BALTIMORE—Keegan Akin was overpowering in his five innings, earning his first major league win and leading the Orioles to a series victory over a quality offensive club.
Akin was so strong that he struck out nine batters, including six in a row at one point, as the Orioles defeated the Atlanta Braves, 5-1, on Wednesday night at Camden Yards.
The Orioles took two of three against the Braves, who lead the National League East. The Orioles’ record is 22-27 with 11 games to play.
Akin rebounded from a difficult outing at Yankee Stadium last Saturday when he was pulled after throwing just 39 pitches to seven batters and recording two outs.
“After last week’s start, it was crucial for me to bounce back and get all my pitches working early to get my rhythm to carry that momentum deep into the game,” Akin said on a video conference call.
With two on and two out in the first, Akin struck out Dansby Swanson.In the second, Akin fanned Adam Duvall, Austin Riley and Tyler Flowers. He began the third by striking out Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna.
“I’m a big tempo guy on the mound,” Akin said. “When I get in a rhythm, I like to stay in it and go, just go, go, go. I didn’t even know I struck out six until you just told me. You just kind of zone in. It’s a blur, really, and you go.”
Akin gave up singles to Travis d’Arnaud in the first, and Riley and Albies in the fifth. He walked Freddie Freeman in the first.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Akin was the first Oriole pitcher to strike out six in a row since John Wasdin, last year’s bullpen coach, did it on September 30, 2001 at Yankee Stadium. Sammy Stewart holds the club record with seven straight on September 1, 1978 against the Chicago White Sox.
“I just love the aggressiveness in his attack,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That’s a really good lineup to go five innings scoreless against, a lot of veteran hitters, a lot of talented young players, also. To do what he did was impressive.”
After 93 pitches, Dillon Tate relieved Akin in the sixth. Freeman led off with a single, moved to second on a passed ball, to third on an infield out and scored on a balk.
Hunter Harvey, Tanner Scott and César Valdez pitched scoreless innings to finish Atlanta.
The Orioles scored three runs in the third against Cole Hamels, who made his first start of the season. Austin Hays led off with a double. Andrew Velazquez walked, and Hanser Alberto’s double scored Hays. José Iglesias’ infield out scored Velazquez, and Ryan Mountcastle’s sacrifice fly to center brought in Alberto.
Alberto has enjoyed playing behind Akin and Dean Kremer.
“It’s really fun,” Alberto said. “They’ve done a really good job. They’ve made pitches really well. They follow the catcher really good. The defenders are making plays, making innings easy for them.
“That’s a good setup for next year. I’m happy that they’re doing a really good job right now. Next year, they come with confidence, and they’ll do a better job.”
Renato Núñez led off the fourth with a long drive to left that Marcell Ozuna leaped for, and caught, taking a home run away. That was Hamels’ final pitch.
The Orioles took a 5-1 lead in the sixth when Iglesias led off with a single, and Pedro Severino singled with one out. Both scored on a Núñez double to left.
Odds and ends: Kremer will pitch the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays, who will close out the Orioles’ home schedule in a five-game series. Hyde said the Orioles probably will throw a pitcher from the Bowie alternate site in the second game. Blake Snell will pitch the first game, which begins at 4:35 p.m. On Friday night, Alex Cobb is scheduled to face Tyler Glasnow. Saturday night’s pitchers will be Jorge López against Charlie Morton. On Sunday it will be John Means against a pitcher to be announced by Tampa Bay … Shawn Armstrong, who’s been on the 10-day injured list since August 22nd because of a lower-back injury, has begun to throw at the alternate site in Bowie. Hyde isn’t sure whether he’ll be able to pitch before the end of the season … Iglesias left Wednesday’s game after he was hit in the right shin by a pitch in the eighth inning.