Early test shows off Sherrill's moxie
Closer earns tense save by slim margin on Monday
ARLINGTON -- George Sherrill had his closer's face on Monday, when he took the mound in a hostile setting without his best stuff. Sherrill, Baltimore's relief ace, got the ball in a 10-9 game against the hot-hitting Rangers and managed to close out the game by the barest of margins and with maximum effort.
It was as difficult as saves get, and vintage Sherrill at that. The southpaw gave up a double to the first batter he faced and was the beneficiary of a highlight-reel catch by Nick Markakis in right field. After that, he coaxed a fly ball from one batter and walked another, then weathered a double steal before ending the game on a strikeout.
And for manager Dave Trembley, the most impressive part was his closer's ability to thrive despite adversity. Some pitchers may have panicked without their best stuff, but Sherrill kept it close to the vest.
"I think that's the key to George," said Trembley. "His body language is such, and the way he pitches, his tempo is such that he doesn't show that. His approach is always the same. ... His breaking pitch is a whole lot better than it was this spring, because I think the ball is coming out of his hand a little better."
Batter by batter, Sherrill reviewed his effort from Monday night. The left-handed said that Ian Kinsler hit a double on a good pitch, and that Michael Young and Josh Hamilton flied out on even tougher offerings.
"Young's pitch was off the plate. It wasn't necessarily even a good pitch," Sherrill said. "He got it and it took a great catch. With Hamilton, I got in on him a little bit, and goodness gracious, he's strong enough to get it that far."
From there, Sherrill went directly into survival mode, deciding that he'd rather pitch to Marlon Byrd then Andruw Jones. And even though Kinsler and pinch-runner David Murphy double-stole to give the Rangers runners at second and third, Sherrill didn't let the moment get to him and struck out Byrd to end the game.
In his mind, though, the game was really won when Markakis ranged right and snared the ball off Young's bat.
"I thought he had the gap," Sherrill said. "It ended up being a little more to right field than the gap. It ended up being just an unbelievable catch, and he's got to be one of the best all-around right fielders in the game."
And while the game was probably the most tense the Orioles have had all season, Trembley preferred not to rank them that way. As far as he's concerned, the ninth inning is always tense until it's over.
"I don't think any of them are any less tense than any other," Trembley said. "As long as that tying run is either over the plate or in the on-deck circle, I think they're all tense. You don't pack the bats till the last out is made."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.