Not every baseball game hinges on dramatic late innings. Many of them do, but sometimes it just ends up that one starter is a little better than the other starter and then things coast towards the end the rest of the way without changing much one way or the other.
The seventh inning, where two errors and other defensive chicanery led in part to three Boston runs scoring, was agonizing, just all-around horrible, and of course it’s a big reason why the team lost. Taken all together, it hurt.
This occasional play of the game feature is less interested in what was the worst single inning, though, nor is it about figuring out which player, over the whole game, was the best or the worst. It’s just about seeing what was the one, biggest play that moved the win percentage on the Fangraphs Win Probability graph.
The biggest play had nothing to do with the seventh inning at all, nor anything to do with any of the Orioles’ own blown scoring changes. It didn’t even involve a run crossing the plate.
In the second inning, before either team had scored a run, the game was still anyone’s for the taking, although, after Dylan Bundy walked Hanley Ramirez to start the inning, it was more the Red Sox’s for the taking. After that happened, the Orioles were down to a 41.1% chance of winning.
Things did not get any better from there. The next one was the worst one, as it turned out. Mitch Moreland hit a double that floated and bounced off the Green Monster. “I can’t believe this guy is playing left field in Fenway” left fielder Trey Mancini played the ball about as well as could be hoped and fired it into the infield. Ramirez made it to third base on the play.
There was no real notable failure here. It was a routine double off the wall. But after it happened, the Red Sox had runners on second and third with no one out, a favorable run-scoring situation for teams that aren’t the Orioles. The Orioles chances of winning were down to 31% as a result.
This turned out to be the biggest needle-moving play of the game, bigger even than the Red Sox scoring their first run. That play, since it came on a sacrifice fly, actually increased the O’s chances of winning by 0.2%, because although the Sox scored a run, it reduced their chances of scoring multiple runs.
In the fifth inning, when Welington Castillo hit a single to set up runners on the corners with none out for the O’s, that actually moved the needle even more in the O’s favor, 13.2% in one go. But they ended up losing the game, so who cares about that?
The at-bat lasted only two pitches, and the first one was a called strike. Bundy floated in a curveball at the very bottom of the strike zone, just about a perfect pitch, because what can the batter do about it except hope the umpire doesn’t call it a strike? But it was a strike.
If you ever absorb the pitching bromides of Jim Palmer, one of the things you’ll hear him talk about is changing the eye level. What’s a pitcher to do after giving the batter a look at off-speed and low? How about a fastball up and in? See where Castillo sets up:
A good idea! Speaking of MASN’s stable of ex-Orioles, if you’ve listened to any of the pre- or post-show commentary of Rick Dempsey over the first week of the season, Dempsey is all in on the game-calling of Castillo as compared to the departed Matt Wieters, who he never mentions by name but now doesn’t seem to have liked very much.
Castillo, on the other hand, is presenting a good target and operating with what seems to be a good understanding of Bundy’s arsenal and a good plan of what to do. A pitch in on the hands is going to be challenging to Moreland.
Bundy does not end up hitting this target. He’s at about the right height but the ball has floated out over the plate and Moreland puts an inside-out swing on it:
If you look closely, you can see the blur of the ball starting to fly towards the Green Monster. You can also see where Castillo has moved to try to catch it.
Did Moreland mean to drive this pitch to the Monster? Only he knows for sure, but I doubt it. He wanted to drive this into the right field seats or into the Red Sox bullpen, more like. Making contact has its virtues, but making that contact with that pitch isn’t usually going to be great for the batter.
Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. Moreland’s ball ends up floating to the Monster, where it’s fair by less than a foot. In another stadium, with good placement and a competent left fielder - the latter not a sure bet for the O’s - that’s probably an uneventful F-7 on the scorecard.
Worse things happened to the Orioles in the game for reasons that had nothing to do with bad luck. You can’t even really blame Bundy for this, or for the fact that a run scored on a sacrifice fly later in the inning. He did a good job limiting the damage. He still gets the loss. Baseball isn’t always fair or just.
Season Tally (wins)
- Mark Trumbo - 1
- Zach Britton - 1
- Seth Smith - 1
- Hyun Soo Kim - 1
Season Tally (losses)
- Mychal Givens - 1
- Dylan Bundy - 1