Baltimore Orioles: First pitch strikes are all-important


One thing I noticed at chilly Camden Yards last night was that in many cases Oriole starter Jake Arrieta was getting behind hitters early in the count. We hear a lot of television analysts say that you have to throw first pitch strikes if you want to be a successful big league pitcher. I’m not as huge on that point as some people because  for that matter if you get down 1-0 in a count you might as well IBB the guy. However the fact is that throwing a first pitch strike is always helpful in the sense that it puts the batter on notice that you’re dealing.

The idea is that you don’t want to suddenly wake up and find yourself down 3-0 or 3-1 in the count and you’re in a situation where you have to make a pitch. Arrieta only walked two hitters in last night’s 5-2 loss to Oakland, however he was getting behind early in the count to hitters. Arrieta’s stat line from last night is a bizzare one at that: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K. For those that weren’t watching the game, yes that’s correct; the guy gave up four hits and that netted the A’s four runs. (Three of those runs came courtesy of the two homers that Oakland hit.) Arrieta wasn’t horrible by any means, however he wasn’t crisp either. His issue in the past has been walks; ironically the net result of him getting behind in counts was that he hung some pitches in the strike zone. In particular, I’m thinking of a hanging fastball middle in to Josh Reddick that sailed out of the park.

With the 5-2 loss, the Orioles snapped a four-game winning streak. However there were some positives in this game. I was happy to see the Birds “Moneyball the A’s” in the first inning by manufacturing a run after Nolan Reimold’s lead off double. Reimold advanced on two sac flies to left field; in both cases we were treated to excellent base running by Reimold. Oakland left fielder Coco Crisp does not have a strong arm in the least. Reimold knew that, and was willing to test it twice which netted the Orioles a run. The Orioles’ bullpen once again showed a lot of grit albeit in a losing effort. Patton, Lindstrom, and Kevin Gregg combined for one hit, one run, one walk, and a strikeout. Kevin Gregg was boo’d mightily when he entered the game in the 9th, and I got a pretty negative reaction on my twitter feed when I announced that he was warming up in the ‘pen. There’s no doubt that Buck Showalter saw that the O’s were down three and figured it was a no-pressure situation where he could get Gregg some work. However Gregg seemed to use the boos as an incentive to pitch well, and sent the A’s down in order 1-2-3 (striking out two).

Luckily for the O’s they get right back on the horse tonight against the A’s. Wei-Yin Chen will get the starting assignment for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Oakland righty Tyson Ross. Prior to the game the Orioles will unveil the first of six bronze statues honoring Oriole hall of famers in the left field picnic area. Tonight’s ceremony will be in honor of Oriole legend Frank Robinson. Robinson will be in attendance for the game and the ceremony, as will special guests Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, former Atlanta Brave Hank Aaron, and former Boston Celtic Bill Russell. I think that inviting Aaron and Russell was a great move by the O’s, and it’s quite an honor for Oriole fans to know that one of their own is so well thought of by his fellow sports legends.

To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, one would hope that the Orioles have a “hungry heart” after last night’s loss. Tyson Ross issued five walks in his previous start, so it would behoove the Birds to be patient at the plate tonight. However in that start against Cleveland, Ross only allowed four hits and ultimately one run in notching his first win of 2012. So if that start is any indication, he lets people on base but minimizes the damage. Wei-Yin Chen didn’t figure into the decision last Sunday in L.A., however he pitched very solidly in his 6 and 1/3rd of an inning. He’s gone deeper each start, which is a very good sign.

Last Sunday when Chen went to the hill he did so hoping to break a modest two-game losing streak. In this case the Orioles have lost “one in a row,” however as I’ve said previously they’ve been successfully able to avoid epically long losing streaks thus far in 2012. Their next chance to do that is tonight against Oakland, with the ball in Chen’s hand.

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