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Keegan Akin debuts, catcher Bryan Holaday pitches in Orioles’ streak-snapping 15-3 loss to Nationals

Even as they posted an unexpected record through what is almost the first third of the shortened season, the Orioles have held perhaps a more surprising distinction among American League teams: They were the only team that had yet to have a player make his major-league debut.

That, like their six-game winning streak, came to an end in their 15-3 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday. Left-hander Keegan Akin, the organization’s No. 9 prospect according to Baseball America, allowed three runs in three innings out of the bullpen. In only the second relief appearance of his professional career, Akin surrendered a home run to Asdrúbal Cabrera in the seventh and exited in the eighth with two in scoring position who both came around to score.

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“Honestly, it was a little different,” Akin said of making his debut with no fans or family and friends in attendance. “Actually, I think that helped. I was kind of clueless, really, going in. I just took a deep breath and said, ‘You got this,’ and that was it.

“I waited my whole life for this.”

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Akin sat in the Orioles’ bullpen for nearly a week after his call-up from the team’s secondary site before manager Brandon Hyde found a comfortable situation to deploy him in, offering him a clean inning and a five-run deficit. The first batter he faced, reigning National League Championship Series MVP Howie Kendrick, grounded out to short. Luis García, also making his debut, struck out on a full-count slider a pitch before Carter Kieboom lined out to center on a fastball.

“I’m sure he was nervous and I’m sure there was a lot of anxiousness,” Hyde said. I tried to give him plenty of time to get loose and to kind of get as much of the butterflies out as he possibly could, but I think he threw the ball very well. I’ve been kind of waiting to get him in the game and it just hasn’t happened these last five or six days. Tonight, he got the opportunity, and I thought he competed very well.”

Akin, 25, spent all of last season with Triple-A Norfolk as he worked to depend less on a fastball that proved more effective than its low-90s velocity would indicate. He led the International League in strikeouts, but he issued walks at a rate of one every other inning. Those command issues and his absence from the 40-man roster kept him from a September cameo in 2019.

Had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic, mid-August might have found Akin already in Baltimore’s rotation having made his debut months prior. Instead, he waited out the sport’s four-month shutdown, another month at the alternate site in Bowie and a week in the Orioles bullpen, all before sitting through a two-hour rain delay and Tommy Milone’s four-inning start.

In Akin’s eyes, the odd circumstances mean he could get two debuts: Friday’s without fans, and hopefully one next year with them.

“I think it was a blessing, honestly, to get the first one out of the way with no fans,” Akin said. “Obviously, I wish there was fans so I could soak it all in at once, but obviously, going to have to wait for that. I guess I’ll have to hopefully do that next year with the fans, get the full experience.”

After the game, Akin and right-hander Cody Carroll, who was added to the roster as the 29th man for the game and allowed six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings, were sent back to the alternate site.

Fed up

After the Orioles (11-8) beat the Nationals in the resumption of Sunday’s suspended game earlier Friday, they had the chance to give reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg two losses in one day. He didn’t stick around long enough to give them much of a chance.

The Orioles took the lead early against Strasburg when Anthony Santander skied a home run to right field, extending his hitting streak to nine games while tying him for the major-league lead in RBIs.

But eight pitches later, Strasburg was out of the game. The start of Strasburg’s season was delayed because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand, and it seemed to bother him in Friday’s outing. He exited with two outs in the first inning after 16 pitches, only seven being strikes.

Right-hander Erick Fedde replaced him and settled the game for the Nationals, finishing the first and working the subsequent five innings without allowing a run.

Happy Holaday

Too often in 2019, the Orioles faced massive deficits that forced Hyde to use position players as pitchers. Friday marked 2020′s first such occasion.

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After a poor defensive showing that featured at least one botched double-play ball, a soft fly ball falling between two outfielders and a low line drive turn into a two-run triple thanks to an unsuccessful diving attempt, Hyde had catcher Bryan Holaday make his fifth career pitching appearance in the ninth.

“I just didn’t think we played well defensively,” Hyde said.

Last year, Orioles utilityman Stevie Wilkerson became the first position player in league history to earn a save. No such feat was needed from Holaday. He got one out while allowing two hits as the Orioles suffered their worst loss of the year.

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