Game Preview 07/09: Time to Turn Things Around


Fact: The Orioles have been abysmal as of late. Have you noticed that ever since pitching coach Mark Conner surprisingly resigned a few weeks ago that the pitching has absolutely sucked? It could be a coincidence or there could be a connection between the two events. We can’t speculate on it too much because Conner is gone and the Orioles need to figure out how to pitch well without him. The team has been especially bad as they’ve lost 10 of their last 11 games including giving up 10 or more runs in 4 of their last 5 games. That’s all on the pitching staff right there because the team has scored 3, 4, 5 runs in those games, which is a good amount of offense. You can’t allow 8 runs in the first inning (ahem Zach Britton) and expect your team to score 8 runs to tie it up. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Fact: Things may turn around right about now. I’ll give you two reasons why. One: There’s only 2 games left in the first half of the season. The Orioles seem to always have a difficult time before the All-Star Break. So, they put this all behind them, have a week off, then get down to business (which is winning). Two: Last night’s giant fight in the 8th inning against the Red Sox. Scott already wrote all about that so I’ll let you read what he says about it (which I completely agree with). That bench-clearing fight will give energy to this team and bring them closer together and hopefully motivate them to beat the shit (in the game, not physically) out of the Red Sox tonight and tomorrow.

Because the starting pitching’s woes, tonight Alfredo Simon is getting his first start of the season (and his first start since April of 2009). The Red Sox are countering with a not-great-John Lackey.

John Lackey:
1. Attended the University of Texas at Arlington playing first base and sometimes as a reliever before getting drafter in 1999 by the Anaheim Angels.
2. In his first season in the minors, he quickly became known for his competitiveness. His manager tried to bring him out of a game but Lackey told him otherwise and went back to work the next inning and continued to pitch well.
3. In 2000, he was named the Angels Minor League Pitcher of the Year with a 15-9 record and 3.15 ERA.
4. In 2002, he got called up and had one of the best postseason rookie seasons of all time. In Game 7 of the World Series, he allowed 1 run and 4 hits in 5 innings while striking out 4 to win probably the biggest game of his career.
5. In 2005, he became the ace of staff and was 1 out away from a perfect game by giving up a lead-off double in the 1st followed by retiring the next 27 batters in a row. He also threw 30 2/3 innings of consecutive scoreless ball in 2006.
6. In 2008, he recorded his 1000th strikeout against Red Sox Kevin Youkilis being only the 6th Angel to accomplish that feat.
7. In his first start of the 2009 season, he threw 2 pitches before being ejected from the game. He was throwing to Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers when the 1st pitch went behind his head and the 2nd one hit in the side. Kinsler went on to score, charging Lackey with the run and giving him an ERA of infinity. Later that season, he secured his 100th win against the Oakland A’s.
8. After 2009, he became a free agent and signed a 5-year $82.5 million contract with the Red Sox.
9. After a strong 2010 campaign, he is struggling this season with a 5-8 record and 7.47 ERA.
10. In his last start against the Blue Jays, he only managed 2 1/3 innings giving up 9 hits and 7 runs. He’s coming off of 3 straight losses in 2 of which he didn’t make it to the 5th inning. In his career, the Orioles have a .268 batting average against him with only 5 RBI and no home runs. In his career against Baltimore, he is 10-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 17 starts. Last season, he went 2-1 in 5 starts against the Orioles; however, the Red Sox went 2-3 in the games he started.

Alfredo Simon:
I bet you guys didn’t know this about him.
1. He was signed by the Phillies in 1999 under the name of Carlos Cabrera and said he was 21 months younger than he really was. Oops. When the Phillies found out his real name and age, they traded him to the Giants.
2. He began as a starter but after a rough few years in the minors, he moved to the relief role.
3. Now it’s about to get a bit confusing. He filed for free agency at the end of 2006 and was signed by the Texas Rangers. In December, the Orioles drafted him in the Rule 5 Draft. Later that day, the Orioles traded him back to Philly. Then in March, the Phillies traded him back to the Rangers. After a bad season with them, he filed for free agency again.
4. He signed with the Dodgers in 2008 but was released before the start of the season. So, he pitched in a Mexican League and had a very good season causing him to be signed by the Orioles.
5.He finally made his major league debut in August of 2008. The next season, he was named a member of the starting rotation but had to miss the season with injury and Tommy John surgery.
6. In January of this year, he allegedly shot and killed someone in the Dominican Republic as well as injuring another in a New Years Eve celebration. The police charged him with involuntary manslaughter and he posted his bail and all is well (I think).
7. This season, he’s 1-1 with a 4.64 ERA. His last outing was a bad one in which he pitched 4 1/3 innings against the Rangers where he gave up 9 hits and 6 runs. However, he says he’s comfortable making the start tonight since he initially came to the MLB as a starter. He also said he wants to be a starter and can go 6 or 7 innings. With that said, let’s hope he pulls himself together and has a dominant outing to get a win for the Orioles as well as maybe earn himself another start this season.

One more thing….Nick Markakis is 4 hits away from 1,000. I know Derek Jeter hit his 3,000th hit today (it being a homer) but maybe Nick has a huge game going 4 for 4 or 4 for 5 and gets there. If not by today, hopefully by the All-Star Break. Root him on!