To paraphrase one of the Oriole’s announcers…Good pitching makes you look like a good baseball team. There has never been truer words spoken in the history of baseball. The Yankees have an all-star at every fielding position on the diamond except secondbase. When was the last time the Yankees won a world series? 2000. Back then, the team was GOOD offensively, but not nearly as potent as they have been in recent years. The difference? PITCHING. Plain and simple. Just when we were beginning to wonder if there was a major league pitcher on the Devil Rays staff, Mark Hendrickson, went to the mound tonight and thought he was back playing with the New Jersey Nets in 2000 as the D-Rays beat the Orioles 2-0. At least his line score tonight looked very similar to most of his line scores during his basketball career. 9 min, 3 fga, 0 fgm, 0 reb, 1 ast, 5 fouls, 0 pts. Oops. Our bad. That was 9 inn, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 0 HR. There was one other stat that stood out tonight for Hendrickson. His pitchcount (106 pitches, 69 strikes) was nearly identical in 9 innings as Scott Kazmir’s (104/66) was on opening day in 4+ innings. We hope Kazmir was paying attention tonight.
We were also pleased to see Joe Maddon stick with Hendrickson in 9th innning. Maddon has made it known that he does not like to depend on pitch counts. He would rather let a pitcher go as long as he is throwing well and not laboring on the mound. Hendrickson now has as many complete games as the entire team had in 2005, and more shutouts than the 2004 and 2005 squads combined.
Tomas Perez, who was signed earlier in the day, made his debut as a pinch runner for Aubrey Huff, in the 8th inning. Perez then stayed in the game to play thirdbase as a defensive substitution. Perez, who didn’t make a single error in 95 games, in 2005, made a throwing error on his first attempt of 2006. In his defense, Huff would not have even made the play and the Travis Lee appeared to make the tag on the high throw, even though the runner was ruled safe. Perez made up for the botched throw on the very next play, diving to his left and throwing out the lead runner at secondbase and keeping the tying run off base.
Speaking of Travis Lee. Excellent defensive firstbaseman, but there is a reason he has never lived up to his potential as a hitter. During the bottom of the 8th, Tim Byrdack of the Orioles walked three of the first four batters he faced to bring Lee up to bat with the bases loaded and nobody out in a 2-0 ballgame. Lee, facing a pitcher with obvious control problems, with the bases loaded in a close ballgame, proceeds to swing at the first pitch out of the strike zone. We are at a loss as to why Lee would be swinging at all at the first pitch against a left handed pitcher with control problems. He then swings at the second pitch and hits a weak groundball to the secondbaseman, leading to an inning ending 4-6-3 double play. For anyone that has ever played baseball, that is usually what happens when you try to pull an outside pitch, and that is exactly what happened to Lee. Maddon has stressed that he wants the team to play with better fundamentals, a lesson that apparently was lost on Travis Lee.