Thursday, April 24, 2008

O's-M's, What A Come-Back

Brian lines one right to a drawn in Beltre for the first out of the game. Melvin Mora walks on four pitches, and Nick Markakis lines a pitch up the middle. It goes off Washburn (kick-save, and a beauty) and Beltre tries to bare-hand the deflection. He can't, it goes under his glove, and Mora scampers to third. Nick extends his AL lead in OBP, and runners are on the corners for Millar. 3-1 count and Millar swings for the fences, and misses the high fastball. Then he strikes out and Markakis is easily gunned down trying to steal second. Just like that Washburn is out of trouble and the inning is over.

Ichiro walks, but then gets picked off by Loewen. He's behind Lopez 0-2 though. Jose ends up flying out to center. Ibanez runs the count full, but takes a called third strike to end the inning.

Huff grounds one up the middle, and Betancourt makes a nice play ranging to his left to make the play. Jay Payton (in for Scott since there's a lefty on the mound) pops out to second, and Ramon flies to right.

Beltre works the count full, and homers into left field, 1-0 M's. Loewen gets ahead of Vidro 0-2 and gets him to ground weakly to third. Sexson follows suit, and then so does Johjima, as Mora has a busy inning.

Adam Jones gets ahead 2-1 and drives one deep to right center for a double. I'm mentioning counts more because with some of the O's pitchers (Cabrera, Loewen) and hitters (Jones) it is something that is very important for their progress. Fahey squares to bunt, and after taking the second pitch Johjima tries to pick Jones off at second. The throw hits him, allowing Jones to go to third. Fahey now has his a chance to pick up his second RBI if he can hit the ball with any authority. He gets it into the air, but it only goes about 200 feet to left and Jones can't score. He's probably a worse hitter than a number of pitchers. Brian Roberts walks on five pitches. Mora can't get the runner in from third as he pops out. It'll take a two-out hit from Markakis now. Good job by Kakes to not try to do too much and take the walk. Millar can't get it down as he pops out himself. That's the second jam Washburn has gotten out of without any damage.

Bloomquist send the ball into the left-center gap, but Payton gets there quickly and is able to keep Willie to a single. Betancourt hits it through the hole on the right side and Bloomquist heads to third with no outs. Ichiro then draws a walk to load the bases. Can Loewen escape pull a Houdini himself? Nope - Lopez hits a sac fly to right, 2-0 M's. Ibanez then hits a sac fly to Jones in center, 3-0. Seattle gets guys on and brings them in; Baltimore gets guys on and leaves them their. God, where's the clutch hitting? Beltre walks on four pitches, and Loewen looks like he won't be lasting long today. The runners get huge jumps and pull off a double steal. Two in scoring position now. Score they do as Vidro hits one over Jones' head in center, and it bounces over the wall for a ground-rule double. "Vidro... underrated" says Gary Thorne. Well Gary, Vidro is rated highly enough that the M's didn't sign Frank Thomas to hit 20 more home runs than him. I'd say overrated, or rated just about right at best. That's it for Loewen, as Randor is coming in. Adam's line (2.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 1 K, 60 pitches with only 33 for strikes) is not good. He's still learning, but it isn't going well. It'll take a big comeback for the O's to win this series. Bierd gets Sexson to ground out to short to finally end the inning. 5-0 Mariners.

Huff flies out to center on the first pitch of the fourth. Jay Payton gets the O's on the board with a solo home run to left. One down, four+ to go. Ramon Hernandez pops out. Adam Jones grounds to short, but Betancourt couldn't handle the ball and Jones is on via error. Time to take advantage... Brandon Fahey. Man, where's Alex Cintron? (Man, I'm hoping for Alex Cintron - that makes me doubly depressed.) Fahey launches it... into short left-center for a single. Washburn is able to get Roberts swinging to (again) end the scoring threat.

Very nice play by Fahey to back-hand a ball on the outfield grass in the hole at short and fire to first to beat the slow-footed Johjima. Randor shows some good reflexes, spearing a come-backer and throwing Bloomquist out at first. Betancourt grounds to the left side, and Mora makes a diving stop and throws him out at first. Mora is one of those guys whose defense isn't as good as it seems, because of all the nice looking plays he makes. Bierd still hasn't given up a run this year - hopefully the O's can put an 8 spot on the board and get him a win.

