When the Orioles acquired Kevin Millwood from the Texas Rangers last December for reliever Chris Ray, they were expecting him to be the leader of an inexperienced rotation and show the Orioles' young starters what it takes to be a consistent member of a major league staff.
Millwood has gone beyond expectations. Now if only the Orioles could give him some support.
Millwood lost his last start in Toronto to fall to (0-5) on the season. But his winless record is misleading. Millwood has an ERA of 3.89. That's the best ERA of winless starters in the American League. He has also been amazingly consistent. Look at his ERA in his five losses versus his six no decisions:
In 5 Losses: 3.89-ERA (34.2-INN, 20-R, 15-ER, 5-HR)
In 6 No Decisions: 3.89-ERA (39.1-INN, 17-ER, 7-HR)
Of the 12 home runs he has allowed, 10 have been solo homers, minimizing the damage. Those consistent numbers suggest a winning pitcher - Not a pitcher still looking for his first win after 11 starts with the Orioles. But something happens in almost every start to prevent Millwood from getting that elusive first win.
In his last start against the Blue Jays, the Orioles' defense made four misplays in the bottom of the first inning that led to three runs. They were plays that should have been made, and if they were Millwood is out of the inning without allowing a run. Instead, the Jays were on their way to a victory, aided tremendously by the Orioles' poor defense.
Then there's the issue of run support - or lack of run support. Millwood's run support average is 2.07 runs per game. That's the worst run support average in the Major Leagues. The most runs the Orioles have scored with Millwood on the mound is three. In six of his 11 starts they have scored 1 or 0 runs. The O's have put him in a position of having to pitch a shutout every time out just to have a chance to win, and that is too much to ask of any pitcher. With any run support he would be leading the Orioles in victories instead of still looking for his first.
And to Millwood's credit, he refuses to place any blame for his (0-5) start on his teammates. Following the loss in Toronto, Millwood was asked about the Orioles' poor defense that led to the three first-inning runs. Instead of agreeing and placing the blame elsewhere Millwood instead took the responsibility by saying, "I just got to make good pitches, and I didn't make enough of them today." That's a statement from a leader, from a winner.
Of all the Orioles' pitchers Millwood has every right to be upset. But he instead absorbs all of the responsibility. He is as classy a player as has ever worn an Orioles uniform. Hopefully the young pitchers on the staff are learning not only how to pitch through adversity but how to react to the adversity.
Millwood has been everything the Orioles could have hoped for - now if only the O's can give him some support.