With a chance to finish 10-8 against the Red Sox, the Orioles came up short last night, falling to Boston, 6-1. Still, by winning the three-game series, the O's evened up the season series and finished 9-9 against the Red Sox -- not bad for a team that's 30 games under .500 (61-91).
The loss was a combination of bad Kevin Millwood pitching and very little offense. Millwood allowed six runs, including two home runs, in five innings pitched. He struck out five and walked just one, but he also threw only 83 pitches as he started to labor after three scoreless innings to start the game.
For Boston, John Lackey pitched seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just five hits, while striking out four and walking none. That's right: no walks for the O's offense. The O's also only put together six combined hits. Luke Scott had the team's only multi-hit effort, going 2-4 with a double. Ty Wigginton also doubled, driving in Nick Markakis in the fourth for the team's lone run.
Buck Showalter has been playing Robert Andino a lot at third base lately, and I don't understand it. Sure, there's only 10 games left this season and Showalter may be trying to see what he has in Andino for the possibility of him being on the team next season, but Andino doesn't seem like a corner infield option. Plus, having him and Cesar Izturis in the lineup at the same time is rather unproductive.
Andino's value, if there's that much of it, comes from his fielding ability up the middle. In 2009 for the O's, he had a UZR of 5.5 at shortstop in a little over 70 games. That's pretty solid. Unfortunately, in 215 plate appearances, he hit .222/.274/.288 -- and that is not very good, at all.
After not making the team in spring training and being sent to Triple-A Norfolk, Andino hit .264/.302/.405 for the Tides this season before being called up in September. He also hit 13 home runs, but he still struck out a lot (20.1 K%) while not walking much (4.9 BB%). At 26 years old, Andino may be able to improve his approach at the plate, but it's not likely. He's an outstanding fielder, but he also doesn't get on base nearly enough or hit for enough power. If he gets a little better at the plate and plays great defense at shortstop, he would be an upgrade over Izturis, who has actually been worth -0.4 wins above replacement because of awful hitting and slightly above average defense at shortstop.
Could Andino be a cheaper alternative at shortstop next season? Sure. In the offseason, if the O's have to choose between re-signing Izturis for $2-$3 million per season for another season or two or relying on Andino and paying him the league minimum, Andino seems like the better selection. But why exactly is he playing third base? Not only does his presence there hurt the O's and not make any long-term sense, but he's also taking away at-bats from Josh Bell. Bell hasn't been very good at the plate this year -- actually he's been horrible -- but he's still a rookie and has actually shown significant improvement in his third-base defense. At 23, Bell still has time to grow and learn. Andino is essentially the same guy as before -- and he is who we thought he was, or something like that.