Mora works the count full and singles threw the hole into left field. If he had homered, Throne would have mentioned his defensive play that ended the previous inning - it's standard commentator stuff. Nick Markakis works the count to 3-1 and lines a single up the middle, that goes off of Lopez's glove. (See what happens when the batter gets ahead in the count?) Maybe they can actually get a hit with runners in scoring position this time. Nope. Double play from Millar. The runner scores to make it 5-2. but now there are none on with two outs. Huff grounds out, and yet another threat is over with minimal damage. The score should be 5-5, 5-4 at least, but the O's are hitting horribly in the important situations today.

Ichiro grounds to second, and Bierd has continued his impressive work from the pen. How badly do you think Detroit wishes they still had him right now? Lopez grounds to second. I said previously that Randor could be an improved version of Todd Williams (come in when they need a ground ball, or to bridge from the starter to the back-end of the pen), and he's looking like it so far. He gets a pitch up to Ibanez, who hits it deep off the wall in left-center for a double. That's it for Bierd, as Matt Albers is coming in. Good job by Randor to keep the M's off the board - hopefully Albers doesn't allow his runner to score. Albers proceedes to walk Beltre on five pitches, and Vidro is coming up with a chance to expand the M's lead. "Ever dangerous...Vidro" - Jim Palmer. Yeah. Ever dangerous to the tune of a 200 / 264 / 300 year. He grounds to second to end the inning, and Bierd is unscathed again. Time for some offense. What can the O's do next? Get five hits and still not score? Homer but forget to touch a base? The runs have to start coming in eventually.

Washburn is out and Roy Corcoran is in. Payton grounds the ball up the middle, and Jose Lopez backs a great play to back-hand it jump, spin and throw. Payton looked out, but was called safe. Another baserunner to be left stranded? Ramon chops one high in the air, but Beltre has plenty of time to throw him out at first. Come on Adam Jones - make them feel bad for trading you. Payton gets a big lead and steals third. A good throw would have gotten him, but it was off-line. Now Jones doesn't even need a hit to bring in a run. He gets behind 1-2, though. Adam hits a slow dribbler to third, and even a very good bare-handed play by Beltre isn't enough to beat the speedy Jones. Payton scores, but the terrible (baseball player, not person) Brandon Fahey hits the first pitch back to the mound for a double play. Another potential rally squashed. If they keep getting 2-3 runners on an inning then maybe they can come back to tie if the pen keeps Seattle at 5 runs.

Albers gets ahead of Sexson 1-2 and makes him look silly on a curveball. Trivia Question - Last O's third baseman to win a Gold Glove? Brooks Robinson. The trivia question on the game-cast was much harder. A pop-up to Fahey and a grounder to Roberts ends the inning. The O's are only down by 2 and have a couple innings to go. (I'm not counting the ninth, since I assume Putz would shut them down again.)

