Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Sports Writing

Here is an sports article by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. Study his writing.


June 24, 2004
ORIOLES 13, YANKEES 2
Yankees Reverse Roles, With Lieber in Lead
By TYLER KEPNER

BALTIMORE, June 23 - Jon Lieber's right arm is fooling him. [Great first sentence: short, rhythmical, and makes you wonder.] It has felt fine for six months, and to Lieber, that should mean his pitching is fine, too. For a while this season, it was. Now, it is not. [Great paragraph. Makes the reader want to read more. Often the first paragraph of an essay contains shorter sentences than other paragraphs in an essay.]

The Baltimore Orioles shelled Lieber and two Yankee relievers on Wednesday night, pounding out 17 hits in a 13-2 victory at Camden Yards. [Look at how much this sentence tells us in such few words. We know what the Orioles did, how many hits, the size of the win, and where the game was played.] Eleven of those hits came off Lieber, who is finding that recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery is even more challenging than he thought it would be.

"People I've talked to said it's not going to be an easy road that first year, and you're not going to be as consistent as you'd like to be," Lieber said on Tuesday. "Even though you might feel good, as far as command of your pitches, it's going to bury you from time to time. It's just going to be a battle."

The Yankees lost to the Orioles for the first time this season, in the eighth game between the teams. They had gone 11-2 here the last two seasons, routinely pummeling the Orioles, but for one night, at least, the roles changed.

Baltimore had a 3-0 lead before the first out in the bottom of the first inning, and Lieber never settled in. He has struggled to find a steady release point in his delivery, and for a pitcher who relies on precision within the strike zone, the results have been discouraging.

"I've never gone through something like this before," Lieber said on Tuesday. "The last 10, 11 years of my career, I've usually had a pretty good idea, for the most part, of how I'm going to pitch that night and been able to hit my spots 90 percent of the time. I feel like I haven't played up to par on that, whatsoever."

His season did not start out this way. In his first five starts, Lieber went 4-1 with a 3.53 earned run average.

But in his last five starts, he is 1-4 with a 7.48 E.R.A., allowing a staggering 51 hits over 27 2/3 innings. Wednesday's start was Lieber's shortest of the season, and the third in which he allowed at least 11 hits.

Lieber will always give up hits; that is a reality for a pitcher who is consistently around the strike zone and almost never walks a batter. When Lieber succeeds, he keeps his fastballs, sliders and sinkers low in the strike zone, where hitters cannot drive them into the power alleys.

"Most of his problems come when he's up in the zone, which is not like him," the pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said before Wednesday's game. "All we work on between starts is getting him to have better command down in the zone. He's coming along. I see some very nice improvement in his side work."

Lieber could not take it into the game. He gave up a single, a triple and two more singles to the first four hitters he faced; the triple, by David Newhan, bounced off the top of the wall in right center.

By the end of the inning, the Orioles had a 3-0 lead on five hits, and Lieber did not survive a similar onslaught in the fourth.

Javy Lopez dumped a leadoff single to center, but Ruben Sierra threw him out from right field after misplaying a single by Jay Gibbons. Luis Matos followed with a bunt single, and Lieber botched a grounder by Larry Bigbie, allowing Gibbons to score.

It was a crucial misplay, and Stottlemyre went out to the mound. But Jerry Hairston knocked a one-hop double off the left-field wall, scoring two runs, and Newhan singled with two outs to score Hairston.

The Orioles led by 7-1, and Tanyon Sturtze came in to replace Lieber. The Yankees, meanwhile, were struggling to finish off rallies against Baltimore's rookie starter, Erik Bedard. They grounded into inning-ending double plays in the second and third, and Bedard left with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth.

Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli turned to Jason Grimsley, the veteran acquired from Kansas City on Monday to restore some order to a dreadful pitching staff. Grimsley sparkled in his debut, striking out Sierra and Tony Clark and retiring Miguel Cairo on a groundout.

The Yankees still trailed, 7-2, and it got much worse soon enough.

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