First off, the line-up was well constructed. Roberts in the lead-off spot is a given, but keeping Markakis and his OBP second, Scott and his general good hitting fourth, Wigginton who provides mostly just power third, and then 5-9 in close to decreasing hitting ability, were also correct. I’ve been beating the bat Nick second drum for a while*, so hopefully that continues. (Yes it’s basically the same line-up Juan Samuel ran out there the last few games, but Buck didn’t have to stick with it – and that doesn’t make it any worse than batting Jones second or what have you.)
* Not that it really matters, but…
Batting second: .327/.409/.542, with a 1.2 K to BB ratio in 677 career PA
Batting third: .286/.360/.450, with a 1.5 K to BB ratio in 1,885 PA
Batting fourth: .273/.314/.417, with a 1.8 K to BB ratio in 204 PA
Jeremy Guthrie had another solid start for the Orioles (7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K , 1 HR – a single game FIP of about 4.60), and he was actually provided with some run support, largely courtesy of Ty Wigginton (0-2, 2 BB, R), Luke Scott (2-4, two-run HR), Felix Pie (2-3, 2B, 2 R, SB), the red-hot Matt Wieters (3-3, 2B, BB, 2 R, 1 RBI), and Josh Bell (1-4, two-run double).
With Guthrie at 92 pitches through 7 innings pitched, Showalter brought Mike Gonzalez in to face the top of the Angel’s line-up (two switch-hitters and a lefty). Gonzalez has given up just one run since coming off the DL, and has his velocity back to the 93-94 range – which is good, even if not worth $6 M. So Gonzalez gave up a single to Abreu (the only lefty he faced in the inning), but was allowed to stay in to retire Torii Hunter.
The O’s added a run* in the bottom of the 8th to make it 6-3 – a save situation. And yet Buck sent Gonzalez out there again to face Hideki Matsui (a lefty) and Alberto Callaspo (a switch-hitter**), before bringing closer Alfredo Simon in to get the final batter (a righty, who he K’ed). That meant that despite a three run lead in the 9th inning, no one on the team got a Save. After the game, Showalter said that he doesn’t give much weight to the Save statistic, which is just marvelous to hear. Let’s hope he actually manages that way over the long run.
* Jones got on and moved over on an error, and Pie sacrificed him over to third with one out before Wieters singled him in. Normally I hate bunting – especially that crazy “move a guy from first to second when down 3 runs in the bottom of the fifth” variety – but already up two at home in the 8th, playing for one run isn’t terrible (and I believe their chances of scoring at least one run went up, even if their expected runs scored went down). It dropped the team’s win expectancy just 0.2% (from 95.3% to 95.1%), and Pie has enough speed to beat a good bunt out sometimes. Given that Felix is a left-handed hitter with an above average contact rate I would have let him swing away, but it wasn’t egregious.
** Callaspo has been a better hitter from the right side for his career, but it’s gone the other way this season (largely due to a BABIP difference). You’d really want to use all the numbers – giving more weight to the recent ones if need be – and then regress them, to make the call. So this would be another slight minus for Buck, though I don’t think it’s a big deal. Step One is to stop adhering to “bad” stats. Step… I’m not sure, but it’s at least Two, is to start using the “most correct” stats.
So the O’s beat the Angels 6-3 and are now 1-0 under their new skipper. They only need to go 48-8 the rest of the season to get to .500.
Tangentially related note: I’ll be on Fox1370 (AM) at 4:05 today (PM), discussing the new manager (and much, much more!) with Jerry Coleman. Tune in if you have a chance, and you can also check out Jerry’s recently launched O’s page where the audio of the segment should be up at some point after the fact.