In the final week of a season highlighted by promising talent, the Orioles produced an ugly loss on Tuesday night. In the first game of their final road trip of the shortened season, the Orioles committed three errors and lost to the Boston Red Sox, 8-3, at Fenway Park.
The Orioles dropped to 23-32 with five games left and were officially eliminated from playoff consideration. They’ve lost 11 of 14 and lead the fifth-place Red Sox by two games.
Starter Keegan Akin, who pitched five scoreless innings against Atlanta in his last start, had a harder time against Boston. Akin allowed four runs, two unearned, on eight hits in four innings.
“I thought he threw the ball OK,” manager Brandon Hyde said in his postgame video conference call. “We just didn’t play very good defense behind him, and that really hurt him … a couple of routine plays that weren’t made.”
With the Orioles leading 1-0, Christian Vazquez led off the second by grounding to third. Rio Ruiz’s wild throw enabled him to reach. It was Ruiz’s sixth error of the season.
Jackie Bradley Jr. singled,, and Bobby Dalbec doubled to score Vazquez. Michael Chavis’ sacrifice fly scored Bradley, and Dalbec came in when DJ Stewart dropped Alex Verdugo’s fly ball, and Boston, led 3-1.
“A lot more traffic caused a big inning there, and a long inning,” Hyde said.
Dalbec’s RBI single in the third put the Red Sox ahead, 4-1.
Hyde hasn’t decided yet whether Akin will pitch the season’s final game on Sunday against Toronto in Buffalo, but he didn’t think this was a step back.
“I felt like he was a little bit too quick,” Hyde said. “He was rushing through his delivery at times. I love his competitiveness. I love how aggressive he is. I think he’s just going to get better and better. This wasn’t his best start, but I thought he was really competitive. We just didn’t help him out …”
Akin has a 3.38 ERA and, outside of an awful first inning against the Yankees on September 11th when he faced seven batters and retired only two, has pitched well.
“I’ve been pretty happy with it, to be honest with you,” Akin said. “Not the way I wanted to end it. I hope I get one more crack at it Sunday. But looking back at it, my evaluation of it is I’m pretty happy where I am right now.”
Hyde couldn’t fault Akin for Tuesday’s outing.
“We’ve got to catch the ball behind him,” Hyde said. “That doesn’t help. That inning was right around 30 pitches, and it was because of a couple of misplays. That’s huge. You’ve got to be able to play defense in this league. You’ve got to be able to make the routine play. In a couple of his starts, we haven’t been able to do that, and it hurt him tonight from a pitch count standpoint.”
Boston starter Nick Pivettta allowed one run on five hits in five innings. Stewart’s RBI single in the first was the only run the Orioles scored against him.
Renato Núñez hit his 12th home run to begin the sixth, and Ruiz’s RBI double cut Boston’s lead to 4-3.
The Red Sox scored four times in the sixth. J.D. Martinez’s run-scoring single, and Vazquez’s three-run home run against Evan Phillips gave the Red Sox an 8-3 lead.
Phillips left the game with elbow soreness while pitching to Bradley. Hyde said he would be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
Cedric Mullins, Ramón Urias, Ruiz and Stewart each had two hits.
The Orioles loaded the bases in the ninth inning. Matt Barnes retired Pedro Severino on a pop fly to earn a save.
What went wrong?: The Orioles were 20-21 and lost, 7-6, to the New York Mets on September 9th. New York’s Michael Conforto made a brilliant running catch to rob Ruiz of an extra-base hit that could have scored three runs and given the Orioles a four-run lead.
Instead, they lost and have gone 3-11 beginning with that game.
“Started our downslide a little bit,” Hyde said. “We didn’t play well in Yankee Stadium. They pitched very well, lost a couple of close games. We played well against the Braves, but we ran into good pitching against the Rays.
“I think you see our hitters are really scuffling right now, trying to get their numbers back up. We’ve just got to start taking better at-bats … love that we played into the last week of the season, but disappointed that we’re officially eliminated tonight.”
Stewart’s streaks: Stewart started the season with 17 at-bats without a hit, then hit six home runs in six games to raise his average to .278.
Since hitting his seventh home run on September 14th, Stewart was 1-for-21 entering Tuesday night’s game. After his 2-for-4 night, he’s batting .219, and he’s committed two errors in the outfield in his last three games.
”I want to be more consistent with the bat,” Stewart said. “Obviously, I was hot a couple of weeks ago, had a few hits tonight. Just trying to eliminate those long periods of time without hits … Defense has been a priority of mine. Tonight wasn’t a good night for me defensively. Come back here tomorrow, and practice before the game.
“Going into the offseason as well, I’ve done a lot of good work with [outfield coach Anthony Sanders] and continue to build on that.”
Coming up: Dean Kremer will pitch against Nathan Eovaldi on Wednesday night at 7:30.