The Orioles had their brief moment this afternoon. The early rally, the hit with a runner in scoring position, a lead against the Red Sox.
Keegan Akin took his turn on the mound in the bottom of the first inning and surrendered a three-run homer to J.D. Martinez among his 22 pitches.
The next three innings saw Akin bend but not break, keeping the Orioles in the game, unsure whether it keeps him in the rotation. But the losing streak is rolling into St. Petersburg, Fla., for the next stop on the road trip.
Getting no favors or consistency from plate umpire Greg Gibson, the Orioles allowed three runs in the sixth inning after Fernando Abad loaded the bases in his debut with the club, and the Red Sox won 6-2 to complete the sweep at Fenway Park.
The Orioles have dropped 11 in a row and are 38-78 after being swept for the 14th time. They were outscored 30-5 in the series and 104-34 during the latest skid.
“It’s tough, you never want to go on an 11-game losing streak,” Akin said, “but I have faith we’re going to turn it around and grind it out and figure it out.”
Cedric Mullins’ hitting streak ended at 20 games, the longest active in the majors. He struck out in the first to leave him with 41 hits in the inning, 11 short of the club record set by Nick Markakis in 2007. Markakis also is second on the list with 51 in 2014.
The Orioles were 0-for-11 in the series with runners in scoring position and 0-for-34 in the last five games, but Anthony Santander singled in the first inning after Austin Hays walked and Trey Mancini singled. Hays held at third base and raced home on Martinez’s throwing error.
Akin got a double play after Kiké Hernández’s leadoff walk. Xander Bogaerts singled after Gibson squeezed Akin with two strikes, Rafael Devers walked, the runners moved up on a wild pitch and Martinez hit his 23rd home run.
A one-out walk to Bogaerts in the third led to more trouble, but Akin handled it. Devers doubled, the Orioles walked Martinez intentionally to load the bases, Kyle Schwarber flied to shallow right field and Bobby Dalbec struck out on Akin’s 61st pitch of the day.
Akin stranded a runner in the bottom half with his pitch count at 77, including 50 strikes. Manager Brandon Hyde removed him after three runs and six hits, with three walks, two strikeouts and a wild pitch. The rookie’s ERA is 8.13, a modest improvement from 8.23 to start the day, and he’s winless in seven decisions.
“That was encouraging,” Hyde said. “Got his pitch count up a little bit. Thought the second, third and fourth were good. Just made some center-cut pitches there in the first inning and then with a base open there to Martinez, a slider behind in the count really can’t happen with Schwarber on deck. Unfortunately, a three-run homer. And we played from behind again today.”
“I would say OK,” Akin said. “A little better than the last couple starts, but still got to get better going deeper in the game. Just got to bounce back and be a little better next outing.”
The rotation remained intact because Bruce Zimmermann sprained his ankle and couldn’t be reinstated from the injured list. Now he’s on the 60-day IL, still eligible to return at any time but not certain to pitch again in 2021. Hyde did a little hedging earlier today, but the club is hopeful.
Today marked the latest in a long series of bullpen makeovers, with the Orioles selecting the contracts of Abad and Konner Wade from Triple-A Norfolk and making the predictable moves of designating Adam Plutko for assignment and optioning Dusten Knight.
Plutko is out of minor league options and chances with the Orioles. His first month with the club offered a lot of promise, but he went into a rapid decline, lacking the command and movement on his pitches that made him so effective and surrendering home runs at an alarming rate.
Abad became the 53rd player used by the Orioles this season, entering in the sixth inning for his first appearance in the majors since Sept. 28, 2019 and leaving with the bases loaded and one out. Gibson wasn’t eager to give him any strikes, either.
Tanner Scott replaced Abad, who allowed a double to Schwarber, walked two batters and vented about Gibson’s strike zone in the dugout. Hernández’s liner struck the shin of third base umpire Will Little for an RBI single, Hunter Renfroe walked to force in a run and Christian Vázquez scored on a fielder’s choice grounder for a 6-1 lead.
Marcos Diplán retired the side in order in the fifth and hasn’t allowed a hit or run in his first four outings over 6 1/3 innings. Wade tossed two scoreless innings.
“It’s what it is for us this year, kind of a revolving door a little bit from our pitching standpoint,” Hyde said this morning. “Hoping that guys come in and throw well, but we’ve had our struggles and hopefully we can start pitching better the last six weeks.”
It’s imperative or losing streaks are going to keep wrapping themselves around the club.
The Orioles began the day ranked last in the majors with a 5.77 staff ERA. They also were last in 2019, the most recent full season, with a 5.59 ERA. This year’s bullpen, which showed signs of being a strength, is last at 5.40 and has thrown the third-most innings with 468 1/3.
Ramón Urías, back in the lineup, drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and was stranded, with the Orioles seeing only three more pitches. Ryan McKenna laid down a bunt with one out but got the ball too close to the mound.
Pedro Severino thought he homered inside the Pesky Pole in the seventh, was called back to the plate and hit by an Adam Ottavino pitch. Ottavino threw two wild pitches and was nailed on the right arm by Jorge Mateo’s 105 mph liner to score Severino.
Mullins popped up with runners on the corners and Hays grounded out.
Mullins batted again with two runners on base and two outs in the ninth after Jorge Mateo singled for his second hit of the game, and he flied out.
Former Orioles farmhand Eduardo Rodriguez held the Orioles to an unearned run and three hits with six strikeouts in six innings. The Red Sox have won his last 10 starts against them.
“I just see how much better we have to get in our strike zone discipline,” Hyde said. You watch them (and) compared to us, they’re hitters and they’re more experienced. They have a bunch of guys who have been in the postseason and have won a lot of games. But there’s just a level of understanding the strike zone and understanding what the pitcher is trying to do and not chase, not let pitchers off the hook. They got squeezed, there’s no doubt about it, but they weren’t swinging on balls on the edges and were continuing to get them. And we just have a tough time having innings like that because we are in swing mode and good pitchers can pitch to that.”
Zach Watson hit his seventh home run to break a 5-5 tie in the fifth.