Kevin Millwood took a no-hitter into the fourth inning last night. Nothing to get excited about - you don’t call your friends to make sure they’re tuned into the game - but it seemed to be an indication that he was barreling toward a quality start, not a waterfall.
Millwood was charged with six runs and seven hits in five innings, the big blow a three-run shot by David Ortiz in the fourth, when Millwood’s slider hung over the inner half of the plate and practically begged to be swatted.
The Orioles failed again to complete a sweep, settling for another series win. And you know they’ve come a long way in two months when they’re “settling” for taking two out of three against a division opponent.
Millwood remains stuck on three wins, including only one against an AL team, and his 16 losses are tops in the majors. He’s pitched in some extremely tough luck - he recorded six quality starts in his previous eight games, but the Orioles remain painfully stingy with the runs when he’s on the mound - but that 5.29 ERA doesn’t lie.
I attended the winter meetings in Indianapolis - and I’m trying to forget that they were held in Indianapolis - when the Orioles consummated their trade with the Rangers. Millwood for reliever Chris Ray, who was a candidate to be non-tendered. And I recall that plenty of reporters responded to the news by saying, “That’s all they had to give up for Millwood?”
Nobody was predicting a 20-win season, but he seemed like a decent pick-up, somebody who would consume innings, ease the burden on the younger starters while also serving as a mentor, and allow Jeremy Guthrie to be slotted lower in the rotation.
That 3-16 record didn’t fit into the equation.
Manager Buck Showalter hasn’t laid out a rotation plan for the last few weeks of the season. Chris Tillman is slated to start tomorrow night despite walking 12 batters in his last two outings. This could be the last time we see him in 2010. Rick VandenHurk is waiting for a turn that, while not promised to him, has been strongly hinted.
Meanwhile, Millwood will keep taking the ball.
He can’t lose 20 games, which might be the best thing we can say about his season.