Thursday, April 08, 2004

Nine by Nine, 04.07.04

No more dilly-dallying...

1. If any of you found your alternate sports channel fast enough to catch last night's National Anthem, boy did you get rewarded. The Boys and Girls Club of America Chorus was in attendance, and they sang our hymn loud and proud. It was, without a doubt, the worst rendition of the National Anthem The Ninth has ever heard. 10 teenagers belting out their tone-deaf, horrifyingly off-key notes with such zeal and enthusiasm that they must have been enjoying how bad it was. It was almost like they were doing it on purpose. Players' faces had the lovable "this is unbelievably funny but I might be on TV and it is our National Anthem so I really shouldn't laugh" expression. Schilling especially. But why were they so bad? It's not like the kids were "special", or "troubled", or something -- unless I missed an important intro. They were just, you know, poor. Poor people can sing just as well as non-poor people, can't they? They couldn't find some destitute children who can carry a tune? The Ninth feels that the unfortunate should be held to the same level of artistic integrity as the well-off.

2. On the second pitch of the game, Johnny Damon rifled a double down the left field line. Oddly enough for a lefty, Damon loves the ball low and away, and has great success shooting the pitch down the third base line. Next time up, Johnny gets the same location and does essentially the same thing. What's amazing however is that the Orioles continue to pitch him this way. Damon got outside fastballs his next time up, and his next, and then again on his next. What's his final line? 5 for 5. After his fourth hit through the left side, Tejada threw up his hands in disgust. Why? Because he had no idea why his moron battery kept pitching Damon away. Uh guys, he's getting a hit every time.

3. Two outs in the first after Damon's lead-off double, as Mueller went down on a weak K and Ortizzle fouled out to 3b (don't worry Nomar, keeping it warm for you). The count goes full to Manny and you can feel him wanting that RBI. The Sox have not been good with two outs so far, and Ramirez wants to fix this himself. It's noble, and a great quality for your best hitter, but the pitcher would just assume put him on - so he should probably let that happen. But Manny is pressing, and gives away the at-bat. Ainsworth throws a slider away and out of the zone, and he lunges for it, tapping ball four out to second base. You gotta trust the rest of your lineup if you're going have to good at-bats, and this time around, Ramirez did not.

4. In the top of the second, as a result of Damon's second hit to left, Bellhorn scored on a play at the plate. The announcers attributed this to a crummy play by catcher Lopez and the informants happenstance of the ball and runner arriving at the same moment. But this wasn't really the case. Javy got the ball a few seconds before Bellhorn made contact, and seemed to have a solid grip on it. The major kudos should go to the runner, who slowed up and slid his knee directly into Lopez's glove. Bellhorn popped the ball out, and forced the safe call. Had he tried to slide around or barrel him over, he would've been out. Tommy point for Mark.

5. I've always like Rick Bauer. Reminds me a lot of Derek Lowe. That relief appearance last night was the kind of thing that gets you a spot in the rotation a few months down the road.

6. When DLowe has trouble, it's almost entirely mechanical. The warning sign for him is when the ball moves side to side, instead of up and down. The major thing to look for is the pitch that slides across the plate, away from the right-handed hitter, and ends up in the dirt somewhere in the lefty batter's box. It has slider action, but it's actually a sinker gone awry. Lowe's front shoulder flies open and it drags the ball across with it, putting it on a lateral plane instead of a vertical one. You might recognize it from Jeff Weaver, as it was what his sinker almost entirely became last season. When you see a lot of those, it means there's a mechanical problem. There were a bunch last night, but his results were okay.

7. Do you think Bobby Jones and Bruce Chen every get each other's mail?

8. An unprecedented second Nine by Nine note for Johnny Damon! What an amazing play on Segui's potential home run ball. Somewhat reminiscent of his spectacular Green Monster leap at Fenway last year. Had this ball gone out, Derek Lowe's pitching line would've been 6 IP, 5 ER - pretty lousy. Because Johnny made a brilliant play, he can leave the game with a pretty 2 ER allowed. That's a difference of four and a half ERA points. Not bad.

9. How uninspired is the left side of the Oriole infield at the moment? Sure, errors are being made, but they look a bit listless. Balls are going through holes without a dive, runners are beating fielders to the bag, hands are being thrown in the air. Looks like a competition of the bad attitude club. What's gonna happen when they're 10 games below .500?

Just a head's up -- Nine by Nine is unlikely for Friday. Will probably miss the game. And weekend postings will be few and far between. Sorry gang. Daddy gotta live a little too.