Koji Takes The Loss and Line Drive of the Chest

April 29, 2009 | Tom Clayton

With their 3-2 loss against the Angels this afternoon the Orioles have dropped three in a row and have lost nine of their last twelve.  The Orioles had solid pitching today but they were shutdown by Shane Loux (W 1-2), an Angels pitcher who has won in the big league since 2006.


Koji (L 2-2) seems like he is going to be the hard luck pitcher for the Orioles in 2009.  He has pitched well early in 2009 but isn’t getting the run support to win games.  Koji pitched very effectively today; he did a great job changing speeds with his curveball coming in at 63 while his heater was sitting around 88.  Koji’s fastball looks a lot faster to hitters than it actually is when he sets it up with his quality off speed stuff.  Koji’s most dominant pitch today was his splitter which was falling off the table.  His splitter was sitting around 81 and was a dominant strikeout pitch on Wednesday afternoon.  Koji gave the Orioles 6.1 strong innings allowing seven hits, three earned runs and two home runs.  On the positive side Koji didn’t walk a batter for the second straight start and has only allowed six free passes in 30 innings in his first five major league starts.


In the seventh inning Koji was involved in a scary incident when Angels hitter Gary Matthews Jr. hit a screaming liner up the middle that smashed into Koji’s chest.  The ball made a sickening thud as it smashed into Koji’s rib cage and forced him to crumple into a heap after taking five steps towards first.  It was reported later in the game that Koji has a bruised sternum and that thankfully X-Rays were negative.


After Koji left the field Danys Baez came in and to throw 1.2 innings of shutout baseball while only allowing one hit in his third straight impressive performance out of the bullpen.  Baez’s velocity has been up this season with his fastball ranging between 92-94; he even cranked it up to 96 at one point.  Baez’s most effective pitch today was his splitter which was consistently around 88 with devastating downward movement.


George Sherrill mopped up in the ninth without giving up a run but he did allow two hits while striking out one.  So far this season Sherrill is allowing way too many base runners to be effective; in his 9.2 innings this season he has allowed fifteen base runners to reach base either via walk or a hit.


Felix Pie, who I am convinced is Chris Tuckers doppelganger, continued his struggles at the dish this season going 0-3 with a strikeout today.  Pie still looks clueless with a bat in his hand as he is continually swinging at balls out of the zone and rarely putting the ball in play.  Pie doesn’t seem to be carrying any of the things he is practicing with Terry Crowley in the cage with him into games.


Pie also struggled early in the field when he allowed Bobby Abreu to take an extra base in the first inning while he stood still and allowed Torii Hunter’s single to slowly roll to him.  Pie should have charged on this ball; to make matters worse his throw to third base was high, almost going over Ty Wigginton’s head.  Adam Jones showed his lack of faith in Pie as he ran into the middle of left field to make a catch in front of Pie who was camped under the ball waiving his hand in the air to call Jones off.


But unlike my nemesis Skip Bayless who will never talk positively about players he doesn’t like, I am objective.  Pie looked as comfortable as I have ever seen him in left as he made four straight putouts in the fifth and sixth innings.  He read all four balls well off the bat and quickly got into a quality fielding position.


Chad Moeller had a nice day at the plate going 2-4 with a double and a single.  Moeller did an excellent job center the ball on the bat and ripping the ball in three of his four at bats.  On Moeller’s triple in the second inning he was rolling around the bases.


Nick Markakis extended his 16 game hitting streak in the eight inning with an RBI (22) single to the right-center gap that pulled the O’s within a run.


Jim Palmer may have ESP; in the seventh inning, while discussing Koji, Palmer said, “You pitch well then with one swing” and as the “G” in swing came out of his mouth Torii Hunter deposited a changeup in the left field bleachers.


Bobby Abreu has been more than impressive to me during this two game mini-series with the amount of pitches he forces opposing pitchers the throw.  On Wednesday afternoon Abreu forced Koji to throw seventeen pitches in three at bats.  Abreu was at the plate for 17% of Koji’s 102 total pitches.  In his fourth at bat Abreu forced Danys Baez to throw six pitches before flying out to left. Abreu saw twenty three pitches in his four at-bats today an average of 5.75 pitches per at-bat.


This has been a difficult home stand for the Orioles who are struggling to put together a complete game right now.  When they get a well pitched game they can not score runs and when the offense scores the pitching gets lit up.  The Orioles are going up to Toronto to face a quality pitching staff and a team that scores a lot of runs.


The biggest event of this game was the injury to Koji who has been the most consistently good Orioles pitcher this season.  If he is forced to miss time with a chest injury, an already bad Orioles rotation could somehow actually get worse.