Ori­oles lost for sev­eral rea­sons

Baltimore Sun - - MLB & ORI­OLES - Peter.schmuck@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Sch­muck­S­top Read more from colum­nist Peter Schmuck on his blog, “The Schmuck Stops Here,” at bal­ti­more­sun. com/ schmuck­blog.

the walk-off homer by Ed­win En­car­na­cion that sent the Ori­oles home and the Toronto Blue Jays into the Amer­i­can League Di­vi­sion Series against the Texas Rangers.

That’s easy enough to see in hind­sight, es­pe­cially when there were run­ners at first and third base with one out and Brit­ton is a dou­ble­play-in­duc­ing ma­chine. It was cer­tainly easy fod­der for the TBS postgame crew, one mem­ber of which called Showal­ter’s de­ci­sion to not use Brit­ton the worst post­sea­son man­age­rial de­ci­sion he’d ever seen.

Never mind that Showal­ter had man­aged his bullpen master­fully from the time he took starter Chris Till­man out of the game af­ter just 41⁄ in­nings. He had pushed ev­ery right but­ton un­til Jimenez’s late-sea­son hot streak ran stone cold at the worst pos­si­ble mo­ment.

Dur­ing the last four days of the Ori­oles’ sea­son, Showal­ter had made two ques­tion­able de­ci­sions that back­fired badly. He left starter Wade Mi­ley in too long in Satur­day’s game against the New York Yan­kees, which contributed to a loss that might have pre­vented the Ori­oles from play­ing at home Tues­day night, and now this.

Ob­vi­ously, Ori­oles fans are ter­ri­bly dis­ap­pointed, as are Showal­ter and an Ori­oles team that fought hard and over­came much to get to the play­offs for the third time in five years. If you’re start­ing to doubt his man­age­rial acu­men, keep in mind that al­most all the ge­niuses who over­an­a­lyze this sport pre­dicted the Ori­oles would fall on their faces in ev­ery one of those five sea­sons.

Now, let’s all calm down and look at what re­ally hap­pened Tues­day night. The game was not lost in the bot­tom of the 11th in­ning. It was lost dur­ing the pre­vi­ous 101⁄ frames, when the sup­pos­edly high-pow­ered Ori­oles man­aged just two runs on four hits against a start- Buck Showal­ter’s team de­fied the ex­perts again. ing pitcher who had a 7.04 ERA against them dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son and an in­jury-rid­dled Jays bullpen. The Ori­oles had not had a hit since the sixth in­ning and didn’t look as if they would ever get one against starter-turned-emer­gen­cy­long-re­liever Fran­cisco Liri­ano, who had come on af­ter closer Roberto Osuna in­jured his shoul­der.

That’s why Showal­ter went to Jimenez in­stead of Brit­ton to start the 11th, be­cause he had to fig­ure that — at best — the game was go­ing to con­tinue, and he needed both the in­nings Jimenez could pro­vide and a closer if the Ori­oles man­aged to scratch some­thing out against Liri­ano.

Since he had warmed up Brit­ton once, he ob­vi­ously was re­luc­tant to get him up to cover the 11th just in case Jimenez flamed out. When Jimenez did just that, he did it so quickly (he threw just five pitches) there was no time to get Brit­ton ready to face En­car­na­cion.

No doubt, a lot of Ori­oles fans cringed when Showal­ter went to Jimenez in the first place, be­cause of all that has hap­pened dur­ing his star-crossed Ori­oles ca­reer. But he was the club’s hottest start­ing pitcher over the fi­nal month of the sea­son and he had dom­i­nated the Blue Jays at Rogers Cen­tre last Thurs­day night.

It might be log­i­cal to be­lieve Brit­ton would have got­ten through the 11th and given the heart of the Ori­oles bat­ting or­der an­other shot at Liri­ano. But if that logic is based on the fact that Brit­ton was the best op­tion to ex­tend the game at that point — and there was no to­mor­row — then Showal­ter made the same mis­take when he didn’t go to him in a sim­i­lar ninthin­ning jam or at the start of the 10th.

He went with Dar­ren O’Day in those sit­u­a­tions, even though the righthander had spent much of the sea­son on the dis­abled list, pitched just four times in Septem­ber and fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son with an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic 3.77 ERA. If O’Day had given up a home run to Rus­sell Martin in­stead of in­duc­ing an in­nin­gend­ing dou­ble play in the ninth or al­lowed a gamewin­ning homer to Troy Tu­low­itzki or Justin Smoak in the 10th, Showal­ter still would have been grilled on the where­abouts of his po­ten­tial Cy Young closer.

The big ele­phant in the bat­ter’s box is the fact that the Ori­oles and all their of­fen­sive fire­power man­aged to score more than three runs in just four of their fi­nal 16 games. This lineup is com­posed largely of overly ag­gres­sive power hit­ters with an all-or-noth­ing ap­proach at the plate.

It man­aged one big swing in 11 in­nings Tues­day, leav­ing Showal­ter to keep rolling his magic bullpen dice un­til he fi­nally crapped out.

BRIAN BLANCO/GETTY IM­AGES

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