No Britton made no sense in season-ender - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

No Britton made no sense in season-ender

TORONTO — A whole lot of things happened in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

But there’s one decision that won’t be forgotten, that will linger throughout this offseason and maybe beyond.

How do the Orioles lose an 11-inning playoff game without using closer Zach Britton, not only their best pitcher but arguably baseball’s best arm this season?

Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn’t really explain his thinking – but the basic message was this: The Orioles didn’t have a lead to protect and the rest of his bullpen was pitching well.

“I considered a lot of things during the course of the game, but our guys did a good job getting us to that point. We just couldn’t finish it off,” Showalter said. Yeah, (Britton) was available.”

In fact, Britton warmed up three separate times in the bullpen. Three. And didn’t come in once. That’s completely un-Showalter like. He prides himself in not getting relievers up in the bullpen multiple times without using them.

So does he now regret not using Britton, given the fact that starter Ubaldo Jimenez ended up allowing three hits in the 11th, including the season-ending, three-run shot by Edwin Encarnacion?

“You could (regret it) afterwards,” he said. “But we went about four innings there trying to get to that spot.”

That’s baseball conventional wisdom, of course. On the road, save your closer. At home, throw your best pitcher.

“Playing on the road has a little something to do with it, too,” Showalter said. “But we have some good options that have done a great job for us all year, and Zach’s one of those.”

He does. That’s not the point.

Let’s put this in perspective.

To start the 11th, Showalter brought in lefty specialist Brian Duensing to face lefty Ezequiel Carrera, who struck out.

Then Showalter went to Jimenez, who last pitched in relief in August, to face the Jays’ dangerous top of the order. He allowed a single to Devon Travis, a single to Josh Donaldson and the homer to Encarnacion, all in five pitches.

Jimenez gave up three earned runs on one swing; Britton gave up four earned runs in 67 innings this season.

This isn’t about using Jimenez. It’s about not using Britton.

“It’s obviously frustrating to watch the guys battle ahead of you and you want to go in there and do the same. You want to give your offensive team a chance to win, especially knowing that if we don’t win, there’s no tomorrow,” Britton said. “It was tough to be sitting down there and having to watch it, and not getting in the game.”

Britton didn’t point fingers at his manager, though. That’s not his style.

“It was frustrating, but that’s not my call. The guys ahead of me threw really well. Ubaldo has thrown great recently, so there was no doubt in my mind he was going to go out there and throw some zeroes,” Britton said. “They’ve got the best part of their lineup coming up and you knew eventually one of these teams were gonna score, let’s be honest about it.”

For the second time in less than a week, Showalter, a tremendous handler of his bullpen, made a costly and obvious mistake. He left starter Wade Miley in too long on Saturday in an eventual loss to the New York Yankees. And then he didn’t go to Britton as lesser pedigreed pitchers – six relievers — got the call Tuesday.

To be fair, those other relievers kept the game scoreless until the 11th – and Showalter deserves credit for pushing those buttons.

But all that will be forgotten due to Britton’s healthy DNP.

Arguably the AL Cy Young frontrunner, Britton said he was told before the game to be ready in any situation, even if it meant multiple innings.

But what he wasn’t prepared for is what none of us were prepared for.

In the biggest game of the year, the Orioles’ best pitcher didn’t pitch.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. ubetonit

    October 5, 2016 at 2:17 am

    As Dallas Braden said you don’t bring in Duensing or Ubaldo BEFORE Britton in extra innings (because you risk losing the gm). If you have then used Britton & the gm is still tied, you then HAVE TO resort to using lesser pitchers.

    Ubaldo having some late season success as a starter is one thing Starting isn’t Sudden Death. If he gave up runs as a starter, the team still had innings to recover. Using Ubaldo in a pressure-packed high-leverage tie gm extra-innings situation is a horse of a different color. Giving up ONE run would have ended the game.

    Dallas Braden said it even more simply&clearly “Duensing&Ubaldo should never see the 11th inning BEFORE Britton” That’s like a pitcher trying to get out of an inning with his 4th best pitch.

    Let’s face it. We knew the season was over when Ubaldo came in (even if we were impressed by his recent starts).

