Sept. 16-- BALTIMORE-All that time Keegan Akin spent toiling last summer at Triple-A Norfolk as the Orioles papered over the holes in their rotation was so the young left-hander could be a long-term solution, not a quick fix.
Every time he turns in a performance like Wednesday night's masterful start against the Atlanta Braves, a 5-1 Orioles win, makes that time seem worthwhile.
Akin rebounded from a dud Friday against the New York Yankees in which he didn't finish the first inning with one of the Orioles' best starts of the season. He struck out a career-high nine Braves, including six straight from the first to third innings. His nine strikeouts and 19 swinging strikes Tuesday were the most for an Orioles pitcher in 2020.
After two initial relief appearances to begin his major league career, Akin has made three starts and not allowed an earned run in three of them. With a swing-and-miss fastball and an effective slider and changeup, he gave the Orioles (22-27) a series win over a playoff-bound team in what's been a challenging September.
He had to strand two batters thanks to a walk and a single in the first inning, but did so with a strikeout of Travis d'Arnaud that started his streak. Akin struck out the side in the second inning, and then the first two batters of the third inning, before Freddie Freeman lined out to end the third.
Many of the swinging strikes came on his fastball, but Akin also got a pair of strikeouts on sliders that he buried to right-handed hitters. On a three-pitch strikeout of Austin Riley in the second, he began it with a swinging strike at a changeup away, then located a called-strike fastball inside, then got him to chase a slider in the dirt.
Once Akin's strikeout streak ended, the Orioles offense began to cook against returning Braves left-hander Cole Hamels, who was starting for the first time this season. Hanser Alberto had a run-scoring double, Jose Iglesias drove in a run with a groundout, and Ryan Mountcastle had a sacrifice fly to cobble together a lead.
Combined with a two-run double by Renato Nunez in the sixth inning, the Orioles hit the magic five-run number that seems to be a prerequisite for a victory.
Akin's performance, plus effective relief from the new crop of late-inning arms in Dillon Tate, Hunter Harvey, Tanner Scott and Cesar Valdez, meant far less would have sufficed. The only run Atlanta scored was on a balk by Tate in the sixth inning.
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