Arthur Rhodes coming in to face Roberts, Mora, and Markakis. Roberts works the count full and lines a single to left. Brian isn't hitting that well, but he is still having quality at bats. Mora then singles up the middle. Markakis is coming up in a big situation. Last time he walked to load the bases and Millar couldn't get the run in. Will he be swinging early this time? He's been on base all three times today. Guess he's not changing his game as he gets ahead 2-0. Another game-winning home run? Another pitch misses, and another walk would put him in sole possession of first place in that category in the AL. And that's exactly what happens. That will load the bases for Millar. Nick walked 61 times all of last year, and he already is up to 19 through 22 games this year. He may finally be turning into that 300 / 400 / 500 type hitter that I was hoping for. That's Bobby Abreu (first guy I thought of - good thing too as he's a career 300 / 407 / 500 hitter), except with plus defense, and at an earlier age. Mark Lowe is coming in for Rhodes, and he falls behind 3-1. Millar swings at the pitch and flies it deep to left. Roberts scores to make it 5-4, but Mora can't advance to third. It'll take an actual hit to tie the game. Lowe has thrown Huff three straight change-ups to get ahead 1-2. The O's may lose this game, but they have really battled back here. Not for now though, as Huff lines the ball into center and Mora comes in to score ahead of Ichiro's throw. That ties the score at 5-5, and Jay Payton is up with Nick in scoring position. Jay is 2-3 with a HR, and so I'm not going to say that Luke Scott should be pinch hitting. Loewen pitches poorly again, but is taken off the hook. The O's pen doesn't have a "Putz" (ha ha) but it is the deeper of the two. Payton flies out to deep center and Kakes goes to third. A wild pitch would give the O's a lead now. Maybe Ramon can get out of his slump. Well, not by swinging at a first pitch in the dirt. Ramon works the count full, and takes a pitch in the dirt for ball four. Bases loaded - two outs - tie game - Adam Jones coming to the plate. A grand-slam here automatically wins the Bedard trade for the O's. He tried for it, but is out in front of the change-up. And a second time, as Jones is behind 0-2. After fouling off a couple pitches, Jones hits it high; he hits it deep; he hits it just off the top of the wall in left (oh, soooo close!). That'll score a pair, and the O's are up 7-5. It is a bit preemptive, but I'm going to listen to "Orioles Magic" now. Sean Green is coming in, and Luke Scott is hitting for Fahey. Green is way better against righties, so Scott can put a good swing on it here. He does, but the hard grounder is knocked down by Sexson at first and the inning is over. Still, big inning for the Birds. That's what happens when you keep getting guys on base - some of them have to score. That's how the A's are scoring runs despite being out-homered by Chase Utley.

O-R-I-O-L-E-S, Magic, Magic, Magic, Magic... Orioles Magic, Feel It Happen!

Back to the game. Albers stays in for the seventh. If he can get through it, that allows Trembley to mix-and-match Walker and Bradford in the eighth, as he seems to like doing. Betancourt starts the inning with a single to left however. Never mind about Albers going though the inning, as Walker is coming in to face Ichiro. Remember Jamie, he isn't Carlos Pena. Dammit Jamie, not Carlos Pena. And just like that the lead is gone as Ichiro hits a two run home run. 7-7. Just don't lose it now. I guess that's what I get for the preemptive "Orioles Magic" listen. Lopez single past a diving Pelican up the middle. Still no outs in the inning. Now there are two, as Ibanez grounds to Walker who starts the double play. That's it for Walker, as Chad Bradford is coming in to face Beltre. An 0-1 change-up on the outside corner at 66 has Adrian way out in front. And another gets him swinging. To the eighth we go in a tie game.

Sean Green does much worse against lefties (.918 vs. .730 OPS last year), so I wouldn't leave him out there to face the top of the O's line-up. See... Brain Roberts (hitting left-handed) homers to right and that gives the O's the lead right back, 8-7. He gets one "Magic" for that. Mora grounds out sharply to second. Markakis works the count full, and hits a high fly ball to deep center field. Ichiro makes the catch on the warning track just in front of the 405 ft. marker. Millar gets a pitch away and hooks it to the shortstop for an easy third out. If he goes the other way maybe he gets a hit there. In any case, the O's have retaken the lead, and Chad Bradford will try to not give up three seeing-eye singles to give it back.

Jose Vidro hits one extremely high to right, but Nick is there near the track to make the catch. Brandon Morrow is warming in the M's pen, even though he should have been in for the top of the eighth. Sexson gets jammed a bit and flies out to right. Johjima hits one to right, but Nick is able to keep him to a single. Miguel Cairo is pinch running for the slow catcher. Bloomquist grounds the first pitch to third though, and the O's will have a lead going into the ninth.

Morrow comes in an inning late to face Aubrey Huff. Huff runs the count full but lines out to center. Payton gets blown away on three fastballs at 96, 97, and 98. Then he breaks off a wicked slider to Ramon at the knees. Hernandez flies out to right on the next pitch, and it is once again George Sherrill time. He only has a one run lead today, so he need to be a bit more careful.

Betancourt gets jammed, but is able to bloop a single into short center. Oh man, very quick turn of the double play: Roberts to Hernandez to Millar. That erases the baserunner and there are now two outs. Lopez hits a ground ball to short - the Pelican makes the throw and the game is over. Save number eight for Sherrill, and the O's take it 8-7. The Birds also win both the three game set, as well as the season series versus the Mariners. Baltimore improves to 13-9, while Seattle drops to 11-12.

Magic, Magic, Magic Magic...

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