You could forgive Miguel Gonzalez if he was ready to throw in the towel on last night’s start against the Seattle Mariners after the third inning. After three innings, the Baltimore Orioles’ right-hander had already allowed four runs on two home runs, including a big three-run blast off the bat of former Oriole Nelson Cruz. With the Orioles already down 4-1, and Gonzalez clearly battling without his best stuff, this was a game that could have gotten out of hand quickly.
Fortunately for the Orioles, Gonzalez settled down quickly. After allowing that home run to Cruz, he allowed only one hit over the final four frames of his seven inning outing and did not walk another batter after walking two in the first three innings. Gonzalez finished with eight strikeouts. He did exactly what you want your pitcher to do in this type of situation — stop the bleeding and give the bats a chance to battle back.
The Orioles quickly erased that early deficit one inning later and ultimately took the lead, which got Gonzalez fired up, “I was just telling myself to stay aggressive after we scored some runs,” he said, “I just got really pumped up and started getting after it, not worrying about where the ball was going.”
That quote sums up Gonzalez in a nutshell. The slight righty from Mexico is an absolute gamer on the mound. When he takes the mound, there is a pretty good chance he is going at least six innings and allowing fewer than three runs. With the lineup the Orioles have, there’s not much more you want from a number-three pitcher. I will admit, it’s taken me nearly three years to accept Gonzalez as a truly capable Major League starting pitcher and not just another scrap heap pickup by the Orioles front office, but as he keeps winning, I eagerly look forward to the days when Gonzalez takes the ball.
Say what you want about Gonzalez’s peripheral statistics or propensity to allow the long ball, he puts the Orioles in position to win nearly every time he takes the ball. Gonzalez does not throw exceptionally hard, nor does he cut an imposing figure on the mound at 6′-0″ and 180 pounds. His fastball has late rising action, which would explain the higher fly-ball ratio. He does not have an outstanding curveball or slider. None of his pitches are outstanding, but Gonzalez simply gets results.
Gonzalez never appears rattled on the mound, even after giving up a three-run homer. He goes about his business with a very cool and collected demeanor, never appearing to get too high or too low despite what the scoreboard may say. These attributes cannot be boiled down into numerical data. As much as sabermetricians wish all players could be reduced to numbers in a spreadsheet, sometimes players consistently outperform expectations.
There really is no accounting for Miguel Gonzalez’s continued success when only considering the raw data and what you see on the radar gun. Gonzalez has consistently exceeded expectations four years running now. That can only be attributed to something within himself. This guy is a gamer, and while he may occasionally fall victim to the three-run home run as he did last night, he will not allow it to fully derail his start. I fully expect Gonzalez to continue exceeding expectations this season and beyond for the Baltimore Orioles.
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