Thursday, May 15, 2008

O's-Red Sox, Dan The Man

Just that quickly, the O's have swept the Red Sox. It was only two games, but it still feels damn good. Daniel Cabrera saw some of the expected regression in his BABIP, giving up 10 hits in 7 innings. He didn't walk a batter however, and only gave up three runs (two on solo homers by Varitek and Lowell). It wasn't a great start by any means (he only struck out 3) but it was a solid one against a great line-up. It looked like it was going to go to waste, as Jon Lester pitched very well for Boston (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K), but the bullpen let them down.

Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the O's were set to face lefty reliever Javier Lopez. Lopez got two quick outs, but Dustin Pedrioa couldn't make a play on a Freddie Bynum grounder to second, and he was on with an infield single. Righty Craig Hansen came in to face Guillermo Quiroz (playing for the hurt Ramon Hernandez) but gave up a single (hey, the O's finally have a decent back-up catcher!) and then walked Brian Roberts to load the bases. This was easily the most important situation in the game - a time when a team would really benefit from having a "relief ace" instead of a closer. Brad Mills (in there for Terry Francona) obviously didn't want to leave Hansen in there, but instead of bringing in his best pitcher (Papelbon) he went to his second best pitcher (Hideki Okajima). The problem with that is; Jay Payton is at a point in his career where he can pretty much only do one thing, and that's hit lefties. He can't hit for average or get on base (against anybody), but bring a lefty in there and he'll hit one hard once in a while. It was a favor to the O's to make this move, and Payton took advantage. His grandslam gave the O's a 6-3 lead which they didn't relinquish (Matt Albers was great in the eighth, setting down the Sox 1-2-3 on seven pitches, and George Sherrill had his usual exciting ninth, giving up a couple hits but no runs).

That makes it back-to-back games in which the team has come back from 3-0 deficits to beat their "division rivals" (I honestly don't think the Red Sox think of themselves as rivals for the O's). Exciting times in Baltimore. They may not be the Rays, but the Orioles have won 5 out of 6 and at 21-19 are in third place (just 2 back of those former Devils) in the AL East. It is still early, but the Birds are 6 games ahead of the Mariners. How many people saw that one coming?

[Edit: I went back and actually watched the game. Daniel looked great, though I would have preferred he throw a few more off-speed pitches. He made two mistakes, and they were both hit over the fence. The other hits he gave up were largely not his fault (a few infield hits and a ball hit past a fielder on a hit-and-run). The number of groundballs he got was great. A lot has been made of his low BABIP - that it was due for a major regression and his ERA would suffer because of it - but Daniel has kept line-drives down so much (13%) that his BABIP isn't far out of line (.240 instead of .250). He is getting a lot of weak contact and so if the walks stay down he should be able to minimize baserunners. I'm just waiting for an up-tick in K's, but if everything else is there that's not such a big deal. In conclusion, Daniel Cabrera is kinda' turning into "The Man".]

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