Pitcher Keegan Akin wants to show that he can be a valuable part of the Orioles’ rotation. His performance, though, is what matters, and it’s been poor.
On Friday night, as the Orioles tried to start their second half of the season on a positive note, Akin struggled mightily in a 9-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals. He allowed six runs and eight hits with three walks and two strikeouts in just three innings. He threw 74 pitches.
“You’re going to have your ups and downs,” Akin said. “You get your chance to go out there every five days as a starter, so you’ve just got to forget about them, take some positive things. Obviously, I’m not happy about it but confidence-wise I think I’m doing well.
“You’ve just got to learn from it. It’s a learning process. It’s my first full season up here, so it’s just day in and day out. I have to learn and get better and execute when it comes time for the game.”
He hasn’t been able to do that. Akin has given up 44 runs and 67 hits in 13 appearances, including eight starts (48 1/3innings). He has an 8.19 ERA. He is 0-5 this season and hasn’t won in his last 15 outings (10 starts) since his only victory on September 16, 2020, against Atlanta.
The Orioles continue to slide as well. They’ve lost eight of their past nine games and are 28-62. Only the Arizona Diamondback (26-66) have a worse record.
Friday’s game ended on a baserunning mistake by Anthony Santander, who tried to go from first to third on a hit by Pedro Severino with his team trailing by seven runs. Santander was thrown out at third. It was that kind of night for the Orioles, and it started to unravel early.
In the bottom of the first, Akin allowed an RBI single to Salvador Pérez. He then committed a balk that put Perez on second but managed to escaped further damage.
He started the second by walking Jorge Sole and giving up a double to former Oriole Hanser Alberto. Two batters later, Akin allowed a two-run single to Nicky Lopez, an RBI double to Whit Merrifield, and a run-scoring single to Pérez that boosted the Royals’ lead to 5-0.
“Obviously not the start I wanted to the second half,” Akin said. “I’ve got some things to work on. Just got to execute pitches better. I feel like the strikes are there, just got to execute it and command the ball a little better.
“The execution part seems to be kind of a common theme lately. It’s always been the knock that I didn’t throw enough strikes, now they say I’m throwing too many good strikes. Just got to rewatch some of those outings and watch pitch locations and just learn from it.
“It’s just stuff that’s fairly new to me at this level. I always kind of got by on talent through the minor leagues and just threw the ball and threw fastballs and challenged guys, and it’s obviously a little different level up here.”
In the third, Akin allowed a leadoff double to Alberto, a walk to Michael Taylor and a sacrifice fly by Merrifield, who finished with four hits. Alberto is batting .364 (8-for-22) with four extra-base hits in his last nine games.
Akin has completed five innings only twice this season.
“He just got hit,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I didn’t think his command was really good. Very poor pitch selection. We all know that Alberto is an overly aggressive swinger. He gave him a fastball in the middle — it doesn’t make much sense — and a slider on the second pitch in the middle of the second at-bat doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He had a tough night.”
The Orioles couldn’t get much going against Royals starter Danny Duffy, who limped off the field after taking a Trey Mancini line drive in the leg in the first inning. The Orioles scored their first run on a fielder’s choice by Mancini, who leads the team with 56 RBIs, in the fourth.
Mullins did increase his hit streak to seven games with a pair of hits, boosting his average to .317. Pedro Severino also had two hits, including his fifth home run of the year.
Duffy allowed one run on two hits, walked one and struck out three in four innings and 54 pitches. The Royals are being cautious with his workload after Duffy had a flexor strain earlier this season.
The Orioles did get an effective performance from reliever César Valdez, who threw three scoreless innings.
“César Valdez picked us up,” Hyde said. “It was nice to see him have a clean outing. He’s been grinding and has been disappointed in his performance for the last couple of months. For him to go three scoreless innings was huge for us.”
Lopez hit a two-run double and Merrifield singled off Shaun Anderson for a 9-1 lead in the seventh, which also included a throwing error by Mullins. Eight of the Royals’ nine runs were scored with two strikes.
“Just a lot of balls that were on the plate with two strikes, just unable to put guys away,” Hyde said. “Keegan doesn’t have overpowering stuff and so the changeup has got to be a strike to below, the slider’s got to be a strike to ball. He’s got to be able to command his fastball. Just didn’t have his fastball command. It’s 89-92. You’ve got to be able to command in this league if you don’t have overpowering velo and balls in the heart of the plate with two strikes, you’re not going to have a lot of success.”
Severino homered off Jake Brentz in the eighth.