Had Will Benson gotten his bunt down, perhaps this all would’ve gone differently.
Instead, the Cincinnati Reds outfielder fouled off the first pitch from left-hander Keegan Akin in the 10th inning, then gave up the whole bunting idea altogether. He swung at the next one, powering a triple into right field for the first run of a disastrous frame. T.J Friedl, the next batter, also hinted at a bunt before swinging away — and promptly clobbering a two-run homer off Akin to sink the Orioles further.
Before Akin took the mound, the energy had gone Baltimore’s way. The Orioles came back in dramatic fashion in the eighth and closer Félix Bautista pitched out of trouble in the ninth, but Akin’s meltdown in the 10th left Baltimore with a series-ending 11-7 loss against Cincinnati.
There was Benson’s triple, Friedl’s homer, Luke Maile’s double and a wild pitch to bring the fourth and final run home. The southpaw couldn’t complete his inning.
“The triple to Benson there, left on left, it was a hanging breaking ball,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Friedl is a really good player. It was a fastball. I don’t know, maybe [Akin] wasn’t hitting his spots, locations. Sliders were down either below, or the one to Benson was hung there.”
This isn’t unique for the way Akin has pitched of late, either, although it extends past him and features many of the middle-relief pitchers for Baltimore all scuffling around the same time. On Wednesday, though, the spotlight wouldn’t leave Akin in the 10th. Over his last four outings, Akin has allowed 10 earned runs.
It deflated a crowd that roared its approval for two straight innings earlier.
Before the collapse, the Orioles needed Bautista to pitch out of a jam the Reds created without a ball leaving the infield. Elly De La Cruz, the 21-year-old phenom, reached on an infield single, stole second and took third when Nick Senzel popped a bunt single past the mound.
Bautista then reared back, hit 103.3 mph at one point, and struck out two of the next three batters. The cheers from the Camden Yards crowd rivaled the noise that had erupted just moments earlier, in the previous half inning, when Adam Frazier came through in another high-leverage spot.
Baltimore had needed a spark. Entering the eighth inning, the Orioles had managed one hit since the first. But then Aaron Hicks singled and Jordan Westburg’s first career extra-base hit drove Hicks in to score. That set the plate for Frazier to blast his ninth home run of the season, a booming two-run blast to right field that included a bat flip and embrace at the plate from two former Mississippi State players, he and Westburg.
“Going into the eighth, could’ve easily thrown the towel in and given up six outs and gone home,” Westburg said. “But we fought, scratched, clawed, were able to tie it up there. And, like I said, just kind of got away from us at the end.”
That late-inning flurry covered for right-hander Kyle Gibson, who experienced his second straight poor outing.
Against the Seattle Mariners last week, Gibson allowed five runs and lasted just three innings — the shortest outing of his Orioles career. Gibson takes pride in working deep into games, so Wednesday’s outing was more on course with the 35-year-old’s target. He needed 30 pitches to get out of the first inning and labored through the second, too. Between them, Gibson tied a season-high six runs allowed.
Gibson has allowed 11 runs in his last two outings, which equals how many he allowed in the five before that. He may have righted the ship but couldn’t finish the fifth inning for just the third time this season.
Much of the damage came against his cutter, with four of the first seven knocks against that offering. That has been a troublesome pitch all year. Entering Wednesday, batters were hitting .377 against Gibson’s cutter, according to Statcast, the highest of any of his six pitches.
An improvement came when Gibson stopped trying to place the cutter inside to left-handed hitters, he said, opting to leave it on the outside corner.
“I think my stuff still felt pretty good tonight, which is frustrating to say because I don’t really like to sit here and talk about how my stuff feels good when you give up six runs,” Gibson said. “I don’t really like giving up that many runs early — anytime, really, but especially when the offense comes back and puts up four. Then to give the lead right back ended up being the backbreaker.”
The Orioles jumped all over right-hander Luke Weaver, responding in a way that might’ve bailed Gibson out. Ryan O’Hearn knocked in a run with a single, and shortly after Gunnar Henderson — Baltimore’s own 21-year-old star — drove a triple into Elrod’s Corner to clear the bases.
That onslaught quickly dried up, though, against Weaver, who entered Wednesday with a 9.27 ERA in his last five starts. Weaver went on to retire 10 batters in a row before Adley Rutschman opened the fifth with a single. Weaver departed the game after 4 1/3 innings and four runs against.
“He just started showing different stuff to different guys,” Westburg said. “That second time through, I thought, he mixed a little bit more.”
As it turned out, the real damage on the mound came far later, when Akin inherited a ghost runner in the 10th and couldn’t finish the inning himself. It buried Baltimore heading into a needed day off on a lengthy homestand.