Sunday, May 21, 2006

Frank's Good Weekend

It's gotta feel good to be Frank Robinson tonight. He had a pretty damn good weekend. Ignore Friday's loss (and Lame Duck winner Daryle Ward, who'd make a pretty good statue, would like you to), and things went pretty well.

He ran his least favorite outfielder off the team, since he's not man enough or something. He became a Doctor and got to wear a funny robe. He won two games. And lo and behold, he managed pretty damn well! Up is down. Democrats are Republicans. Let's check the temperature in hell.

Here in the real world, the temperature was gorgeous, the kind of day that was made for baseball. I had my sausage. I had my beer. And we had a pretty good game!

I've criticized Frank in the past for, when the team is struggling, his tendency to push too many buttons to make things happen. He puts too many players in situations where they can't succeed. But not today.

Twice he put the hit-and-run on with Wiki Gonzalez at the plate and Marlon Byrd at first, and twice it worked. In the fourth, the hit-and-run produced a sinking liner to right, which moved Byrd to third and drove in a run for kicks. In the 6th, the same combo worked to perfection, as Wiki's hard grounder went right to shortstop -- the very shortstop who had decided to cover second on Byrd's movement.

Frank hits and runs too much, but this is a pretty good combo to do it. Wiki's not a strong hitter and getting the fielders to dance around can only help. It keeps him from hitting into the double play. And Byrd's a decent baserunner (especially with Javy Lopez catching!) The night before, Frank got the hit-and-run to work two or three times. Considering how infrequently it worked early, the Nats were due!

Frank's best decision, though, was the trap. After the sixth-inning hit-and-run, Frank had Livan sacrifice Byrd to second. The trap was set. Alfonso Soriano was up and Royce Clayton was on deck. Earlier, the Orioles had Intentionally Walked Soriano to get to Clayton (about as automatic a decision as there is). The Orioles would do it again, but Frank had a surprise. While the balls were being delivered, Royce went to the bench, and Nick Johnson hopped out of the dugout and was announced as a pinch-hitter to an ovation as loud as the boos were for the O's mascot.

That Nick Johnson would hit into a double=play on the first farkin' pitch is beside the point. Frank trapped Perlozzo into a situation where Frank had the team's best hitter (even if he's slumping) up at a critical time with the bases loaded. The Nats had one big bullet, and the Orioles basically walked 40 paces closer.

  • Livan pitched pretty damn well, going seven innings and giving up just 1 run. He struggled a bit in the fifth inning, when a walk, single, and bunt hit loaded the bases with nobody out. He got Tejada to hit a scorching grounder which Zimmerman misplayed into a single forceout (Zimmerman either could've gone to the plate to cut the run down, or, perhaps, started a double play). Jay Gibbons hit a high popup to Jose vidro, and then Javy Lopez hit a sinking popup to right, which Marlon Byrd made a diving catch on.

    At the game, I though Byrd had misplayed the ball, because it was in the air for about a month, but watching the replay, it seems like it was a good effort.

    Livan did it with the bat, too. In the fourth, he hit a perfect squeeze bunt, slapping at a high and away pitch down the first base line to drive in Marlon Byrd from third. He added a bunt later, which set the aforementioned trap.

    This is two straight decent starts for Livan. Is it a trend? We can hope! Regardless, it's his first Majority Whip of the year.

  • Alex Escobar is pretty scary in centerfield. He completely misplayed a ball in the second inning, that resulted in a Soriano-like assist. With two outs and a runner on first, Bruce Chen hit a fly ball to center, which Escobar ran after. While running at 3/4 speed, he backhanded the ball, dropped it, kicked it into right, ran after it, fumbled with it, and danced in a circle for a bit. Meanwhile, the runner on first came streaking around third, at which point Escobar picked the ball up in short right, and fired to home, where his throw beat the runner by 10 steps. I'm not sure how many tools that took, but he used a lot of them on that play.

  • A special Lame Duck goes out to Tim Russert. Not only does that bastard ensure that those prime seats go unusued 50 times a year, but he left in the 7th inning anyway. What a fan. He deserved Scott Norwood.

  • Saturday's game was a good ol' rout (or at least what passes for one with the Nats).

    Alfonso Soriano wins the Majority Whip for his big day with the bat. While he had just one hit -- a two run homer after Robert Fick singled with two outs -- he did walk twice, including a spectacular at bat with the bases loaded. He got a pitch way out of the strike zone, then went for it, taking his mightiest cut on the next two pitches, missing a slider away, and golfing at and missing a pitch in the dirt. With two strikes, Manon attacked with breaking pitches away, hoping to get him to flail at one. Soriano knew what was up and, after having taken his chances earlier in the AB, he held up, drawing an RBI walk.

  • Tony Armas was shaky. While he gave up just two unearned runs through five, he left a lot of runners on, and the Orioles just couldn't get the big hit.

    I'm not sure what this means, but it's worth considering. If you look at his game log, he's had two games where he's thrown a lot of pitches. After both, he had shaky outings.

    On 4/28, he threw 110 pitches against the Cardinals. The following outing, he lasted just 2.1 innings, giving up five runs to the lowly Marlins.

    On 5/14, he lobbed 119 pitches against the Braves. Saturday, where he clearly wasn't sharp, followed.

    He's just not capable of throwing that many pitches and coming back five days later. His arm might be better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect.

  • One final note, because I've rambled for far too long. It seemed like the team made a conscious decision to focus on hitting offspeed/breaking stuff up the middle this weekend. Rodrigo Lopez saw slider after slider ripped back up the middle. And Bruce Chen's curve/change found its way to centerfield quite a few times.

    When a hitter's going well, that's where those pitches get deposited. Was that a conscious effort to focus on those problems given how many difficulties they've had with anything but fastballs this year? Or is that just a byproduct of facing two struggling pitchers?

    We'll find out against the dreaded Wandy Rodriguez tomorrow night!

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