Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thoughts and Observations from Padres-Orioles game

I attended the Padres-Orioles game last night at Petco Park with my brothers Billy and John and John's wife Kristina (a shrewd baseball fan herself, she accurately maintained my scorecard while I roamed the concourse for an inning or so). It was a fun game to watch as the Padres rallied in the bottom of the 9th to overcome a flimsy one-run Oriole advantage finishing with Adrian Gonzalez's game-winning RBI single with 2 outs and the bases loaded to win the game. Coming into the game, the Orioles were the worst team in the major leagues and we witnessed some glaring displays of their ineptitude.

The O's Plight Summed Up in One Night
- Bad lineup configuration: Admittedly, he doesn't have much to choose from with pretty much every hitter not producing so far this season, but interim manager Juan Samuel's choice of Corey Patterson (career .291 on-base percentage) as his leadoff man is just plain foolish. The guy is an out machine (and he went 0 for 4 last night).

- Adam Jones' ugly fielding: prior to last night's game I watched the highlights from the Orioles' previous game, a 6-3 loss in San Francisco, and saw the usually stalwart young centerfielder Adam Jones totally botch a fly ball that he definitely should've had. Last night in the 5th inning, Adrian Gonzalez laced a ball to center, Jones sprinted back to the wall and then flailed his glove up over his head in an awkward and pathetic last attempt before falling. He'd misjudged the direction of the ball and looked silly because of it. It was an extremely hard hit ball and Jones is a converted shortstop but I think he could have caught the ball if he ran in the right direction. The resultant RBI double scored the Padres' first run to tie the game. Jones is one of the centerpieces of the Orioles' future but he showed last night why he is one of the centerpieces of their current state of suckitude.

- "Score that play: Interference" Orioles shortstop Cesar Izturis, a terrible hitter as is (.297 career OBP), somehow managed to get himself out on a 3-0 count without even swinging. In the top of the 5th inning, Julio Lugo (another sad Oriole failure) led off with a single and then stole second. He then attempted to steal third, the catcher's throw bounced past third baseman Chase Headley and went into the outfield, and Lugo scampered home for a run. But wait! Sitting in the stands, we didn't have the luxury of announcers to explain the events but we saw Izturis and Lugo immediately get into an argument with the homeplate umpire. Over what? The announcement came over the loud speaker: "Score that play: Interference." Something I've seen watching games on TV but never witnessed in person. Izturis had gotten in the way of Padres catcher Yorvit Torrealba when the latter was trying to uncork a throw to third. Izturis was automatically out and Lugo had to go back to second base. A strange ruling perhaps but here's the official explanation:
Rule 6.06
A batter is out for illegal action when --(c) He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base. EXCEPTION: Batter is not out if any runner attempting to advance is put out, or if runner trying to score is called out for batter’s interference.
Rule 6.06(c) Comment: If the batter interferes with the catcher, the plate umpire shall call “interference.” The batter is out and the ball dead. No player may advance on such interference (offensive interference) and all runners must return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference.
In the 9th inning, Izturis struck out looking for the third out while Lugo was attempting a steal of second. This time, Torrealba spiked the ball on the ground in front of home plate (he'd remembered halfway through his throw that the inning was actually over), a strange sight which led to some confusion in the stands...and in the scorebox too: the scoreboard displayed once again "Score that play: Interference."

- College Night: Last night was College Night at the ballpark, all college students got into the game for only $8.50. It was thus a little more rowdy than usual and there were plenty of stereotypical college "bros" especially a group of about six dudes that sat a few rows in front of us, chanting "Peanut Boy" throughout the game (I have no idea why), gyrating, hugging, high-fiving, yelling, and just being idiots for the entire game. But, I guess that's what college boys do. More importantly though, former University of San Diego star Brian Matusz was the starter for the Orioles and I was eager to watch the highly-regarded (#18 overall prospect as per Baseball Prospectus) rookie lefty pitch. He threw a pretty good game with 6 innings, 1 run, 4 Ks and 1 walk. Not very efficient though as it took him 114 pitches to make it through those 6 innings. Still, he looks like a nice piece to stick in the Baltimore rotation for years to come.

- Pathetic pen: By most metrics (I like the advanced ones) the Orioles' bullpen is among the very worst in baseball. They did manage to hold the Padres scoreless in the 7th and 8th innings but when David Hernandez, a righty with good stuff but terrible control, came in to protect a one-run lead in the 9th I knew they were doomed and the Pads would rally. A leadoff walk to Chase Headley set things in motion and I watched as Hernandez loaded the bases and the Orioles frantically tried to get people warming up in the bullpen (one of them was the forever hittable Mark Hendrickson), desperate for a pitcher who could just get a few of outs! Didn't happen. Hernandez allowed a walk and four hits before getting to three outs and the Pads walked off with a victory.

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