Showalter, bullpen management king, lets win slip away -
Dan Connolly

Showalter, bullpen management king, lets win slip away

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Without a doubt, one of Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter’s greatest strengths is how he handles a bullpen. His in-game management of his relievers sometimes raises eyebrows, but it’s because he always has a grand plan — one that fans and media aren’t privy to.

He often considers how he might need a certain reliever the next day, the day after that, etc.

But here’s the rub: At this point of the season there are no more tomorrows.

And Showalter’s decision not to remove Wade Miley after six impressive innings was head-shaking at the time. And disastrous in retrospect.

Saturday’s 7-3 loss at Yankee Stadium goes on Showalter’s ledger. And it will linger for a whole lot longer if the Orioles now fail to make the playoffs or fail to host a Wild Card game at Camden Yards.

The background: Miley had 99 pitches and a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh at Yankee Stadium. He had just wiggled out of a shaky sixth inning, permitting a RBI double before notching a strikeout to end the frame.

There was absolutely, positively no reason to push him into the seventh, not with Mychal Givens, Brad Brach and Zach Britton set for the next three innings (and Darren O’Day or Tommy Hunter or Donnie Hart available, if necessary).

The Orioles shut down those three innings and they are basically on the doorstep of hosting the AL Wild Card game.

But Showalter left Miley in to start the seventh. Givens, who had been warming in the bullpen, took a seat.

And Miley served up a game-tying homer to rookie Tyler Austin. And then another single to Ronald Torreyes before finally being removed for Givens, who cleaned up the mess with a fly out and double play.

Showalter said after the game that he didn’t bring in Brach or Givens to start the seventh because he felt Miley was still throwing well. And that, by making that move, he would open up the floodgates of quality left-handed, hitters that were on the bench: Didi Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann. And he wanted to stick with Miley against the right-handed No. 8 and 9 hitters, Austin and Torreyes.

“This convoluted thing called ‘September baseball,’ you’re just picking your poison when you’ve got guys like (right-handed hitting power hitter Gary Sanchez) and McCann and Gregorius and Ellsbury and all those guys sitting over there,” Showalter said. “That, and (Miley was) pitching well, too. You’re going to start that gate opening up there, too, but that’s why when you’re playing this time of the year you have those issues where you don’t during the season.”

In the eighth, Showalter brought in lefty specialist Donnie Hart to face pinch-hitter McCann, who popped up. Then Showalter summoned Brach, who has been one of the league’s best relievers for most of the season (he had a 5.06 ERA in a rough August, but a 0.75 ERA in 12 September games).

Brach allowed a walk, a double and a two-run single. He was charged with two more earned runs – four total – after he left the game.

“Just sucked. I was not good today,” Brach said. “That was pretty much it.”

Brach fell on the sword. And Miley, who would have had a second consecutive quality start if he had been pulled after the sixth, said there were “just a couple mistakes I made later in the game that they made me pay for.”

The bottom line, though, is that Miley shouldn’t have been in that game in the seventh.

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said he thought Miley may have been dealing with a little fatigue in the seventh when he left the pitches over the plate, but that the concept of leaving him in there – given what the Yankees’ lineup looked like – made sense.

“(Miley) had been throwing the ball well. I can’t say what Buck was thinking, but I know if he can get those first two guys out then he gets the left-on-left matchup (with Brett Gardner) that he wants. But it turned out where they put two good swings on two balls. If it works out where he gets the first two guys, then you leave him in to face Gardner and it looks great.”

To me it was a classic case of Showalter over thinking the situation. He was caught up in the hitters that the Yankees could have used and didn’t put his best option on the mound when he should have. Simple as that.

Showalter gets a lot of credit for coaxing so many wins out of this enigmatic club. But, on Saturday, he pulled a loss out of the jaws of victory.

And now the Orioles’ season comes down to one game.



  1. claudecat

    October 1, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    I don’t care what anyone says, Buck managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this one. Miley was clearly out of gas. But fine, it’s still a tie ballgame. But then Givens, against a couple lefties? Yikes! But he gets through that gauntlet, against all odds. And yeah, Donnie Hart’s been nails! But… but… Wait, you’re gonna remove Hart for Brach, even with a few lefties in wait and a bench full of ’em?!? Great googley moogley!

    I’m way way down on Brach ever since his wife had the audacity to attempt to make a career in soft-core country on the Orioles backs. That tune is not pleasant listening (I dare anyone to get it out of your head once it’s in), and it’s been bad bad mojo from the get-go, just as Brad’s presence on the mound has been all too often since the break and that foul song’s debut.

    And then we get the Drake, as if to say to anyone still listening “put down those Beats”? Good gravy! Listen, I love Buck as much as any bloodhound’s nether regions, but this game was a cluster(fudge). It’s do or die time! Not time to get folks right or defy those ever-persnickety arbiters of baseball physics. Putting Miley in further harm’s way was dangerous enough, but Givens?!? Then Brach, even with his profound suckitude post-break/wife’s tune?!? That’s just dumb, man.

    I’m just hoping that Gausman can get his gum right and that the Jays and Tiggers succumb to the forces of all that is right universally. Otherwise? We may be (fudged). It’d sure be a shame to have gone down due to this unfortunate sequence of bullpen steadfastness.

  2. ubetonit

    October 1, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    Managers often manage too much with their hearts wanting a certain player to succeed & giving them an unwarranted opportunity.

  3. marcshank

    October 1, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    In 2014 I remember how surprised I was when Buck would use, like 5 pitchers in a game. He just charged out of the dugout and did his thing. After a while when I saw the results I came to expect and love it.

    So it’s 2016 and I’m seeing him do it less and less, especially when Darrin O’Day was injured for so long. So in this game, when Miley gave up the single, I said to the TV, “Pull him.” And I was fairly shocked when he left him in. What can we say about this extraordinary manager? He blew it, he knew it and Boston lost. So we win tomorrow and Toronto wins tomorrow and we lost home field, the place where the O’s are most likely to make magic. Go Kevin, make sure we last for the playoffs. Please.

  4. Bancells Moustache

    October 2, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Mr Showalter, whom everyone in this town insists is Yoda in a warm up jacket because the team became competitive 5 years ago, gave away the store yesterday. If anyone can come up with a valid reason why Wade Miley strode up the dugout steps in the 7th, I’d love to hear it. For that matter, I’d be happy to hear from one person who didn’t gasp ‘why the hell is he out there?’ when MASN came back from commercial and Miley was standing on the hill.

    • John in Cincy

      October 4, 2016 at 6:43 am

      i choose to swim against the current on this one. Buck’s move backfired, sure, but I don’t necessarily believe it was the wrong one from a tactical standpoint.

      Miley was only at 99 pitches–yes, ONLY 99 pitches. He’d struck out 9 in six innings, and although the sixth inning is supposed to show that he ran out of gas, it could be seen as just a speed bump, as well. After all, he was in a jam and pitched out of it pretty masterfully.

      And speaking of masterful, that’s exactly what he was the previous game against Arizona, only more so, by giving up just a single run in 8.2 IP, while striking out 11. Oh, and he threw 116 pitches, so why should Buck think he’d run out of gas after a mere 99.

      I think Manny’s blunder getting thrown out at third with two outs was potentially as big a turning point as the homer Wade served up.

      No matter, I think that we’ll all agree that if Miley can pitch in the playoffs (and yes, I’m assuming the Orioles will advance) the way he did his last few starts in the regular season, he’s another weapon in the rotation.

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