Over this most recent stretch of their road trip, the Orioles have been swinging some hot bats. Even as they continued Friday night in the first of a three-game series in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels to build a big lead, it didn’t help them win when up against the hottest, most sensational hitter in all of baseball: Shohei Ohtani.
A pair of two-run home runs by the two-way Japanese star erased an early lead, and he scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth as the Orioles snapped their three-game winning streak with Friday’s 8-7 loss to the Angels at Angels Stadium.
Paul Fry entered the game with one out in the ninth and walked Ohtani, who stole second and used that speed to score from there on a single to right field by Jared Walsh. The Orioles (27-55) waited for a moment on the field to see if the close play at the plate would be challenged, and it ultimately wasn’t.
“He pretty much single-handedly beat us,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Such a good player. I don’t know what to say. The guys got everything — the hottest hitter on the planet right now and it’s not just driving the ball, base hits. It’s deep home runs. You walk him, he’s going to steal second on you. It’s plus-plus speed, plus-plus power, and he’s locked in. It’s extremely challenging to face him. ... I mean, he’s one of the best players on the planet.”
The pause after Ohtani slid home and raised both fists in the air while lying on his back proved to be just an opportunity for the Orioles to absorb how the best player in baseball had undone their attempts at extending a winning streak that came about with a sweep of the Houston Astros.
Trey Mancini homered in the first inning, Domingo Leyba doubled the Orioles lead with a solo home run of his own, and a four-run third inning came thanks to a double from Anthony Santander that scored three runs and a double by Pedro Severino that scored him.
All that created a 6-2 Orioles lead, before Ohtani hit his 29th home run of the season in the third inning off a subpar Keegan Akin and his 30th an inning later off reliever Dillon Tate to give the Angels a 7-6 lead.
The home run off Akin was on a fastball on the hands. The rookie left-hander was downtrodden after the start, but had to laugh when acknowledging that no left-handed hitter has ever pulled a pitch like that for a home run.
“Not like that,” Akin said. “The guy’s a different breed. He’s doing really well right now. He’s on a hot streak. It feels like whatever you throw him, you can’t get him out, really.”
Debuting right-hander Spenser Watkins, plus left-hander Tanner Scott and right-hander Tyler Wells all conspired to keep the Angels from expanding on that with outstanding relief, Wells especially. A sixth-inning double with two outs by Austin Hays scored Cedric Mullins and tied the game at 7. But Ohtani scampered around the bases to break that tie in the ninth.
“I thought we took good at-bats for the majority of the game, and scored seven runs,” Hyde said. “More times than not, you win.”
Akin pulled early
Akin joined the Orioles rotation at the end of May after starting the year in the minors then missing some time following a knife accident in the kitchen. He started off well, allowing four earned runs in 13 ⅔ innings over his first three starts.
In four starts since, however, the four earned runs he allowed on seven hits in three innings Friday night was the fewest, albeit in the shortest outing. Akin has allowed 23 earned runs in 14 innings across that span.
“Ake struggled,” Hyde said. “A tough time putting hitters away. We had a lead and he had a tough time keeping us there. The off-speed stuff is just extremely inconsistent, and they were just taking good swings on him for three innings.”
Hyde said he expects right-hander Hunter Harvey (lat strain) to be out for at least a month after he was placed on the 10-day injured list Friday, but right-hander Travis Lakins Sr. will be out longer. Hyde said further tests showed Lakins suffered a “significant elbow injury” in his start Tuesday.
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Third baseman Maikel Franco, who sprained his ankle on the last play of Wednesday’s win in Houston, had X-rays that didn’t reveal any fractures, Hyde said, and is day-to-day.