Hays’ homer can’t hold back 100th loss (updated)

BOSTON - They didn’t look like the Red Sox tonight. The yellow jerseys and powder blue caps. Promotional uniforms from Nike, also featured by six other clubs.

Couldn’t fool the Orioles, though.

They knew which team was running up Keegan Akin’s pitch count early, wrestling away a lead and preparing to hand them a 100th loss in 2021.

Four of the first five hits off Akin were for extra bases, including Bobby Dalbec’s leadoff home run in the fourth, left-hander Chris Sale marked his return from the COVID-19 list by retiring 12 of his last 13 batters and the Red Sox defeated the Orioles 7-1 at damp and chilly Fenway Park.

A night after the bullpen tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings, Dusten Knight loaded the bases in the sixth and Hunter Renfroe cleared them with a double.

Thumbnail image for Akin-Throws-Black-Debut-Sidebar.jpgAkin fell behind 2-1 in the second inning while throwing 27 pitches to run his count to 52. Christian Vázquez doubled with one out, Alex Verdugo singled and former Orioles shortstop José Iglesias fouled off five straight pitches and lined an RBI double into right field. Verdugo scored on Kiké Hernández’s sacrifice fly.

Dalbec reached the seats above the Green Monster in the fourth for a 3-1 lead. A leadoff walk to Renfroe in the fifth brought manager Brandon Hyde out of the dugout, and J.D. Martinez sliced a two-out, run-scoring double to right field off Marcos Diplán.

“Just a really tough time putting away their hitters,” Hyde said. “Pitched into the fifth, but no strikeouts, a lot of foul balls wars, just wasn’t sharp tonight. The off-speed stuff, he had trouble landing it. He got to two strikes on a lot of hitters but he didn’t have the weapons to put guys away with tonight.”

Akin was charged with four runs and six hits with three walks and no strikeouts. He threw 88 pitches.

A disappointing regression after some impressive starts.

“I felt like I battled a command issue all night,” Akin said. “I was throwing strikes, but I felt like they weren’t quality strikes. Putting guys away, just struggled to put the ball where I wanted to tonight, and that was kind of the life story of those four innings.”

Austin Hays led off the second inning with his 21st home run and seventh this month, the ball slamming off the base of the light tower above the Green Monster. He hit six homers in 50 games combined in July and August.

Hays has belted five homers in his last seven games. To mix it up a little, he bounced a ball into left field yesterday in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Orioles a walk-off win over the Yankees.

There’s something about September that fuels Hays, and he’s running hot again.

Hays went 21-for-68 (.309) with six doubles and four home runs in September 2019 and 20-for-53 (.377) with three homers in the final month last summer.

“He’s had a great month and really happy with the progress he’s making,” Hyde said. “He’s always had the ability, and now he’s playing every day and facing AL East pitching. He’s made some adjustments throughout the year, taking really good at-bats.”

“Hays will run through a wall for you,” Akin said. “He plays the game hard, the right way, and nice to have him in the outfield every day.”

Sale retired 11 in a row after Hays’ home run. He hit Ryan McKenna with two outs in the fifth, retired Pat Valaika on a fly ball and was done.

The Orioles (47-100) didn’t record another hit until Ramón Urías singled off Hirokazu Sawamura with two outs in the seventh.

“It was not a great night for us,” Hyde said. “It was pretty empty, offensively, for us.”

Akin didn’t allow a hit to the Blue Jays for six innings in the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader. He made it through three batters tonight before Rafael Devers doubled, with Xander Bogaerts holding at third base following his walk. Martinez popped up on Akin’s 25th pitch.

Of course, as if mandated, Akin retired the side in order on 11 pitches in the third inning. Never seems to fail.

The fourth was another burden to Akin. He threw 20 pitches, Dalbec homered, and an infield hit and walk could have led to a much bigger inning except Hernández lined into a double play. The latest hard-hit ball from the Red Sox.

Knight, recalled this afternoon, allowed back-to-back singles to open the sixth and a walk loaded the bases. Cedric Mullins made a diving attempt on Renfroe’s line drive and the ball rolled to the wall.

Eric Hanhold replaced Knight, got Renfroe in a rundown after snaring Bogaerts’ comebacker and struck out Devers on a 95 mph fastball.

The Red Sox put runners on second and third with no outs in the seventh on Ryan Mountcastle’s error, a walk and wild pitch, but Spenser Watkins escaped the jam. Watkins attached a scoreless eighth to his line.

Mullins led off the first inning with his 166th hit of the season and was erased on Mountcastle’s double play grounder. He broke for second as Mountcastle fouled off a pitch, eyeing his 29th stolen base to go along with 29 home runs.

The Orioles ended the night with a round number for losses.

“I don’t think it’s really on the top of our minds right now,” Akin said. “We get here every day and take care of business and go out and play. No one’s really talking about it. I didn’t find out until after I came out of the game that it could have been the 100th loss when I was in the clubhouse. Everybody comes here and it’s not really the priority. Just try to finish strong.”

“It’s been a tough year, we haven’t won many games,” Hyde said. “It’s been a tough year in a lot of ways. Hopefully, moving forward we’re going to win more games than we’ve won this year.”

Notes: Triple-A Norfolk’s Kyle Bradish held Jacksonville to an unearned run and four hits in five innings. He walked none and struck out eight.

Paul Fry retired all three batters he faced and struck out two. Brooks Kriske did the same. Rylan Bannon hit his 15th home run and Kyle Stowers had a walk-off single in the 10th.

Double-A Bowie’s Drew Rom tossed five perfect innings with seven strikeouts in a 3-1 victory over Altoona. Patrick Dorrian hit his 21st home run. Jordan Westburg doubled and scored a run.

Single-A Aberdeen’s Zach Peek tossed five scoreless innings with two hits, two walks and six strikeouts. TT Bowens hit his fourth home run.

Coby Mayo homered and had a three-run double as part of a 3-for-5 night with Single-A Delmarva. Jacob Teter hit a two-run homer, Colton Cowser had three hits and three RBIs and the Shorebirds cruised to a 13-4 win over Salem.

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