Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Birdland Blunders: Lugo strikes out bunting

After a tough 7-5, extra-inning loss to the Tigers last night, the Orioles dropped to 25-58 on the season. Going into the eighth inning, the O's led 4-1, but the bullpen couldn't get the job done, allowing a Miguel Cabrera two-run home run to tie the game at 5 in the ninth, and then a game-winning two-run homer to Johnny Damon in the 11th inning for the win.

Now, the O's weren't terrible last night. Jake Arrieta (6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 4 K, 2 BB) was solid, and O's hitters put together 17 hits, 6 walks, and Adam Jones also reached base after getting hit by a pitch. Unfortunately, only three of the O's hits were extra-base hits, and the O's also managed to leave 17 runners on base. That just isn't good enough, especially when the bullpen allows two runs each in the eighth, ninth, and 11th innings.

As Stacey of Camden Chat notes, the O's were far from perfect. Runners were caught stealing, Jones misplayed a ball in the eighth inning, and Matt Wieters was thrown out running to third on a ground ball to first base (though that was a phenomenal play by Cabrera). But none of those was the worst blunder; this was: Julio Lugo struck out trying to bunt in the second inning.

First, congrats to Lugo. He collected three hits last night (all singles) and played a decent game overall. But there's no excuse for what happened last night. With a runner on first and two outs, Lugo tried to bunt with two strikes and fouled the pitch off, resulting in a strike out. I wasn't watching the game and couldn't find a video of the play on, but on the radio, Joe Angel said that perhaps Lugo forgot the count. The stadium's video board apparently showed just one strike, so that may have been what happened. Still, it's a mistake that's inexcusable. Forgetting the count is arguably just as bad or worse than failing to run out a flyball or ground ball, which the O's have already had their share of problems with this season. Also, why was Lugo trying to bunt anyway? There were already two outs and a runner on, and it's not like his bunt would have turned the lineup over -- Cesar Izturis was batting behind him.

The O's played hard last night, and it's not likely that Lugo would have been able to drive a run in in that situation anyway considering he only has four extra-base hits in 152 at bats. But it's one thing to watch the O's simply lose games to better teams; it's another to watch them make bone-headed plays in completely winnable games. Maybe Lugo doesn't deserve to be benched for a game for that play, but hopefully one of the coaches at least tried to figure out what exactly he was doing.

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