  2. claudecat

    October 5, 2016 at 2:34 am

    The repercussions of the managerial moves (or lack thereof) in this game, and to a lesser extent the Saturday loss to the Yankees which cost the O’s a home playoff game, will reverberate for months, years. Maybe decades. It’s shocking to see a manager that everyone loves make so many bizarre decisions, and not just with the pitchers.

    Can anyone explain Nolan Reimold batting for Kim while shiny new whiz-kid Trey Mancini languishes on the bench? Reimold’s been completely awful pretty much all year, only made the team due to a hot streak in late spring games. And not just terrible at the plate, but in the field far too often.

    I love Buck as much as anyone else, and certainly don’t think he deserves to be fired (yes, many are calling for that), but man… Sometimes I wonder what he’s thinking, why he’s so loyal to players that don’t deserve it. The not using Britton thing was practically indefensible, but to compound it by using Ubaldo, then leaving him in? When Bundy was on the roster and has experience out of the ‘pen? Just very very difficult to understand, even given Ubaldo’s run of late season success AS A STARTER. Just plain crazy.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 5, 2016 at 8:30 am

      It never occurred to me until I read your post. I had forgotten about Mancini being on the bench. Mancini doesn’t play outfield or I’m sure Buck would have considered him in that spot. I questioned removing Kim at all! I know, it’s a lefty vs lefty, but Reimold? Is Kim that inept vs. left handed pitching? I wish we could have found out during the regular season.

  3. bigdaddydk

    October 5, 2016 at 6:32 am

    I was as perplexed as anyone last night when Jimenez got the call. I saw the call to the pen and saw Ubaldo coming out, and my exact words were “I hope good Ubaldo is pitching tonight.” I really love and respect Showalter, and I think he needs to be kept on as long as he wants to manage. He’s a legit contender for AL Manager of the Year, and deservedly so. Nobody else in MLB has done more with less than Buck has this year. I just hope he takes away a valuable lesson from this game and that the team rebounds.

    As an aside, I really don’t have much good for the Blue Jays or their fans. Classless bunch that lobs beer cans onto the field during games needs to be swept out of the playoffs by the Rangers.

  4. bill-s

    October 5, 2016 at 7:18 am

    All the talk is about the pitching decisions, but to me, the loss is on the futile offense, which forced the bullpen to perform miracles all night. There were no Cy Youngs on the mound in blue, but the Orioles sure did make it seem that way.

    As for the pitching decisions, I actually have a different opinion than most. I would have tried not to use Britton in a non-save situation. How awful would it have been had Britton pitched two or three scoreless innings and then the O’s scored but they had to bring in Ubaldo or whoever else was out there to try to nail down a save? But I did have some thoughts during the game about the use of the pen:

    1. When Ubaldo came in, I would have much preferred to see Bundy.
    2. Givens was on fire. Why not leave him in longer?
    3. Duensing also got a very quick hook.
    4. I wonder if the seemingly automatic righty-lefty switches aren’t overdone. When Hart came in, Toronto brought in right-handed Upton to hit, and Hart got the job done. I know his stats against righties are not very good, but I might have given him more rope with another left-handed hitter – one who was killing the Orioles all night – was one batter away.

    Bottom line, criticize Buck all you want, but with the offensive approach of this team in recent months, this result was inevitable.

  5. DPG0124

    October 5, 2016 at 7:28 am

    There were two separate times in that game where the Orioles really needed a double play. They luckily got one with O’day in the 9th even though he’s probably a 40/60 GB/FB pitcher. And then in the 11th Ubaldo had already left two pitches right over the middle of the plate before Encarnacion. So with first and third and one out why is the guy with a 0.54 ERA and an 80/20 GB/FB rate not pitching??? This is literally the exact situation you need Britton for and there can’t ever be a “save situation” if you don’t keep the game alive. That being said why isn’t Davis bunting the ball down the 3rd base line in the 9th (or the 10th?)? One run wins the game and getting the lead off hitter on certainly would have helped that

  6. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 5, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Dan I have to disagree with your statement that “This isn’t about using Jimenez”.

