Game 3: Orioles 5, Rays 1

The Good:

  • Zach Britton looked very good. His production looks like it’ll go more or less as I expected – if he throws strikes and keeps the ball down his stuff will carry him, but if his control wavers he’ll be merely OK at best. As for his stuff, I was way off if you look at the pitchfx from the game. I was under the impression that Britton threw a sinker*, but it appears that it’s more of a tailing two-seamer. Had a little more velocity on it too, and generated some swings and misses (20% whiff rate on what I’d call four-seamers, and 25% on two-seamers). He reallied heavily on the heater, but I was very impressed with his secondary pitches (slider and change-up). The former was mostly taken for a ball, but on the occasions that it was swung at he had a 75% whiff rate. The latter was used more sparingly, but on the occasions that it was swung at he had a 78% whiff rate. If Britton can keep missing bats at close to this rate, his perceived ceiling will probably need to be raised, in my opinion (yeah, yeah, small sample size). Final line; 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K.

* Apparently, Britton didn’t really use his sinker. That explains a lot**. Now I’m really looking forward to his next start, to see what his main pitch is actually like. See? This is why I didn’t think he’d get sent down.
** Or the PitchFX calibration was off, since it didn’t have any of Britton’s sliders as dropping much below the 0 line even though it looked like some of them might have had some break. In that case his two-seamer – which it does look like he threw (there kinda looks like two distinct fastball blobs) – would have had decent sink (and still a lot of tail).

  • Jason Berken had a nice first appearance of 2011, striking out the side in his one inning of work. I said after his first terrible year as a starter that his numbers didn’t correspond to his stuff, which was much more average-ish than bad. He moved to the pen and has been a solid reliever, which you’d expect from an OK starter.
  • JJ Hardy man. Dude has swung at like one first-pitch all year. He’s working the count, getting some hits. Ripped a two-run double down the third-base line to give the O’s some insurance runs after they took a 7th inning lead.
  • Mark Reynolds drove in two runs with a pair of doubles, and didn’t even strike out. Also made a pretty good diving play at third early in the game (and then let a ball through the wickets in the ninth).
  • Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters each added a couple of hits as well. One of Wieters’ was a blooper, but he did also easily throw out BJ Upton trying to steal third-base.
  • Adam Jones also had two base-knocks, and managed to keep from swinging at a couple pitches three feet out of the strike-zone.

The Bad:

  • There were intermittent stretches of poor patience from some O’s hitter. Vlad especially looked bad chasing pitches in K’ing (twice) and also grounding into a double play (where he was out at first by a good 10 feet if not more). He better hit a home run on a pitch at his shoe-tops soon, or watching him at the plate will get mighty tiring.
  • With the O’s up 4-1 in the top of the ninth, Buck had their $6 M closer Kevin Gregg warming. With a 5-1 lead, Buck brought in Josh Rupe (career 5.00 ERA, 1.2 K/BB) to pitch. Now Buck has a whole commercial where he talks about how he doesn’t believe in the save rule, so I know he couldn’t have been going by that. But it still seems a little odd.

The Final:

What an exciting start. Britton looked great, and the O’s offense woke up just in time to get him his first major league win. The O’s sweep has them coming home 3-0, and even if it was largely a product of fortunate BABIP in run prevention and timely (clutch!) hitting on offense, I’ll certainly take it. Not only that, but the Orioles also have sole possession of first place in the AL East. I believe this is the latest in the season that has happened since 2005.