Sep 7, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Brian Matusz (17) pitches against the New York Yankees during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Our local birds, a.k.a. the Baltimore Orioles, were beaten by a single bird on Labor Day afternoon at Yankee Stadium — a bird named “Greg Bird,” whose three-run home in the bottom of the seventh inning broke a 5-5 tie on the way to an 8-6 victory for New York.
Just as the Orioles finally picked up some runs, including four in the second inning, the pitching could not hold off the Yankees … proving once again that the 2015 Baltimore Orioles have innumerable ways of losing baseball games.
The back-breaking homer followed a walk and single yielded by losing pitcher Jorge Rondon. Brian Matusz was called upon to face left-handed hitting Greg Bird — a rookie first baseman in his 22nd career game, filling in for the injured Mark Teixeira. Surely the youngster would be no match for the lefty specialist.
Matusz started him off with a pair of strikes on 92-mph four-seamers. He fouled off the first and watched the second for a called strike. So, since he proved he couldn’t hit that pitch, the obvious choice was to change it to a hanging 83-mph slider in the middle of the plate on a 0-2 pitch! Gone!
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The Orioles have been unbelievably inept on 0-2 pitches this year. The Bird homer was the 99th hit this season on 0-2 counts given up by O’s pitchers. That is tops in the American League along with the Tigers and Twins – give or take one or two hits. The next highest number after that is in the 70s, with the league average at 61.
Of the 99 hits allowed on a 0-2 count by the Orioles this year, 17 have been for doubles, 2 for triples, and 8 for home runs. Opponents are batting .209 in these situations. Of course, an average of .209 is not considered good, but on 0-2 counts it is actually rather fabulous!
It is not as if an unusual number of terrible things have happened to Orioles pitchers after 0-2 counts when pitching around batters. Only 33 times over the entire season has a 0-2 count eventuated in a base on balls, whereas it has rather led to 453 strikeouts.
And it is not like it is deep baseball strategy to know to pitch off the plate on 0-2 counts. This is even done in Little League baseball. So to groove or hang a pitch in the middle of the plate in MLB is inexcusable and intolerable.
To just look at Matusz’ numbers, one would think him to be a highly effective relief pitcher, and often he is. He has a 2.40 ERA over 45 innings with a WHIP of 1.13. Opponents are hitting .198 off him. But 11 of 33 inherited runners have scored this year. In 2014 it was 10 of 49, and just 5 of 37 in 2013.
Now with a record of 65-72, the Orioles will need to go 16-9 in the final 25 games just to make it to .500. Geez! Who’da thunk it?