Monday, June 1, 2009

O's-M's, Pitching Rules As O's Eek Out 1-0 Win

The O's dropped the last two games of their series with Detroit after being on a little bit of a roll. They'll try to get back in the win column out on the West coast against the 24-27 Seattle Mariners.

It'll be a battle of left-handers with Rich Hill (6.14 ERA, 4.13 tRA) facing off against Jarrod Washburn (3.45 ERA, 4.55 tRA). Hill was largely ineffective in his last start against Toronto, giving up 7 runs in 3.1 IP. For him, success comes when he has some command of his fastball. Thus far this season, he's thrown only 43% of his pitches in the zone. That hasn't bitten him too badly (though a 5.5 BB/9 is awful) because hitters are still chasing pitches out of the zone (swinging at 22.4% of them, compared to 24.5% as the league average). If they stop doing that though - like they did last year when it was just 10.8% - then Hill may be in a lot more trouble. The curveball is great, but the fastball is down even more velocity-wise to 87.5 mph on average (88.3 mph last year, and 89.4 the year before) and with some control his ceiling is likely that of a #3/4 starter. Now that's still a big addition for the O's staffs of late, but with the young pitchers coming up he may not be able to keep his job for too much longer without showing some improvement somewhere.

Top 1:
  • Adam Jones fouls off a few pitches and draws a one-out walk.
  • He ends the inning still at first though, as Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff both fly out.
Bottom 1:
  • Ichiro (!) starts the game with a double to left-field, and then takes third as Nolan Reimold's throw in goes off-line.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt pops out to second.
  • Hill elevates a fastball to the shoulders, and Adrain Beltre helps him out by weakly swinging and missing for the K.
  • Mike Sweeney pops out to first. Nice job by Hill to leave the runner at third stranded.

Top 2:
  • With one out, the most recent Player of the Week - Luke Scott - lines a single off the wall in right-field.
  • Cut fastball down and in gets Matt Wieters swinging.
  • Reimold singles through the right-side.
  • Cesar Izturis bounces out to second to end the inning.
Bottom 2:
  • Russell Branyan walks. Branyan has finally been given a shot to play full-time, and boy is he taking advantage of it (.323/.413/.614, 11 HR, .433 wOBA coming into the game).
  • Jose Lopez grounds to second for an easy double play.
  • Wladimir Balentien walks on four pitches. Hill's not showing any improvement in fastball command thus far, and the curve isn't falling in for strikes much either.
  • He strikes out Rob Johnson on three pitches though.
Top 3:
  • Markakis grounds to short, but Betancourt throws the ball away and he's safe at first with two down. Nick hit .381/.460/.600 in April and .240/281/.438 in May. The drop in average; fine. Balls don't fall in and all that - BABIP fluctuations - it happens. It's the drop in walk to strike-out ratio from 13-13 to 6-13 that's concerning. He's getting less balls thrown in the zone to him, but he's swinging less at those and more at pitches out of the zone. And his fielding out in right has been awful. Add it all up and he's only been about a replacement level player thus far (just 0.1 WAR or so). Very disappointing, though it has to pick up.
  • Oh, and Huff pops out to end the inning.
Bottom 3:
  • Franklin Gutierrez walks on four pitches. Hill's lucky the M's don't have a particularly good offense.
  • Ichiro (!) grounds to second, but the can only get the force at second.
  • Betancourt singles to left.
  • Usually Hill can make up for his lack of fastball command by throwing curveballs in the zone. Tonight though, a lot of those are hanging up and out of the zone themselves.
  • Beltre pops out, with Huff reaching over the railing into the M's dugout to make the catch.
  • Sharp curve/slider gets Sweeney, as he's not able to check his swing. Again Hill gets himself into - and then out of - trouble.
Top 4:
  • 1-2-3 go the O's.
Bottom 4:
  • 1-2-3 go the M's. A couple groundouts and a K, with 9 of 13 pitches classified as strikes (only 26 of 50 in the first three innings).
Top 5:
  • Reimold lines a single to left.
  • Very quick turn of the double play off an Izturis grounder to second.
  • Roberts strikes out.
Bottom 5:
  • Another 1-2-3 inning for Hill (all 9 pitches were strikes).
Top 6:
  • Adam Jones breaks his bat on a foul ball, and then uses the new one to line a double over the left-fielders head. The ball beat Jones to second, but it was a bit off-line and Adam just got in there.
  • Markakis lines a single to center and the O's have runners on the corners.
  • Huff hits a flyball to deep center to bring in Jones. Nick tags up himself and goes to second, just getting in ahead of the tag with a nice slide. O's up 1-0.
  • Mora flies out to right.
  • Scott flies out to the track in right.
Bottom 6:
  • Fastball on the inside corner gets Beltre looking for the second out of the sixth.
  • Nasty 69 mph curveball swung on and missed for strike two. That thing could get people to fall over trying to get it. Sweeney flies out to end the inning.
  • Hill's retired 11 in a row.
Top 7:
  • Wieters drives a 3-2 pitch into deep center-field, but Gutierrez is able to just run it down. It didn't even look like he hit it that hard, but the ball traveled about 400 ft.
  • Reimold flies out to short right.
  • Izturis singles up the middle.
  • Roberts flies out to right.
Bottom 7:
  • Nice curveball gets Branyan swinging. The count was 3-2, but Hill has shown that he'll throw the hook in any count.
  • Lopez pops out to Wieters.
  • Fastball gets Baletnien looking.
Top 8:
  • Chris Jakubauskas in for Washburn, who pitched pretty well and definitely used the big outfield to his advantage.
  • Markakis draws a one-out walk. That's his first base on balls since May 17th. Yikes.
  • Amazing play by Branyan to make a diving stop of a Huff grounder, throw to second for the force, and then get back to the bag to catch the relay. That's a Web Gem right there.
Bottom 8:
  • Jim Johnson will come in to hold the 1-0 lead.
  • 97 mph fastball boring down and in gets Rob Johnson swinging.
  • Another one at 93 gets Gutierrez swinging.
  • Ichiro flies out to left.
Top 9:
  • Mora flies out to right.
  • Scott strikes out looking.
  • Wieters, batting left-handed for the first time today, strikes out looking as well. Hey, but at least he called a good game.
Bottom 9:
  • George Sherrill in for the save.
  • Betancourt flies out to deep center.
  • Beltre flies out to deep center.
  • Sweeney flies out to deep right.
Rich Hill started out shaky, but he really settled down and pitched well (7IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K). O's pitchers retired the last 20 hitters of the game, and the offense was able to scratch out one run for the win. In the post-game interview, Adam Jones said he and Nick Markakis don't remember the last time the O's won 1-0, and I have to agree. (It was 2007 apparently.) Great win for the Birds, and for Hill after his struggles last time out.

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