WMU Baseball

Junior pitcher Keegan Akin takes the mound for the Broncos. 

Former Western Michigan pitcher Keegan Akin made his first MLB start on Monday and helped the Baltimore Orioles end a five-game losing skid with his performance.

Akin ended the game with 4.1 innings pitched, allowing three hits, two walks, two runs (none earned) and striking out six batters. He earned a no-decision as his Orioles beat the Blue Jays 4-3 in 11 innings.

Akin, taken by Baltimore in the second round of the 2016 MLB draft after spending three years pitching at WMU, kept the Blue Jays hitters off-balance, as three of his six strikeouts ended on a called third strike.

Akin had made two relief appearances in an earlier call-up this year, then got another opportunity as injuries and trades cleared a spot in the Orioles’ rotation. In those relief appearances, he had thrown 3.1 innings, allowing three runs and recording just one strikeout.

MLB had Akin listed as Baltimore’s No. 11 prospect before a July update to their rankings added in players taken in this year’s MLB draft, pushing Akin back to No. 15.

Akin began his first start well, striking out the first batter he faced on three pitches and wrapping up a 1-2-3 first inning on just 10 pitches. He allowed a double and a walk in the second inning but struck out two more batters and got out of the inning without allowing a run.

The third inning brought Akin’s fourth strikeout and his second 1-2-3 inning of the game, and he faced just three batters in the fourth inning as well, throwing two strikeouts and allowing a double to Teoscar Hernandez but picking him off at second base to end the inning.

Akin retired Daniel Vogelbach to start the fifth inning before allowing a walk and a double to the next two Blue Jays. He was replaced by Travis Lakins, who struck out the next batter and got a ground ball to second baseman Hanser Alberto that should have ended the inning, but Alberto threw over first baseman Renato Nuñez’s head, allowing Cavan Biggio to reach base and both runners to score.

Alberto’s error briefly put the Blue Jays ahead and put Akin in line for the loss, but the Orioles pushed across a run to tie the game at two apiece in the sixth, and both sides went scoreless from then until the 11th inning. Jose Iglesias doubled to lead off the top of the inning, scoring Anthony Santander as the inherited runner on second base that MLB instituted at the start of every extra inning in 2020, and later scored on Bryan Holaday’s double.

Toronto also plated its inherited runner in the bottom of the 11th and Rowdy Tellez hit a two-out double down the right field line, but Iglesias made a great play to cut off Santander’s throw in as it was losing momentum near first base and quickly got it to the plate to beat Lourdes Gurriel Jr., representing the tying run, to end the game.

Cesar Valdez got the win for the Orioles, while Anthony Bass took the loss for the Blue Jays.

The Orioles have not announced a starting pitcher past Tuesday’s series opener against the Mets, so it is unknown when Akin will make his next start. Akin had been throwing long stints while at Baltimore’s alternate training site, and with his success in his first start, it looks likely that he will continue to be used as a starter for now rather than go back to a bullpen role.

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