win (updated)

The juggling act in the Orioles rotation has bounced Keegan Akin out of the majors, landed him in the bullpen and got him back into a starting role.

He seems to be handling it with care.

Akin twirled five scoreless innings tonight against the Indians, his only issue an opponent that also wasn’t permitting any runs.

Hunter Harvey replaced him in the sixth and was victimized by Harold Ramírez’s RBI triple, but Ryan Mountcastle hit a two-run homer off Bryan Shaw in the seventh and the Orioles won 3-1 before an announced floppy hat night crowd of 12,009 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles were held to one hit until Mountcastle homered for the third time in four games, and they tied their season high with a three-game winning streak to improve their record to 20-37.

Shaw was the fourth pitcher used by the Indians. He issued a leadoff walk to Anthony Santander and Mountcastle hit a disputed homer with one out after a fielder’s choice and wild pitch. Manager Terry Francona argued that a fan interfered with left fielder Eddie Rosario, who reached over the fence.

“I couldn’t really tell when I hit it, I couldn’t tell if it hit off his glove and came back or hit off a fan or not, but I watched the replay and was pretty sure they were going to keep it a home run, but you never know,” Mountcastle said via Zoom. “I was a little nervous, but it did stand and I was pretty pumped about it.”

The home run was the first of Mountcastle’s career to come on a 1-2 pitch.

“I’ve just been working in the cage, working on stuff, trying to stay through the ball and trying not to do too much out there,” Mountcastle said. “It’s early still and just trying to get some confidence up there and I’m going to do my thing.

“You never know with this game, it’s so hard, but as of right now I’m feeling pretty good and try to keep it rolling.”

Said Akin: “When I got called back up about a month ago, we had just talked a little bit and I just told him, ‘Hey, they make adjustments, too.’ It’s really good to see hm get that confidence back and that swagger back in the box.”

Three straight singles off Nick Wittgren loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth. Santander had a sacrifice fly to pad the lead, Freddy Galvis was walked intentionally to reload the bases and Mountcastle grounded into a double play.

Making his second start and sixth appearance, Akin held the Indians to three hits with one walk and four strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 3.60.

“Five scoreless tonight,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I didn’t feel like really he had his off-speed stuff early, too. I thought he actually got a little bit better as he got a little tired as the game went on. His first few innings took a lot out of him, just a lot of foul balls, a lot of deep counts, but kept pumping strikes. He’s got a lot of confidence with his fastball. Flashed some pretty good sliders and changeups at times, just wasn’t consistent with it and didn’t allow him to get some swings and misses or early contact to last longer. He also was on regular rest. Got a little tired after the fifth, but I was really impressed with how he competed tonight.”

Asked what was working tonight, Akin replied, “I would say staying with the game plan of just attacking with the fastball. Usually, I would say changeup, but that was kind of non-existent tonight for a while. The slider kind of came up big tonight and that seemed to be my off-speed pitch that I had and could throw in any count where I wanted to.”

The rotation has surrendered five runs in the last five games covering 24 innings. Matt Harvey worked on short rest Wednesday and was pulled after three innings, but Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells followed with three scoreless for his first major league win.

Doesn’t count in the starter stats, but impressive nonetheless.

Hunter Harvey’s 2021 debut began with a fly ball on a 98 mph heater, but José Ramírez singled and Harold Ramírez drove a 97 mph fastball to the fence in right-center. The Indians settled for one run, with Harvey getting a ground ball to first baseman Trey Mancini and a called third strike on Owen Miller.

Two batters into his appearance and Harvey showed the Indians his fastball, curve, slider and sinker. The hits came on elevated fastballs.

“It was fun to watch him,” Hyde said. “I know he gave up a run, but he showed really good stuff. Upper 90s fastball with hop. He threw a good curveball in there, a nice slider. ... A bad luck single to put a runner on first base there, but he came back after giving up the (triple) and got a nice punchout, 98 (mph) on the corner. Fun to have him, fun to watch him. Even though he didn’t get the result, giving up run, it was nice getting his feet wet tonight.”

Jean Carlos Mejía made his first start, an opener expanded to three innings. The bullpen was busy in the first, but he kept going.

Wilkerson-Collision-with-Mejia-at-First-Sidebar.jpgStevie Wilkerson led off the third by reaching on an error charged to first baseman Josh Naylor on the flip to Mejía, who missed the bag. Cedric Mullins walked with one out and Mancini grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

DJ Stewart doubled with two outs in the second and Maikel Franco grounded out to conclude a nine-pitch at-bat. Stewart had the only Orioles hit until Mountcastle connected, and he laid down a bunt single later in the seventh.

Phil Maton replaced Mejía in the fourth.

Akin needed nine pitches to retire Amed Rosario on a fly ball after César Hernández singled with one out in the third. José Ramírez reached on a bloop single into left field, but Harold Ramírez grounded into a force.

In his two starts, Akin has allowed only one run in 9 2/3 innings. Opponents have managed five runs in his last four appearances over 15 2/3 innings and he’s struck out 15 batters with four walks.

“I’m happy where I’m at,” Akin said. “Obviously, I was awful in my eyes and I think everybody else’s eyes, as well. It was just a little bit extra motivation to go down there and work my butt off and try to get back up here. Ultimate goal to be in the rotation and here I am. Just got to take it day by day and outing by outing and go from there.”

The Indians were done in the fourth after only 12 pitches from Akin, who retired the side in order to leave his count at 77. Akin threw nine pitches in the fifth and came within one-third of an inning of tying his career high set on Sept. 5, 2020 versus the Yankees.

Cole Sulser stranded a runner on second base in the seventh by striking out Hernández and picked up the win after registering a save to snap the 14-game losing streak. Tanner Scott struck out the side in the eighth on 10 pitches and Paul Fry stranded two runners to notch his second save.

“I’ve been trying to do that (with Fry) for about three weeks and we hadn’t got to that spot with a lead there in the ninth in a save-type situation,” Hyde said.

Note: Second baseman Jahmai Jones went 2-for-2 tonight for Single-A Aberdeen on his injury rehab assignment. Jones is on the injured list with a strained oblique and should rejoin Triple-A Norfolk next week.

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