Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mike Cuellar, 2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #42

Today would have been Mike Cuellar's 75th birthday. So in honor of the fourth-most-winningest pitcher in Orioles history, I went searching for a box score of interest. I found a doozy: Saturday afternoon, July 11, 1970. The Birds were riding high at 52-32, a full 5 games ahead of the second-place Tigers in the American League East. Cuellar was matching up with Joe Niekro, but neither had his best stuff. The O's broke out on top in the second inning with an Elrod Hendricks two-run homer, but Paul Blair hit a shallow fly ball to strand the bases loaded. Three Detroit hits tied the score at 2-2 in the home half.

It was still tied two innings later when Mark Belanger hit a two-out single and Cuellar followed with a two-run home run of his own! It was part of a career-high three-hit day for the Cuban screwballer, and one of eight career longballs (including his grand slam in the 1970 ALCS). He wasn't exactly Don Newcombe with the bat, as his career slash line of .115/.128/.171, good for a -15 OPS+, illustrates. Anyway, Mike gave back a run in the bottom of the fourth, as Bill Freehan tripled and scored on a Don Wert sac fly. 4-3, O's.

Freehan struck again with a solo homer in the sixth to knot it back up at 4-4. But the Orioles picked their pitcher back up in the eighth with (what else?) a two-run shot. This time it was Terry Crowley going deep off of Daryl Patterson, who had replaced Niekro after the Detroit starter walked Brooks Robinson to lead off the inning. The Tigers fought back again in their half of the eighth, though. Cuellar got the hook after a leadoff single by Willie Horton, and reliever Eddie Watt allowed Horton to score via a single, sac bunt, and a Wert groundout. Earl Weaver then called on Pete Richert to save the day. He walked Jim Price, but struck out Ike Brown looking to strand the tying and go-ahead runs. He then earned his tenth save by retiring the top of the Tigers order 1-2-3 in the ninth. Cuellar earned his 11th win despite permitting five runs in seven innings. It was the rare day when Mike had a better day at the plate than he did at the mound.

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