Max Fried will duel Keegan Akin, who shut out the Braves last year
The Braves are set for a weekend series in Baltimore, and the Friday night opener will feature some pretty rare circumstances. The Braves are finally rolling for the first time in 2021, coming off two consecutive road sweeps that have netted them six straight victories. That winning streak is the team’s best in nearly two years, as the 2019 Braves won nine in a row in late August/early September. The Orioles, meanwhile… it’s been grim. The Charm City squad have lost their last 15 games, and are the first team since 1935 to have multiple losing streaks of 14 games or more in the same season. Their current losing streak is the second-longest in franchise history and has put them squarely in the cellar of all cellars — dead last in MLB with a .317 winning percentage. They probably won’t finish with a record worse than the 2019 Tigers, who ended with 47 wins, but… it’s not exactly a fun baseball time in Baltimore, is what I’m getting at.
With that said, the Orioles haven’t been that horrendous. It’s a bottom five-ish position player unit and pitching staff, sure, but they’re not dead last or anything. The hitting’s been more blah than tragic, the bullpen’s been average-y, and yeah, they’ve less bled runs than straight-up been exsanguinated, but they also have by far the majors’ biggest ERA-FIP gap, so the defense bears some decent chunk of the blame there. The Braves have definitely seemed more or less unstoppable over the same exact span (since August 3) that the Orioles have foundered without a victory, but streaks do end eventually, so who knows?
With that said, this Friday night pitching matchup does not look particularly kind for a potential streak-snapping event. (Saturday and Sunday, on paper, look less favorable for Atlanta.) For the Braves, it’ll be Max Fried, who’s been rolling right along with his teammates over the past few weeks. Fried has an 89 ERA-/84 FIP-/86 xFIP- on the season, all of which are pretty nifty, but those marks are 34/48/63 over his last four outings. This will actually be Fried’s first time facing the Orioles, which is slightly weird, given that the Braves have faced them six times since his debut. (Also weird: the Braves haven’t actually won a series against the Orioles since 2011, as they lost sets to them in 2012, 2015, 2018, and last year.)
The Orioles will counter Fried with a southpaw of their own in the form of Keegan Akin. The 26-year-old turned some heads (well, maybe just my head) last year with 25 2⁄3 innings (six starts, two relief appearances) of 103 ERA-/70 FIP-/87 xFIP- ball, which was an impressive debut for a 45 FV-type pitcher who doesn’t throw particularly hard, with a fastball that’s mostly around 92 mph. The highlight of that season for Akin, of course, was his domination of the Braves for five innings — three hits, zero runs, one walk, nine strikeouts. (Opposing Akin in that game was Cole Hamels in his only start as a Brave.) In any case, 2021 has been far less kind to Akin, as his line is a pretty ghastly 188 ERA-/108 FIP-/117 xFIP-. The Orioles have used him as both a starter and as a bulk-type/kinda-piggyback option this year, and he’s fared much better when not nominally starting. While lots of things have taken a step back from Akin’s debut season, probably the biggest one is command, as his pitches have been all over the place, and not in an effectively wild way.
Friday, August 21, 2021
7:05 pm EDT
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network
XM Radio: Online / Ch. 178