A game that was bad for the heart ends well
By Matthew Taylor
“We play for respect, we play with pride, and we’re the Baltimore Orioles.”
I don’t have any kids, my job is challenging without being stressful, and my marriage is going well. Clearly, the one thing responsible for the increasing number of gray hairs on top of my head is my favorite baseball team.
A game like Wednesday’s 6-3 victory over the Yankees just goes to show that, win or lose, it’s not over until the bullpen blows a lead.
With that said, the O’s came away from the Bronx with another series win against the Yankees and have now won four of their last six games, which came against the top two teams in the AL East.
Despite multiple phone-in meetings to the office and a terrible MASN signal, I was able to follow the game in an amazing display of multi-tasking. So here are some well-earned observations from Wednesday’s game.
-I hate that baseball has allowed the networks to utilize in-game interviews, including MASN’s “Wired Wednesdays.” Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed Dave Trembley’s remarks from the visitor’s dugout in the Bronx: “We play for respect, we play with pride, and we’re the Baltimore Orioles.”
Dave Trembley just reeks of optimism. Aside from the bullpen, he really does have the team playing with pride since the All-Star break. How better to explain the club’s resiliency? They followed up a Mariners’ sweep at Camden Yards with series wins over the Red Sox and Yankees, including today’s tenth inning rally immediately after the bullpen blew a three-run lead.
On the individual level, you have to credit Erik Bedard for his composure in the sixth inning, striking out Jorge Posada to end the inning with runners on the corners after Tike Redman lost an easy pop fly to left in the sun. The pop-up was recorded as a hit for Hideki Matsui.
-Has there been a more exciting pitcher wearing Orange and Black in recent memory than Erik Bedard?
During his peak years in Baltimore, Mike Mussina was a dominating ace. His performance in the 1997 ALCS – 25 strikeouts in two games, including an eight inning, one-hit affair in Game 6 – is one of the greatest in modern O’s history. However, Erik Bedard is poised to bandage the still-fresh wounds (at least in my mind) of Mussina’s departure.
Bedard already matched Mussina’s individual game mark for strikeouts with his 15 K performance against Texas on July 7. Now he’s on pace to shatter Mussina’s record for strikeouts in a season, 218 in 1997.
Bedard currently leads the league with 207 strikeouts; he is the first Birds pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in a season since Mussina recorded 210 K’s in 2000. Bedard is 8-0 in his last 12 starts and hasn’t lost since June 10 against Colorado, according to the Associated Press.
-We need Kevin Millar’s bat in the lineup, but I much prefer Aubrey Huff at first base.
While attending the first game of last week’s series against the Mariners I counted multiple occasions where the Birds would’ve gotten an out had Millar been able to stretch for a ball thrown high or scoop a ball thrown to him on one bounce. He also charged a ball hit lightly up the first base line only to miss the tag on the runner. It seemed like a case of bad baseball instincts.
The latter play serves as a good comparison to Aubrey Huff’s eighth inning defense during this afternoon’s game. Huff deflected a hard hit ball but wasn’t able to record the out on his own. He immediately retreated to the bag and stretched out to receive Brian Roberts’ throw just in time to record the out. Here was a case of good baseball instincts.
I’m not typically a stat guy, but I did a little research to see if there’s anything to support my case on this one. My research took me into bold new territory, beyond the limits of fielding percentage and into the terrain of Range Factor per Nine Innings.
This season, Aubrey Huff’s .992 fielding percentage at first base trails Kevin Millar’s .998 fielding percentage at the position. However, Huff’s RF/9 is 9.72, topping Millar’s 9.68.
Following the trend backwards over the past few seasons, Huff’s numbers at first base hold up against Millar’s.
2006 – Huff 10.12, Millar 9.38
2005 – Huff 7.75, Millar 9.99
2004 – Huff 9.48, Millar 9.21
I’m admittedly a rookie at using the Range Factor statistic, but in this case it generally matches my gut instinct.