As the Orioles keep piling more players on their injured lists and going day-to-day with others who are ailing, they cherish every individual who stays in the lineup or rotation and seems determined to finish strong.
Keegan Akin, a couple starts removed from his six no-hit innings, shut out the Phillies over 5 1/3 and struck out six batters before Eric Hanhold replaced him. Austin Hays retained ownership of the month of September, his scorching bat producing a run-scoring double in the sixth inning that broke a scoreless tie.
Positive moments tend to be fleeting for the Orioles, who reach for the ones that can be held for much longer.
Hanhold inherited a runner from Akin in the sixth, retired last night’s 10th-inning hero, J.T. Realmuto, on a fly ball and surrendered a two-run homer to Andrew McCutchen that briefly spun the game in the Phillies’ favor. Richie Martin scored the tying in the seventh on pinch-hitter Trey Mancini’s ground ball, but Conner Greene permitted two runs in the bottom half on Jean Segura’s sacrifice fly and Realmuto’s single, and the Orioles lost 4-3 at Citizens Bank Park.
McCutchen got ahead 2-0 in the count and hammered a 95.4 mph fastball. Reliever Sam Coonrod handled the lead as if it were in flames, but Greene followed last night’s opener assignment by allowing a leadoff single to Matt Vierling and double to pinch-hitter Brad Miller.
Segura’s fly ball to center field with one out scored Vierling, Bryce Harper drew an intentional walk and Realmuto made the Orioles pay again.
Pedro Severino had an RBI double off Cam Bedrosian in the eighth, but he was thrown out at the plate on Pat Valaika’s single into right field. The Orioles stranded two in the ninth and lost for the 11th time in 14 games to lower their record to 48-104 overall, 25-53 on the road and 6-5 in rubber games.
Brooks Kriske replaced Greene and became the 60th player used by the Orioles in 2021. He retired McCutchen on a popup.
“It was weird,” said Kriske, who’s named after Brooks Robinson, the Hall of Famer and now a family friend. “The Yankees were all I knew for the last five or six years. Obviously, I’m grateful for this opportunity and it’s another storied franchise and I’m just looking to do anything I can to help the team win and build for the future.”
Akin allowed five hits and walked only one batter, and the run that scored while he was in the dugout left his ERA at 6.63.
“I thought Keegan got a lot better after the first couple innings,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I thought his off-speed stuff really improved and that got him through, for me, the third, fourth and fifth innings, throwing some better sliders and better changeups.”
Asked how he can even out his starts and avoid the poor showings, Akin replied, “Just stick with the good work in the bullpens and stay committed to that. Just go out there and grind through five or six innings and finish strong.”
Ryan Mountcastle walked with one out in the sixth and Hays followed with his double off Zack Wheeler. Hays reached third base on the throw home, but Severino and Ryan McKenna took called third strikes.
The Orioles settled for the slimmest of leads and it was placed in immediate jeopardy with Harper’s one-out single in the bottom half of the inning. Hanhold, an instant high-leverage reliever since the Orioles selected his contract from Triple-A Norfolk, was pitching on back-to-back nights after retiring the only batter he faced Tuesday. He hadn’t allowed a run in four straight appearances.
Mancini batted for Hanhold in the seventh inning after Martin singled off Coonrod with one out and Kelvin Gutiérrez walked. A wild pitch moved up the runners and Mancini’s grounder to short tied the game.
Hays had an RBI double last night in the 10th inning. He’s hit safely in 18 of 20 games this month and reached base in 19 of 20.
The night began with Hays sporting a .349 on-base percentage and .645 slugging with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 19 September games.
Bedrosian walked him with one out in the eighth, Realmuto committed a passed ball and Severino poked a double down the right field line to reduce the lead to 4-3. Valaika singled, but Harper made a perfect throw to the plate and Severino, playing with a sore leg, never touched it.
Jahmai Jones could have run for Severino, but was used as a pinch-hitter for Fernando Abad with two outs in the ninth - a thin bench handcuffing the club. Jones walked on eight pitches from Ian Kennedy and Cedric Mullins walked on five, but Mountcastle flied out.
Mullins didn’t hit his 30th home run, but he tripled into the right field corner with two outs in the third inning for his 70th extra-base hit. Mountcastle struck out to keep the game scoreless.
Wheeler began the night with 14 wins, a 2.83 ERA and 1.018 WHIP in 30 starts. He led the National League with 231 strikeouts and the majors with 200 1/3 innings, and was tied for the NL lead with three complete games. His two shutouts were tied for most in the majors.
McKenna walked with one out in the second inning and raced to third base on Valaika’s single. Martin, likely to get more starts with Ramón Urías on the injured list, bounced into a 1-4-3 double play.
Gutiérrez singled with two outs in the fifth inning and Akin, in his only his second professional at-bat, struck out with the count full.
Just working Wheeler for six pitches entertained the visiting dugout.
“I was a little excited and then I found out it was Wheeler,” Akin said. “Ninety-eight, I didn’t really want much to do with that. It’s been eight or nine years since I’ve seen a baseball come at me in the box, so it was interesting, to say the least.”
Wheeler had seven strikeouts through the fifth. He was removed after the sixth with one run, four hits and nine strikeouts.
“I’m disappointed that we have a couple winnable games here the last two games,” Hyde said.
“I’d like to give our guys credit for playing a postseason contender in kind of the situation we’re in roster-wise and how beat up we are and we’re playing a lot of guys that haven’t played in the big leagues hardly at all. I thought we pitched well. We made a couple mistakes out of the bullpen tonight, but for the most part for three days we pitched pretty much the best we pitched since the beginning of the year. So I’m taking that as a positive and we hung in there with a good team over here with a big payroll. And we’re scraping right now, we’re limping in.”
As expected, Hyde will return in 2022, which The Athletic confirmed tonight
“I can’t comment on my contract status,” he said, “but I’m very excited to come back.”
Notes: Bowie lost to Akron 8-5 in Game 2 of the Double-A Northeast Championship Series.
Grayson Rodriguez lasted only 2 2/3 innings and allowed six runs (five earned) and six hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He also committed a throwing error. David Lebron allowed one run and struck out six batters in 4 1/3 innings.
Gunnar Henderson hit a solo home run in the second inning.
A scoring change in Friday night’s game in Boston has removed an error from Mountcastle and awarded a single to J.D. Martinez. Spenser Watkins is charged with another hit.