    Although Ubaldo has been more than very good this past month, isn’t it always in the 1st inning or two that he gets hit around and struggles to find his control and rhythm? Even during his hot streak, Ubaldo seemed to have to get past innings 1 and 2 before he really got on a roll. Considering this tendency, I think Jimenez was the LAST guy in the bullpen that you’d want to throw into a sudden death situation. Buck was managing like he was preparing for an 18 inning marathon. I believe Buck outthought himself this time, and choosing Ubaldo of all people, was ill-advised.

    Britton was the obvious, and in my opinion, the ONLY good choice in that situation. Dance with the one that brung ya, right?

    I know you say you’re not a fan and you don’t get emotionally involved with wins and losses, but this one hurts … badly. But it’s baseball, and the 10 year old boy inside me can’t wait for spring training!!!

    Go O’s

    • Bancells Moustache

      October 5, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Jimenez should never have been on that roster, the Vanimal should have been. Ubaldo should have been slotted for game 1 in Texas and wearing sweatpants in the clubhouse. He is not suited whatsoever to relief duty, and the risk of him being “Bad Ubaldo” is far too great in a winner take all scenario.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 6, 2016 at 7:15 am

        As usual, Mr. Moustache, you make perfect sense.

  7. 5brooks5

    October 5, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Whew, I’m exhausted!This team and now it seems their manager are very frustrating to watch. We as fans can second guess the manager all we want, that’s the beauty of being a fan, with that being said, it made no sense losing that game, with the best reliever in baseball not pitching at some point. Lose with the best you have, and I don’t have a problem.But let’s face it. This team is not as balanced or as good as Toronto or even close to the Red Sox.We are too one-dimentional on offense, with most hitters up there flailing away at anything near the plate, and that boils down to roster make-up. Love the O’s ,love the game, love the site! WAit til next year!

  8. Eldersburg Enigma

    October 5, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Instead of Ubaldo, TOMMY HUNTER!!! If he goes 1 2/3 and the game is still tied, the it’s Bundy for 3-4 innings. Bundy has the electric arm and the relief experience.

  9. ubetonit

    October 5, 2016 at 11:01 am

    I only have one question for the organization: Is it willing to reconstruct this team to make it less dependent on the HR? They were 12th in runs scored. FIVE of those 12 teams were NL teams who did not have the benefit of the DH yet they managed to score more runs than the O’s who led MLB in HR’s.

    The O’s had 28 (11%) more HR’s the 2nd leading HR team. But they scored 134 (15%) fewer runs than the leading team. To those who think they could merely score more runs while continuing to hit so many HR’s, IOW merely add on. It doesn’t work that way. The reason they scored 134 fewer runs is they were always swinging for the fences.

    That reconstruction begins with having the organizational courage to do with Chris Davis what Boston did with Carl Crawford&Josh Beckett dump their contracts getting little in return.

  10. Tiss

    October 5, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    A few comments as a way of agreeing with some (and disagreeing with some) of what is being said here:

    I agree Bundy makes lots more sense than Jimenez in the 11th last night, but I’m still having lots of trouble getting over the lack of Britton. Not bringing in Britton is the equivalent of replacing Machado with Flaherty after the 6th. Think about that. The comparison is valid. Stud at the position vs. replacement level player for 2-3 innings.

    As far as where we go from here? I don’t think the problem is too reliant on the HRs. Sorry…I don’t. The numbers just don’t bear it out. The O’s were in the top 10 in the majors in Avg with RISP. Not all of those were HRs. They were in the bottom 10 in K’s with RISP. I get it that it FEELS like they strike out all the time and only hit HRs…but it isn’t true. Given their home ballpark, it would be stupid for the O’s not to emphasize power.

  11. jannpls

    October 6, 2016 at 7:27 am

    ( Full Disclosure – From a tweet sent to Mike and Mike ESPN)

    FIGURE THIS ONE OUT
    Tuesday night A.L. Wildcard – tie game, Orioles DON’T bring closer in to pitch, lose to a 3 run homer.
    Wednesday night N.L. Wildcard – tie game, Mets DO bring in closer to pitch, lose to a 3 run homer.
    Who was right or wrong, Showalter or Collins ?? Remember that opinions are EASY, decisions are HARD !

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