Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kevin Millwood, 2010 Topps 206 #102

Last night Kevin Millwood started what was almost assuredly his final game in an Orioles uniform. If I haven't talked about him at all on this blog (and a quick search shows me that I haven't even mentioned his on-field performance since April), it's probably twofold: 1) he's had a miserable year and 2) I don't have any cards featuring him in orange and black. Both of those factors are a real shame. By the raw numbers, the veteran with the North Carolina drawl has been awful: 4-16 (that's a win percentage of .200), a 5.10 ERA, a 1.51 WHIP. He won a single game all year at home. His first win came on June 19, and thanks to interleague play, he didn't beat an American League team until August 28. He's assured of at least a share of the league lead in losses, which will make him the fourth Oriole pitcher in the last five years to have that dubious distinction. (The full list: Rodrigo Lopez, 2006; Daniel Cabrera, 2007; Jeremy Guthrie, 2009; Millwood, 2010. In 2008, Justin Verlander had a fluke down year and lost 17. Guthrie was the losingest Oriole with 12.)

So yeah, Millwood hasn't done much to help himself. But if you've been watching him all year, you know that he had a great April and August and a decent May and September, with a putrid June and July bookending a trip to the disabled list. When you take out that lost summer (9.33 ERA in nine starts), you're left with a 3.78 ERA in the remaining four months. During that stretch of the season, his W-L has been 2-11. The offense has had its struggles all year long, but it's been positively MIA when #34 takes the mound. The O's bats have produced an average of 3.55 runs when Kevin starts, and that's including runs that scored after he'd left the game. In 18 of his 31 starts, they scored three runs or less. To his credit, he never let his frustration get the best of him, choosing not to blame his unsupportive hitters for his lack of victories.

Last night, Millwood simply took matters into his own hands. He shut out the Rays, who will likely finish with the best record in the American League and were playing in front of a rare capacity home crowd, through seven innings on just two hits. He also struck out seven batters, including B.J. Upton to leave the bases loaded in his final inning. Naturally, the Birds were helpless against Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann for the first six innings, scraping out two singles and no walks. But a Nick Markakis walk and an Adam Jones single put two runners on with two out in the seventh, and Felix Pie finally picked up his pitcher with a triple to plate the only two runs of the game. Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara preserved the win by retiring five of the six Rays they faced, and Matt Wieters took care of the sixth by gunning down pinch runner Desmond Jennings in the eighth inning. Millwood insists that he wants to pitch again next year, no matter where it might be. After 2010, it's safe to say that he deserves to play with a team that can put up some crooked numbers.

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