Akin 'fantastic,' Iglesias clutch in extras win

September 1st, 2020

After dealing two veteran pitchers for prospects on Sunday afternoon, the Orioles continued their ongoing facelift by sending Miguel Castro to the Mets minutes before Monday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline. By then, the ripple effects of what was a transformative weekend for Baltimore were already plain to see. Parting ways with Castro, Mychal Givens and Tommy Milone opens opportunities for young players up and down the roster, from to Dillon Tate and others, several of whom played key roles in Monday’s 4-3 extra-innings win over the Blue Jays.

“Guys are going to have to step up,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That is the nature of the business, and this was Deadline day.”

Making his first Major League start after two relief appearances, Akin struck out six over 4 1/3 solid innings at Sahlen Field. Starting in Milone’s old rotation slot a day after he was traded to the Braves, Akin held Toronto to three hits and two unearned runs before Anthony Santander’s RBI double tied the game in the sixth. It was the kind of performance that suggests Akin’s days as an ancillary piece are behind him; with Milone gone, the O’s No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline is likely in the rotation to stay.

“Keegan was fantastic,” Hyde said. “He was excellent. I loved all the early strikes, how aggressive he was with his fastball and how he challenged their hitters. These were guys he faced in the Minor Leagues and I think he had a good feel for how to attack them, and he did.”

Former top prospect Tate could see more high-leverage opportunities against righties with Castro and Givens elsewhere, just like Tanner Scott has in light of Richard Bleier’s trade to the Marlins earlier this month. Scott and Tate combined to record nine important outs Sunday before the O’s jumped ahead on 11th-inning doubles from and Bryan Holaday. That insurance proved important when Santander and Iglesias teamed up for an acrobatic relay to cut down the tying run at the plate for the final out.

“That was an incredible, instinctive, veteran-type play,” Hyde said. “That’s a read play for the shortstop there. We had an inexperienced second baseman and first baseman going out for a double cut. Iggy recognized that we weren’t in the right spot, sprinted over there and made a heck of a catch, whirl and throw to the plate. It was a great play by a really great defensive player.”

Held in check early by Chase Anderson, the Orioles squandered a chance to pull ahead in the 10th, when Teoscar Hernández threw automatic runner Mason Williams out at home trying to score on Santander’s fly to short right. Winning pitcher Cesar Valdez then held Toronto off the board, along with a five-man infield in the bottom of the frame, to help Baltimore snap its five-game losing streak. The victory was its first against the Blue Jays this season in seven tries.

The Orioles are 15-19 heading into the season’s final month, and they were one of the few clear sellers in what was a seller’s market at the Deadline. Though a playoff spot remains in reach, the next three weeks should mean more as a showcase for prospects like Akin, Hunter Harvey, the recently promoted Ryan Mountcastle and perhaps Dean Kremer, all of whom the O’s have handled cautiously to this point. Akin was their organizational pitcher of the year in 2018; he spent all of ‘19 at Triple-A Norfolk working to improve his command, and he also led the International League in strikeouts. Monday’s start came after two relief appearances; the next few could dictate how Akin fits into Baltimore’s plans for ‘21 and beyond.

“It’s been a whirlwind of emotions, being a starter most of my career, then going to the bullpen and getting to start again,” Akin said. “My biggest thing is to prove I can throw all my pitches for strikes and limit the walks. Ultimately, I want to show I’m glad to be here and prove myself.”

Up next
After trading Castro at Monday's Deadline, the Orioles will be reunited with the righty immediately when they return home for a two-game series against the Mets on Tuesday. It will be the first meeting between the two teams since 2018. Right-hander Asher Wojciechowski (1-3, 5.13 ERA) will start for the Orioles. First pitch is set for 7:35 p.m. ET from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, live on MLB.TV.