Win-starved Orioles pitchers nearing dubious major league record

Notebook

Team could become first in history to not have four-game winner by All-Star break

July 07, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

DETROIT —

With all the statistics tossed around during the Orioles' woeful first half, perhaps none is more startling than this: After a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers in their 84th game Wednesday, no Orioles pitcher has more than three wins in 2010.

Wednesday's starter, Brad Bergesen; Thursday's starter, Jeremy Guthrie; Friday's starter, Brian Matusz; and relievers David Hernandez and Matt Albers are tied for the team lead with three wins each.

Consider this: If none of the above pick up a victory between now and Sunday, these Orioles will be the first team in major league history not to have at least a four-game winner at the All-Star break, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

"That's a little strange to think about," said starter Kevin Millwood, who was 2-8 this season before being put on the disabled list Tuesday. "But it is what it is. I don't really know how to explain it, but hopefully we can get there" to a fourth win.

According to Elias, the last big league club to have a wins leader at the All-Star break with just four victories was the 2003 Tigers, who lost 119 games that season. Mike Maroth and Nate Cornejo each had four wins at the break.

In their first 84 games this season, the Orioles have 38 quality starts, meaning their starting pitcher threw at least six innings and allowed three runs or fewer. In those games, the Orioles were 13-25. For comparison's sake, the Tigers, who lead the American League Central, also have 38 quality starts. The Tigers are 25-13 in those games.

"Yeah, it's tough as a starter," said Matusz, who said he doesn't concentrate on his record but understands its importance to the team's overall success.

"You want to get wins. You want the team to win those games, and you want to get that win yourself because you know you went deep and your bullpen took care of it for you."

Matusz, Millwood and Guthrie have a combined 27 quality starts in 52 attempts and have combined for just eight wins.

"With our starting pitchers not having a high win total, that doesn't really reflect how well we actually have done," said Matusz, who is 3-9 but has had 10 quality starts in 17 attempts.

"I know there are multiple situations where Guthrie should have a lot more wins, and Millwood, at the beginning of the year when he was throwing the ball so well, should have more wins."

Said pitching coach Rick Kranitz: "I think we have had guys that have been set up, obviously, to win a hell of a lot more than three games. You can't control that. You can't control wins and losses."

The challenge, Kranitz, said, is for his pitchers to stay focused and make quality pitches, and the results will eventually go their way.

"The thing is they have got to keep doing it, they have got to keep going," Kranitz said. "You can't control other things sometimes, but you have to keep going and make your pitches. That's the bottom line."

Samuel to Simon: more heat

When closer Alfredo Simon blew his second save opportunity of the season Tuesday, he did it by throwing a split-fingered fastball to Miguel Cabrera, who hit a 407-foot homer to tie the score in the ninth inning.

The problem, Simon said, is that his splitter, which he considers his second-best pitch, stayed up and Cabrera hammered it.

"I threw the split, and it [didn't] break that much," Simon. "Maybe he looked for that pitch and that's why he hit that home run."

Simon started the ninth by throwing six straight fastballs -- all 96 or 97 mph -- to Johnny Damon before walking him. Once he allowed a man to get on base, four of the next seven pitches Simon threw were splitters, including the fateful one to Cabrera.

Interim manager Juan Samuel said Simon, who is blessed with a high-90s heater, should make it his go-to pitch, no matter the situation.

"There's no doubt, to me, he just needs to throw his fastball more. And then finish those hitters with his split-finger pitch," Samuel said. "I think at times he throws the split-finger pitch too much and hitters start sitting on it. He throws hard enough where he can challenge guys with his fastball and throw the split-finger later."

Struggling Uehara will be used

Reliever Koji Uehara allowed three runs, seven hits and a walk in his first three appearances since returning from the disabled list June 27.

"I am frustrated," Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang.

Physically, Uehara said, he is fine. No hamstring trouble, no arm pain. He just doesn't have his location, and he said that's weighing on him mentally.

Samuel has been careful with Uehara, not pitching him in back-to-back games. But with his bullpen overused, Samuel said he might have to do that in the right situation. He also said he would pitch Uehara in the Texas heat this week, even though the last time Uehara threw in Arlington in May, he left gassed and promptly hit the DL.

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