Once again, Orioles manager Buck Showalter decided to give a veteran pitcher another start when he could have chosen a safer – or more popular — option.
And, once again, that pitcher came through.
On Friday, it was 30-year-old Yovani Gallardo, whose uneven season had led to a 5.62 ERA in 22 starts for the Orioles in 2016.
Showalter could have given the ball instead to rookie Dylan Bundy on Friday, especially since Gallardo’s numbers against the New York Yankees (1-3 with a 7.62 ERA in five career starts) weren’t appealing. The last time Gallardo faced the Yankees, on Aug. 26 in the Bronx, he gave up seven earned runs while recording just four outs.
So if Showalter had skipped his veteran right-hander with the season on the line, it would have been understandable. But he’s extended further opportunities to Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley in the last two months, and this time it was Gallardo’s turn for some managerial faith.
Gallardo answered the call in a steady rain on a miserable Friday night, yielding just one run on two hits and four walks through six innings in the Orioles’ 8-1 victory.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. And that is kind of vintage Gallardo, who has four quality starts in his last seven outings, including two consecutive.
“It’s been like that the past few games, we’ve been getting some real solid starts,” Showalter said. “Our guys gave him some margin for error. I thought when we scored the six (in the fifth inning), for him to go out there and throw a zero up there that was big. We were a wet ball away from him pitching six shutout innings.”
Because they won and the Boston Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles are alone atop the AL Wild Card standings with just two games remaining. They are one game ahead of the Blue Jays and 1 ½ games ahead of the Detroit Tigers.
“This past week or so every one’s important,” Gallardo said. “Every game’s really important for us and we understand what we have to do.”
Perhaps more pertinent for Gallardo, this performance helped keep his chances alive to make the postseason roster. Or strengthened them anyway.
If the Orioles get to the American League Division Series, you have to assume — because they only need three/four starters — one of the club’s back-end members of the rotation won’t make the roster: Gallardo, Miley or Bundy.
I can’t imagine Bundy and his big arm will be left off, especially because he’s had success out of the bullpen this year.
So you can make the case that Gallardo was pitching for the playoffs Friday in more ways than one. And he handled himself well in difficult conditions (against a depleted Yankees’ lineup).
“No matter what the situation is, whenever I’m asked upon to go out there and pitch, I’m going to go out there and pitch,” Gallardo said. “There are certain things that I can’t control. The only thing I can do is go out there and do the most that I can for the guys playing behind me out on the field. It’s whatever comes down with that, we all just want to win. We want to win no matter what the situations. We’re all one group.”
Miley will get his opportunity to perform Saturday. As the only lefty, he might have the edge, especially if he pitches the way he has in his past two starts (12 2/3 innings, one run).
But Gallardo certainly did enough to stay in the conversation.
“I’ve been feeling good. In my past two starts, I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well,” Gallardo said. “So we’ll see.”