Sunday, April 6, 2008

O's-M's, King Felix's Game

With the Orioles already having secured a split of the four game series versus the Mariners, the team has a chance to win it with Opening Day starter Jeremy Guthrie going against Felix Hernandez.

Guthrie looking pretty good. He was a little too careful to Sexson and walked him, but otherwise the pitches are right on the corners or just off them with some movement.

King Felix strikes out B-Rob to start the first. Hernandez gets a lot of movement on his pitches, though he isn't throwing as hard as he used to (upper 90's). I guess that's what happens when you learn to pitch instead of throw. Felix is a pretty amazing pitcher when you consider his age (21), his ground ball rate (amongst the best in baseball at 60%), his K rate (8 per game), and his walk rate (about 2.5 per game). The guy has a ton of upside - he can spend the next three years learning at the major league level, and still be young enough to use what he's learned for 10+ years before his stuff fades too much.

Markakis grounds a single up the middle but Felix strikes out Millar to end the inning. Guthrie will need to be better than he was in his previous start, because runs may be at a premium for the O's in this one. I'm actually expecting a 5-3 loss - I hope I'm wrong.

Guthrie starts out the second with a strike-out. He does a good job getting the fastball in on Wilkerson's hands. Actually he's doing well at that to all of the hitters, going hard in then softer away with the change-up or slider. Another hit, but nothing doing for the M's.

Oh! After throwing off-speed stuff to set him up, Felix catches Huff looking with a fastball at 96 right on the inside corner. Luke Scott continues his hot hitting with a single to right field. Up comes Jay Payton, in there for Adam Jones in CF. And Payton singles past a diving Beltre, as Adrian is late in reacting the ball. The O's have a chance to score, but back-up catcher Guillermo Quiroz gets off to a bad start for the Birds with a ground ball double play.

A couple of singles put two on with none out, but Guthrie is able to get the double play ball. If he can get Sexson he'll be out of the inning with giving up a run. Unfortunately, Sexson doubles to left to bring in Ichiro from third base, and the M's have a 1-0 lead. A fly out to Markakis ends the inning.

The Pelican is first pitch swinging and grounds to second. Roberts strikes out on three pitches for the second out. Brian tries to check his swing on a fastball off the plate inside, but is unable to. And Mora grounds out to third. Felix is doing his thing; getting ground balls and strike-outs. The Orioles are going to need to be a little more patient if the want to put some runs on the board.

Guthrie walks Wilkerson to lead off the fourth, and Brad tries to steal (or possibly a botched hit and run) on the first pitch to Vidro. Quiroz shows off his good arm and gets him by a few steps. Vidro then flies out - two down. If Guthrie is to be successful this year, he'll need to cut down on the walks to make up for the extra hits that he's going to be giving up. The Pelican gets a grounder and throws to first for the third out. The O's bats need to get something going soon, as Felix looks like he's getting into a groove.

Markakis goes down swinging on a 94 mph fastball up in the zone. Then he starts off Millar with a 76 mph curveball at the knees - unfair. He tries to go back to the well with another one, but Millar grounds it up the middle for a single. And another ground ball off the bat of Huff results in a double play to end the inning. I said a 5-3 O's loss, but the way Felix is pitching, I don't know if 3 runs is within reach.

Yuniesky Betancourt sends on deep to left on a hanging breaking ball, but Luke Scott makes the catch on the warning track. Guthrie has his first 1-2-3 inning, and the bottom of the order will try to do something (anything) against Felix Hernandez.

[I just saw a commercial for Old Spice Hair/Body Wash. They ended it by saying that it's for "Hair and/or Body, or both." The "or both" is superfluous, as the "and" takes care of that.]

Luke Scott send one deep to center, but Ichiro is there to make the catch. In retrospect, it wasn't that deep - it only looked that way compared to all of the pop-ups and ground outs that they've had all game. Like that Jay Payton pop-out; two outs. Or that Quiroz ground out back to the pitcher. This games is going by very quickly. Guthrie has thrown 84 pitches already, so the sixth will probably be his last inning. Hopefully he can get through it unscathed - he would be the first O's pitcher to pitch six innings.

And another Trivia question goes down as I correctly guess A-Rod as the record holder for M's doubles in a season. I'm 3-5 on the year.

Raul Ibanez gets ahold of an 0-2 pitch and hits it into the seats in right-center. That makes it 2-0 Mariners. Guthrie gets three quick outs after that, but a two run lead looks huge right now.

Maybe his new moniker has increased the Pelican's intimidation factor as Felix gives him a lead-off walk. After a couple of outs, Nick Markakis draws a five pitch walk. That puts two on for Kevin Millar. That's OK, because he's a clutch hitter. (That was obviously a joke, but maybe he can do a bit of clutch hitting in this particular situation.) Millar hits a line drive, but it's right to Betancourt at short. Felix walks two in the inning, but the Orioles can't make him pay, still 2-0 Mariners. The Orioles were the last major league team to get shut out last year - maybe they're trying to get that out of the way early this year.

They're actually sending Guthrie out there again despite his pitch count (92). He did have a quick one (minus the HR) in the sixth, and it is the bottom of the order coming up. Randor Beird is warming in the bullpen. And there's the 84th mention of Randor being taught his change-up by Pedro Martinez, as if that means he turns in to Pedro when he throws it. Another 1-2-3 inning sends the game into the bottom of the seventh. Guthrie has shown good control (only 2 BB) but his command has been off. There have been a lot of 2/3 ball counts, and he is often pitching from behind. That is not a good way to go about things when your stuff isn't really overpowering (and even when it is). It's a much better performance than Opening Day (though it is against the bad M's offense) which should quell a few fears about Guthrie being a complete fluke.

Aubrey Huff flies out, but Felix leaves a breaking ball up in the zone and Luke Scott misses a home run by about five feet. He's on second for Jay Payton. Payton grounds out and Scott Moore will hit for Quiroz. Come on Scott, show us how much better than Jay Gibbons you are. Instead he does his best Gibbons impression and strikes out swinging on four pitches. Still 2-0 M's, but the offense is looking a little better. Given another 15 innings or so, they might be able to score.

Guthrie pitched pretty well, but won't be able to get the win as Randor Bierd replaces him in the top of the eighth. Randor gets two quick outs and then starts overthrowing a bit, which negates the sink he gets on his pitches. The 88 mhp sinker to Ibanez was the hardest he threw, but it was straight and Raul lined it to center for a single. He settles down a bit a breaks off a wicked curveball to Richie Sexson. Sexson battles though, and draws a walk. Randor induces a pop-up to B-Rob to get out of trouble. To the bottom of the eighth we go.

Three up, three down as the Orioles still trail 2-0. Eric O'Flaherty is warming up in the bullpen for Seattle. Hopefully they bring him in to the game, as I don't see the O's putting anything together versus Felix Hernandez, who has looked really good - not dominate, but just extremely solid.

Dennis Sarfate comes in for Bierd to try to keep the score where it is. He is blowing the ball by Wilkerson - it's in the middle of the plate, but at 96 with movement, he can't catch up. After the strike-out, Jose Vidro fouls one off at 98. Then another at 96. If he can stay around the plate, Sarfate can be a quality late inning reliever. Vidro grounds out to short, and Burke pops out on a 98 mhp fastball. The bullpen holds - now it's the offense's chance.

No comments: