Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Watch Out for Batted Balls? Not in 2010

No player hit a Eutaw Street home run in 2010. It was only the second time in Camden Yards history that fans could stroll down Eutaw Street during baseball season without heeding the club's advice to "Watch Out For Batted Balls" (photo credit: WallyG, Flickr).

The other Eutaw Street homerless drought occurred in 1993. Eutaw Street remained untouched by cowhide from May 23, 1992, to April 24, 1994, when Ken Griffey Jr. hit a 438-foot homer to right field. Griffey's blast was the only Eutaw Street home run of the 1994 season.

Batters reached Eutaw Street during game action four times in 2009. Luke Scott hit the two most recent "Bronze Bombs"  on July 11, 2009, and Sept. 1, 2009. Scott's four Eutaw Street home runs are the second-most behind Rafael Palmeiro, who hit five in four different seasons.

Scott failed to put any baseballs beyond the right-field flag court in 2010 despite establishing a career high in home runs with 27, 19 of which came at Camden Yards.

The 1993 Orioles team ERA was 4.32. The 2010 Orioles team ERA was 4.59.

Will the next Eutaw Street home run be hit by the home team or the visitors? Vote in the poll on the sidebar.

Related Reading:

The Eutaw Street Year in Review (2009)

Luke Scott Closes in on Rafael Palmeiro for Most Eutaw Street Home Runs

What if the Warehouse Were in Left Field?


Friday, October 08, 2010

Which was the Orioles' best walk-off win in 2010?

There weren't many things the Baltimore Orioles did better than other teams this season; however, walk-off wins did become something of a specialty at Camden Yards in 2010. The O's enjoyed a dozen walk-offs, half of which came during Buck Showalter's tenure. Orioles Magic indeed.

The Birds walked-off against both the Red Sox (three times) and the Yankees. They pinned a loss on Jonathan Papelbon and a blown save on Mariano Rivera. They won on bunts, singles, doubles, a botched fielders' choice, and a home run.

Five Orioles had two walk-off hits in 2010: Adam Jones, Julio Lugo, Nick Markakis, and Ty Wiggington. Meanwhile, Cesar Izturis, Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, and Miguel Tejada rounded out the delightful dozen.

Markakis was in the walk-off mix most often, either as a hitter or as the winning run. And Ty Wiggington has to take the crown as best walk-off hitter of 2010 given that he beat both the Red Sox and the Yankees with his last-inning heroics.

But that still leaves this question: Which was the Orioles' best walk-off win of the 2010 season?

Here's the full list (in alphabetical order by player's last name) -

Cesar Izturis - Aug. 5, 2010, Orioles 5 - Angels 4
A one-out Izturis single off Francisco Rodriguez scores Julio Lugo, who pinch ran for Matt Wieters after the catcher led off the ninth inning with a double.

Adam Jones (1) - Aug. 6, 2010, Orioles 2 - White Sox 1
A two-out Adam Jones single plates Nick Markakis in the 10th inning. Neither team had scored since the top of the third inning. A Luke Scott single moved Markakis from first to third to set up Jones' game winner. It is the first and only time all season that the Orioles will win two consecutive games in walk-off fashion, demonstrating right from the start that these would indeed be different times under new manager Buck Showalter.

Adam Jones (2) - Aug. 16, 2010, Orioles 5 - Mariners 4
The bunt heard round the world. Okay, the bunt heard round Baltimore. Okay, okay, the bunt heard round Baltimore by those fans who hadn't already tuned out the Orioles in favor of Ravens training camp. Still, it was awesome. 

After matching the Mariners in the 10th inning, the Orioles pulled out the victory in the 11th when Adam Jones laid down a two-out bunt to score Nick Markakis from third base. Markakis doubled leading off the 11th inning and advanced to third base on a Ty Wiggington groundout.

Julio Lugo (1) - June 25, 2010, Orioles 7 - Nationals 6
The Orioles trailed 6-0 after three innings and still faced a three-run deficit headed into the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Orioles tied it. Cristian Guzman's throwing error while trying to turn two on a Julio Lugo grounder in the ninth gave the Orioles the win. Guzman's errant throw was the Nationals' fourth error of the day. Washington gave away the first game in what would turn out to be a three-game sweep.

Julio Lugo (2) - July 20, 2010, Orioles 11 - Rays 10
A Scott Moore sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 12th inning ensured that the Orioles wouldn't go home extra-innings losers. A Julio Lugo single to right in the bottom of the 13th ensured that the Orioles went home extra-innings winners.

Nick Markakis (1) - May 18, 2010, Orioles 4 - Royals 3
Nick Markakis' bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 10th sent Orioles fans home happy and gave Alfredo Simon his first major league win.

Nick Markakis (2) - June 6, 2010, Orioles 4 - Red Sox 3
Another single to center field, another extra-innings, walk-off victory - this one in 11.

Brian Roberts - Aug. 9, 2010, Orioles 3 - White Sox 2
Brian Roberts' first home run of the 2010 season wound up being the Orioles' only walk-off home run of the season. Roberts went deep in the bottom of the 10th inning off J.J. Putz. Alfredo Simon blew his fourth save of the season in the top of the ninth inning after allowing a leadoff home run to Paul Konerko.

Luke Scott (1) - Sept. 13, 2010, Orioles 4 - Blue Jays 3
Luke Scott doesn't just hit doubles and home runs. Scott's 11th inning single scores Nick Markakis, who reached base on a line-drive single and advanced on an infield groundout. Orioles win. Orioles win.

Miguel Tejada  (1) - April 30, 2010, Orioles 5 - Red Sox 4
Miguel Tejada follows up a game-tying, eighth-inning homer off hotshot Red Sox prospect - and likely successor to closer Jonathan Papelbon - Daniel Bard with a 10th inning single to score Adam Jones and secure the first win of the three-game series for the Birds. The win ends the Orioles' seven-game losing streak to the Red Sox at Camden Yards and sets up the first non-losing season series against Boston since 2004.

Ty Wiggington (1) - May 2, 2010, Orioles 3 - Red Sox 2
How sweep it is. The Orioles finish off an unlikely early-season sweep of the Red Sox when Ty Wiggington doubles home Nick Markakis in the bottom of the 10th inning for the team's second walk-off win of the three-game set. 

Wiggington, one of the team's lone bright spots during a dismal start to the season, is on his way to his first All-Star selection. Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, meanwhile, takes the second of his career-high seven losses in 2010. Papelbon also had a career-high eight blown saves.

Ty Wiggington (2) - Sept. 19, 2010, Orioles 4 - Yankees 3
Ty Wiggington deserves some kind of award for beating the Red Sox and the Yankees in the same season in walk-off fashion. Luke Scott provided the ninth-inning heroics in this one with a home run off Mariano Rivera to tie the score at three. Scott then led off the 11th inning with a double to left field, and Wiggington finished the job with a line-drive single.

The Verdict

So which was the best walk-off win of the 2010 season?

The way I see it (and I saw it in person), the Orioles saved the best for last. The Sept. 19th win against the Yankees was the Birds' best walk-off of 2010.

Consider that it featured the following improbable twists and turns:

-Longtime Orioles killer Andy Pettitte had just returned from the disabled list but was up to the same old tricks. Pettitte allowed one run in six innings, and the lethargic Orioles looked to be on their way to getting swept at home in their final series against New York.  

-Mariano Rivera entered to close the door in the ninth inning and received a standing ovation from the large Yankees contingent at Camden Yards. The only thing missing was "Enter Sandman." Oh, and the actual save thanks to Luke Scott.  

-And then there was the Mike Gonzalez Houdini act in the 11th inning. Gonzalez straight-jacketed himself with a leadoff walk and errant pick-off throw that put a runner on third with no outs. He then escaped unscathed with a strikeout and double play. Back-to-back intentional walks in between were the key.

Add in the fact that the Yankees were in the thick of the division race with the Rays while the Orioles were just trying to avoid 100 losses, and you've got yourself the best walk-off win of the 2010 season.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Don Larsen was far from perfect in Baltimore

It took one day for the Major League Baseball playoffs to produce a legendary moment. Roy Halladay became only the second pitcher in baseball history to throw a postseason no-hitter.The other was former Oriole Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

While Halladay's postseason success seemed almost pre-ordained after a career-long playoff drought - although granted, not to this level - Larsen's success was anything but.

Two years before his World Series perfect game, Larsen set the Orioles record for losses in a season with 21. Think about it, during the franchise's first-ever season in Baltimore Larsen established a mark for futility that hasn't been matched since. Among individual Orioles records, only Bob Turley's mark for walks in a season, 181, has stood as long.

[Larsen and Joe Coleman also established the more obscure record of most losses to one team in 1954, Larsen with five against the White Sox and Coleman with five against the Yankees.]

Keep in mind, however, that the 1954 Orioles were a bad ball club, one that finished 54-100. The '54 Orioles' .351 win percentage is better than only one other Baltimore team - the 1988 Orioles (.335).

For comparison's sake - and with full acknowledgment that it's difficult to make judgments across time - Larsen's 1954 numbers aren't altogether different than Brian Matusz's numbers in 2010 aside from strikeouts (where Matusz's total is much better).

ERA: Larsen - 4.37 ERA in 28 starts; Matusz 4.30 in 32 starts

WHIP: Larsen - 1.498; Matusz 1.343

H/9: Larsen - 9.5, Matusz 8.9

While he turned it on down the stretch, Matusz already had nine losses halfway through his 32 starts.

All of which goes to show (jokingly) that we can expect a post-season no-hitter from Brian Matusz in two years' time.

Related Reading:

-Legendary Washington Post sports writer Shirley Povich's story about Larsen's perfect game

-Baltimore's Never Been Perfect (Roar from 34)

-Looking Back on Better Days: The Orioles' First No-Hitter (Roar from 34)


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The top five teams with a gripe toward the Orioles

For those of us fans whose teams are on the outside looking in during the playoffs (again), it's the time of year for season recaps. To that end, Roar from 34 considers which five teams have the biggest beef with the Orioles now that the season is over. Each team's record against the Orioles is in parentheses.

[Which team do you think has the biggest gripe with the Orioles? Vote in the poll in the sidebar. ]

5. New York Yankees (13-5) - The Yankees dominated the Orioles again in 2010. What's there to be upset about?

Dumb question. For Yankees fans, there's always something to be upset about. The Yankees finished one game back of the Rays in the A.L. East. Shouldn't they have gone 14-4 against Baltimore? 15-3? Heck, should they ever lose to the Birds?

The Yankees went 3-3 against the Buck Showalter Orioles during a stretch of the season where every game supposedly counts more (which actually makes no sense, but since when is sports logic actually logical?). Most painful among those losses to the Orioles was the Sept. 17 extra-innings defeat at Camden Yards following a Mariano Rivera blown save (Luuuuuuuke) that helped make the immortal closer appear more human headed into the playoffs.  

Still, any gripes Yankees fans have with the Orioles are misplaced. New York failed to win the season series against any other division opponent. The Yankees split with Boston (9-9) and lost the season series against both the Rays (8-10) and the Blue Jays (8-10). Think New York's ready to consider divisional realignment?  

4. Seattle Mariners (3-6) - If you had polled every American League manager at the All-Star break and asked which A.L. team was most likely to lose 100 games in 2010, my guess is the 59-loss Orioles would have been at the top of every ballot except one (If there's one thing I loved about interim manager Juan Samuel it was his optimism).

Ultimately, the Mariners were the American League's only 100-loss team thanks in part to the team's 3-6 record against the Orioles. One of those losses came on Adam Jones' two out, walk-off bunt. As if Seattle fans didn't hate Baltimore enough after that Erik Bedard deal.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (0-6) - The Angels were the only team that couldn't beat the Orioles, which helps explain why Los Angeles-Anaheim finished with an overall losing record (80-82) for the first time since 2003. It also was the first time since 2003 that the Angels finished below second place in their own division. To make matters worse, the Angels lost one of those games to the Orioles on a Cesar Izturis walk-off single, which accounted for one of Izturis' 28 total RBI in 2010.

2. Texas Rangers (4-6) - It's a mixed bag for Texas, but they still rank in the No. 2 spot given that: 1. The Rangers had a losing record against the Orioles, and 2. The Rangers finished four games behind Minnesota for post-season positioning.

The bad news is that four games separated the Rangers from playing the Yankees at home rather than playing Tampa on the road. The good news is that four games separated the Rangers from playing the Yankees at home rather than playing Tampa on the road.

The Rangers lost the League Division Series to the Yankees in 1996, 1998, and 1999 (i.e. the previous three times they won the A.L. West). Perhaps Rangers fans should be thanking the Orioles.

1. Boston Red Sox (9-9) - Last season, Red Sox writers blamed the Orioles for giving Red Sox fans inflated hopes. In short, the thinking was the O's were so bad that fans mistakenly took to thinking the Red Sox were good for beating them so frequently. It was a bit of a stretch.

This year, Red Sox fans have a legitimate gripe with the Birds. Hampered much of the season by injuries, the Red Sox had enough fight left in them to win 89 games and a record good enough for third place in the A.L. East and second place in the other American League divisions. Nevertheless, the season ended early in Boston this year leaving plenty of time to discuss woulda-coulda-shoulda scenarios.

The Orioles beat the Red Sox as often as the Yankees did in 2010. Included among the Orioles' victories was an 11th inning walk-off win in Baltimore (Don't you just love Hideki Okajima?); a 10th-inning victory at Fenway; and an unlikely, late-April sweep of the Red Sox at Camden Yards featuring a Ty Wiggington walk-off double against Jonathan Papelbon.

The Orioles entered the latter series with a 4-18 record while Boston was riding high - and looked to be turning a corner - after sweeping Toronto on the road. Instead, Baltimore surprised fans in both cities with a sweep of its own. Incredibly, the Red Sox won seven of 10 games in a stretch where the team's only losses came against the Orioles.