In Praise of an Opponent: Hats Off to Astros Reliever Tony Sipp

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May 12, 2014

Shortly after the Houston Astros jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against the Orioles on Sunday, I Tweeted the following: "As long as Houston has to go to the bullpen, I remain optimistic about this game."

Saturday night, Steve Clevenger had pie on his face; by the end of Sunday's game, I had egg on mine.

The Astros bullpen pitched three hitless innings with five strikeouts to finish off the O's. This from the outfit that has baseball's highest ERA (6.06) and the second-most blown saves (eight). The difference was Tony Sipp (@SippTony).

Sipp, whom the Astros signed on May 1, struck out five O's batters in two innings of work, two more than starter Jarred Cosart did in the six innings he logged. Stated more concisely, he was filthy.

Sipp's victims were as follows: Steve Pearce, Nick Markakis, Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Nelson Cruz. Adam Jones tapped the ball back to Sipp to keep the lefty reliever from striking out every batter he faced.

Bullpens are quirky. And as the Orioles know from the not-too-distant past, they can be difficult to construct. It's somehow fitting then that one of baseball's worst bullpens is receiving a jolt from a guy who was pitching at Triple-A for the San Diego Padres, owners of one of baseball's best bullpens, and requested his release.

[Quick aside: Sipp had been playing for the El Paso Chihuahuas, the team that pulled the infamous prank on Jeff Francouer earlier this season.]

According to FanGraphs, Sipp was "once a former top-flight closer prospect" but has "shown to be nothing more than an average middle reliever." It sounds like a guy who is paying his dues and working his way back to the bigs. As he writes in his Twitter bio, "Hard work pays off."

I spend the majority of my baseball time focusing on the Orioles and rarely pay much mind to an opponent, especially one who's made a significant contribution to beating my favorite team. Tony Sipp is an exception. His is a good story, and it's one I'll be following from here on out.

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Further feel good stuff: Check out an Instagram photo of Sipp with his nieces in the visiting clubhouse at Camden Yards.

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