Game 1: Orioles top Sox 2-1

Well, it all started again yesterday in Camden Yards where Jon Lester took on Chris Tillman. The Sox lost 2-1 to the O’s and from the radio and television talking heads you’d think (1) the world was coming to an end and (2) that Jackie Bradley does not belong in the show. I hate that blather.

Much of the talking head drivel focused on the fact that Farrell did not pinch hit Jonny Gomes for JBJ in the ninth. I didn’t have a problem with that choice.  First, Tommy Hunter (who goes by the twitter handle @TommyGoesBoom), the new O’s closer, in 2013 held righties to a .141/.190/.344 slash line with no homers. Against lefties? He had a .294/.322/.857 slash line with 11 homers. Yeah, you read that right. Eleven homers allowed against lefties and a miniscule slash line against righties. Gomes was a bad call in that situation. JBJ had a better chance, even if he ended up not looking very good. I also wonder if Farrell wasn’t thinking long term with JBJ, who needs to get used to hitting in those kind of situations if he is going to help the team down the road. I think you have to stick with JBJ for that at bat. For emotional reasons and statistical ones.

Now, the at bat that bugged me that no one seems to be talking about occurred in the eighth. With runners on first and second and two out, the Orioles brought in Brian Matusz, a lefty, to face lefty AJ Pierzinski. This was the situation that screamed out for a pinch hitter; namely, Jonny Gomes, the self-described pinch hitter extraordinaire. While AJ has a neutral line – he seems to hit lefties and righties about the same but with markedly less power from the left side, Gomes has historically been stronger against lefties. And, Matusz is much stronger against lefites and gets hit well by righties.

In 65 games last year, Matusz faced righties 96 times and lefties 112 times. Here are his splits:

  • vs. Righties – .302/.375/.747 with 1 HR.
  • vs. Lefties – .168/.225/.502 with 2 HR.

Doesn’t the above suggest, no demand, that Gomes pinch hit for Pierzynski? Leaving AJ at the dish against Matusz made no sense. Was Farrell worried about upsetting AJ? If so, then even more reason to pinch hit for AJ and get him in line right away.

It’s easy to pick on JBJ, but this was the at bat that was thrown away. Watching the game, it seemed like a crucial at bat and a key opportunity to drive in the tying run. That was the decision that bugged me, not JBJ’s final at bat.

Really, though, the Sox had many chances to win that game and blaming JBJ at the end is wrong headed. The problem was that the Sox left 12 runners on base and were 0-10 with runners in scoring position. Only 10 times did the Sox leave 12 or more runners on base last year. Surprisingly, they were 7-3 in those games. In none of those games, though, did they go zero for anything with RISP.

They just didn’t get the key hit when they needed it. That’s the bottom line. For the most part they did what they are supposed to do yesterday. They made Tillman throw a lot of pitches and had him out after the fifth. They got to the Baltimore bullpen. While they didn’t score off the pen, they still have a few more days in Baltimore and hopefully they will respond better next time they see Meek, Matusz and Hunter. The Sox just didn’t get a hit when they needed to drive in a run. It’s a team game and in this instance, the team just laid an egg when they needed a key hit.

One more game observation: Xander Bogaerts is going to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He is going to have a huge year.

On a weirder note, did you see that Don Baylor, while catching the ceremonial first pitch from Vlad Guerrero, broke his femur? Unbelievable.


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