Saturday, May 16, 2009

O's-Royals, Hill Solid In Debut Win

Left-hander Rich Hill is making his first start for the O's after being acquired from the Cubs this past off-season. Hill had a tough 2008, walking 18 batters in 19.2 IP at the major league level before being demoted to the minors (and still not showing much control). He was very good in 2007 though, striking 183 in 195 IP with fine control (63 BB) to go along with a 3.92 ERA. That's the level of production the Birds are hoping he returns to.

As soon as it's available at FanGraphs, I'll take a look at the Pitch/FX for the game... and here it is!

Hill pretty much just stuck with the fastball and curveball, as he has in the past. That one red dot - the slider - was I believe the pitch he dropped down on to strike Jacobs out (the release point confirmed that he really did drop down on that one pitch). His fastball doesn't tail in on lefties much at all, but the curveball has some big-time movement and a 17 mph difference in average velocity from the heater. If he could work his 81 mph change-up in more - he only threw a handful - then that might make both the fastball and the curve more effective.

The curveball, especially one with big break like Hill's, is probably my favorite pitch in baseball. It's a pitch that doesn't get thrown quite as often now with the emergence of the slider, and so that gives me a little extra interest in seeing Hill succeed for the Birds. It may only be the Royals, but he got off to a pretty good start.

Top 1:
  • Brian Roberts walks on four pitches. Then he steals second without a throw. And third.
  • Cesar Izturis grounds sharply to a familiar face at short - it's former Orioles Luis Hernandez!
  • Wild pitch and Roberts comes in to score without a play. Talk about single-handily manufacturing a run.
  • Nick Markakis grounds out to first.
  • Aubrey Huff chases a high 3-2 and hits a pop-up to short right-center. The KC second-baseman ranges out for it, but the ball goes off his love and Huff gets into second with a double.
  • Melvin Mora draws a walk.
  • Ty Wigginton pops out. The O's get only the one run, but they make Kyle Davies throw 30 pitches in the inning.
Bottom 1:
  • First pitch from Hill is a fastball outside for a ball. Coco Crips works the count full and then lines a single into left-field.
  • Willie Bloomquist gets ahead 3-1, but Hill induces a groundball to Roberts who starts the double play.
  • Big 3-2 curveball gets Billy Butler looking. Only 8 of 17 pitches were strikes, but Hill gets out of the inning without any damage.
Top 2:
  • Nolan Reimold strikes out swinging, chasing a slider well out of the strike-zone.
  • Chad Moeller grounds out to short.
  • Felix Pie with a drive to deep center, but Crisp makes the catch right in front of the wall.
Bottom 2:
  • Mike Jacobs swings through a fastball for Hill's second K.
  • Jose Guillen walks.
  • Another groundball to second - this time by Alberto Callaspo - results in a double play.
Top 3:
  • Roberts pops out.
  • Izturis lines out to right.
  • Markakis strikes out swinging. Looks like Davies has settled down a bit.
Bottom 3:
  • Miguel Olivo grounds back to the mound, with Hill under-handing the ball to first for the out.
  • Luis Hernandez flies out to left.
  • Two fastballs for called strikes and a swing and foul tip on a curveball strikes out Mitch Maier.
Top 4:
  • Huff strikes out swinging.
  • Mora lines a double down the left-field line.
  • Wigginton pops out.
  • Reimold picks up his first RBI, as he serves a single to right to bring in Melvin.
  • Moeller grounds out to end the inning.
Bottom 4:
  • Crisp bloops a single to center.
  • Bloomquist lines a soft single to center with Crisp running, but Coco stops at second with a slide. Two on with no outs.
  • Butler with a towering flyball to left, but Reimold is there.
  • Hill drops a nice curveball in to Jacobs for strike one, but the runners are able to pull off a double steal without a throw. Another curveball gets him to swing and miss for strike two. Hill goes to well for a third time - and bounces it - and then a fourth to get him swinging. I guess the O's have determined that he can't handle the breaking ball.
  • They fall behind Guillen 3-0 and decide to walk him intentionally with first-base open.
  • Hanging curveball and Callaspo lines it just fair (off the chalk, infact) down the left-field line. Two runs score to tie the game.
  • Olvio flies out to leave a couple more runners stranded.
Top 5:
  • Pie bounces out to first.
  • Good curveball in the dirt gets Roberts swinging. The bottom just fell right out of that pitch.
  • Izturis drops a bunt down the third-base line and beats out the low throw to first. A passed ball allows him to get into scoring position with two down.
  • Nick makes it count with an RBI single up the middle.
  • Huff grounds out, but the O's have taken a 3-2 lead.
Bottom 5:
  • Luis lines a single over a leaping Roberts.
  • Maier lays down a sac bunt, with Hill making the throw to first.
  • Crisp flies out to center, with Hernandez tagging up and moving to third.
  • Hill gets a fastball in on Bloomquist, who hits a soft grounder to short to end the inning.
Top 6:
  • Mora gets jammed and bloops a ball into short right-field, but Callaspo robs him of a hit with a running over-the-shoulder catch.
  • Wigginton grounds out to third.
  • Reimold lines a double off the wall in left.
  • Moeller flies out to left-field.
Bottom 6:
  • Great curveball gets Butler swinging. That hook has been as advertised.
  • Hill drops down a little to get Jacobs looking at a bender.
  • Guillen pulls a single through the left side of the infield.
  • Callaspo does likewise, with Izturis making a diving attempt at it.
  • That'll be it for Hill. Danys Baez will come in from the pen to try to maintain the lead.
  • And he does, as Olivo flies out to right.
Top 7:
  • Pie bounces out to second.
  • Roberts and Izturis both fly out to left.
Bottom 7:
  • Hernandez draws a lead-off walk.
  • Maier hits a groundball to second and the O's turn their third double play of the game.
  • Fastball on the inside corner gets Crisp looking.
Top 8:
  • Markakis lines a single to left-field.
  • Huff flies out to left-center.
  • Mora grounds into the inning ending double play. O's still have the slim 3-2 lead.
Bottom 8:
  • Jim Johson in for the eighth. He retires the side in order on a couple of groundouts and a flyout to the track in left.
Top 9:
  • Moeller with a two-out single to right-field.
  • Pie hits a groundball to the right side, but Callaspo makes a diving stop. Felix beats it out though, and Moeller hustles into third-base.
  • Roberts flies out to left to leave runners on the corners.
Bottom 9:
  • George Sherrill will go for the save, though it would be nice if he had a slightly larger lead to work with.
  • Jose Guillen flies out to deep center. One down.
  • Callaspo grounds out to first. Two down.
  • And Sherrill strikes Olivo swinging at a high fastball to end the game.
O's win 3-2. Given the expectation level, I think this start was a definite success for Hill. He threw 88 pitches through 5.2 IP, gave up 2 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 6. The bullpen was solid and the offense did just enough to get the job done. The victory guarantees the Orioles at least a split in the series, with Koji Uehara going for the win tomorrow.

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