Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Jeff Ballard, 1990 Donruss Baseball's Best #29

Something very rare and unusual happened last night, and I'm not talking about Ryan Flaherty reaching base twice in the same game. Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello shut out the Athletics on just 95 pitches, allowing four hits. What's more, he did it without any walks or strikeouts; every Oakland batter put the ball in play. The last time a big league pitcher did that, Porcello was not quite eight months old. Yours truly, who is not quite as young as these danged whippersnapper athletes these days, was seven years of age and for the most part blissfully unaware of the hometown Orioles and their underdog charge for the American League East crown. One of Baltimore's most valuable players in that 1989 "Why Not?" season was Jeff Ballard, a young lefty out of Stanford University whose pitch-to-contact approach gelled well with manager Frank Robinson's defensively-adept team. Ballard went 18-8 with a 3.43 ERA despite allowing 240 hits and striking out only 62 batters in 215.1 innings (2.6 K/9). But he limited his walks (57) and home runs allowed (16), and it all came together for that one charmed year.

Given this bit of background, it's not too surprising that the last no-walk, no-strikeout shutout before Porcello's gem last night was authored by Jeff Ballard on August 21, 1989. Facing the division rival Brewers on a Monday night at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, the southpaw scattered six Milwaukee singles, a Gus Polidor double, and even a pair of hit batters in a 5-0 win. Three of those nine Brewer runners were wiped out via solid defense: a double play turned by the Ripken brothers and first baseman Randy Milligan, a Ballard pickoff of Glenn Braggs at second base, and a Phil Bradley left fieldassist that cut down Robin Yount at second as well. On offense, Cal Ripken hit a three-run homer and Stanley Jefferson (a mostly-forgotten O's mini-legend) added a solo blast and a double. Ballard was not quite as efficient as Porcello, needing 112 pitches to seal the deal, but I'm sure the end result was just as sweet to him. Incidentally, it was Jeff's only shutout of the season, and the second and final whitewash of his career. He posted a 13-25 won-lost record in the ensuing years of his career, with a gruesome 5.29 ERA. But for one night, he had kept the Birds in first place when their division lead had been hanging by a half-game thread. Plus, his name gets pulled out of the mothballs when something anomalous happens like Tuesday's Porcello effort.

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