Myriad Orioles Thoughts: D as in difference; Manny goes a little Frank; Kim's respite - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: D as in difference; Manny goes a little Frank; Kim’s respite

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

If people don’t watch the Orioles regularly, and they only look at the roster, I’d imagine it’s easy to dismiss this club as a legitimate playoff contender.

The starting pitching doesn’t jump out at you and the offense is powerful but flawed.

This team, however, has been led by its defense and its bullpen over the last few years – two components that are crucial to winning, but maybe not particularly sexy to the average fan.

Monday’s 5-2 Orioles’ win perfectly demonstrated that. Dylan Bundy pitched well, Manny Machado homered and Brad Brach picked up his fifth save in place of Zach Britton.

But the star of the evening was the Orioles’ D, led, of course, by Machado.

His nightly clinic at third base has become routine.

On Monday, though, he took it to another level. He made at least five plays that would have been on the high-end of the difficulty chart for anyone else. Yet we’ve seen him make so many, that I’m not sure any of them crack his Top 10, or Top 20.

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It seemed like every ball that was hit to Machado on Monday was a rocket, and he just kept flagging them down, including a diving snag to end the game.

Machado wasn’t alone in flashing the leather at Fenway Park.

Adam Jones, whom I think is playing his best center field since the first half of 2015, made two nice running grabs late in the game.

Middle infielders J.J. Hardy and Jonathan Schoop worked their double play magic and Chris Davis continues to quietly pick nearly every throw that comes his way.

And Ryan Flaherty, who isn’t a left fielder, made a couple nice plays out there Monday.

In contrast, the Red Sox struggled defensively and that may have been the difference in the game.

A quick Frank comparison

I never saw Frank Robinson play live – or I don’t remember if I did. By the time I was old enough to really get into baseball, Frank was a player-manager in Cleveland.

I heard plenty of stories from my dad and brothers and sisters, though. And when I wrote my Orioles’ book, I had a chance to interview Robinson and plenty of his teammates.

One of the things that stood out to me was that several teammates talked about how they loved when other clubs angered Robinson. Threw at him or said nasty stuff to him or whatever. It just strengthened his resolve. And he dug deeper. Robinson admits that he always felt like the way to get even was to perform even better on the field.

After Machado was thrown at by Boston’s Matt Barnes on April 23 – and Barnes was ejected – Machado continued the at-bat by crushing a pitch to deep center for a double.

On Monday night, amidst all of the boos from the Fenway Park crowd, Machado had one of his best all-around games in recent memory. Yes, his home run trot could have been timed by a sundial, but he primarily talked with his bat and his glove.

Answering criticism by playing that much better was a Frank thing, I’ve been told. Machado, who often is compared to Brooks Robinson, may have a little Frank in him, too.

Kim’s playing time situation

The last time the Orioles and Red Sox played a series, Showalter lamented that it would be tough to get left-handed hitting Hyun Soo Kim much playing time against Boston’s starting rotation.

That’s the same deal this week – but it looked like it might be even worse. The Red Sox will start two lefties – Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz – and also were scheduled to start knuckleballer Steven Wright. Kim has had his struggles against lefties (1-for-18 in his MLB career) and a lack of pro experience versus knucklers.

So, heading in to this week, it looked like the only chance for Kim to start at Fenway Park would be Monday against right-hander Rick Porcello. But Showalter chose to go with Flaherty in left field because he’s mashed Porcello in the past (6-for-14, .429 average). Flaherty, by the way, was hitless in four at-bats Monday.

Showalter has been trying to get some playing time for Flaherty, too, and his numbers against Porcello made Monday a good fit. Seth Smith (9-for-19) and J.J. Hardy (11-29, .393) also had more success versus Porcello than Kim (2-for-7), so those three started while Kim sat.

It’s possible Kim will start this week in Fenway, though. Wright  was placed on the DL with a sprained knee late Monday night. His replacement for Thursday has not been named, but it might be a right-hander who doesn’t throw with his knuckles.

I get the reasoning for not having Kim start due to specific matchups, but sitting so much is asking a lot of a guy who didn’t play a lot in the first month (40 at-bats) of the season. And, remember, this is a guy who arguably may be the club’s best pure hitter.

Getting Britton back

Yes, Brad Brach has done an excellent job filling in for the injured Zach Britton (forearm). The entire bullpen held the line in Britton’s absence. But the All Star closer is expected back Tuesday, and it will be a huge addition.

That’s especially true if the Orioles decide to remain with a five-man bench. That means they’ll be down to six relievers – though the Orioles could send spot starter Alec Asher back to Triple-A Norfolk after his start Tuesday and call up another reliever then. That would buy some more time with seven relievers and five offensive reserves until another starter – likely Chris Tillman – is needed for Sunday.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 2, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Manny’s trot reminded me of the way-too-many David Ortiz home runs trots he took at the Yard . As an old fart, I’m not always on board with Manny’s on field antics, but I loved watching him jog the bases last night. Paybacks are hell ‘eh Beantown?

    • Dan Connolly

      May 2, 2017 at 9:58 am

      I was waiting for him to take out a Sharpie and sign autographs.

  2. 5brooks5

    May 2, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Karma is a B….

  3. DPG0124

    May 2, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Most impressive to me is Bundy’s line against Boston so far this year: 20.1 IP, 18 H, 5 ER, 0 HR , 7 BBs, 8 Ks, 1.24 WHIP, 2.21 ERA – it’s especially impressive considering Boston has seen Bundy 3 times already in short succession. Boston should have had a read on Bundy by now and he’s still shutting them down.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 2, 2017 at 11:22 am

      It’s funny, DP. I realized after I wrote my piece that I basically ignored Bundy — as if that’s just what he is supposed to do. That’s a pretty big compliment considering his inexperience. He’s been that good.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 2, 2017 at 10:48 am

    You’re spot on DPG .. and speaking of Bundy & Boston, I had the misfortune of attending a game with my evil Sox-rooting brother-in-law last year when the Sox shellacked Bundy. I’m forgetting the details, but Bundy was gone by the 3rd or 4th, and the Sox went for double digits in what turned out to be a rain shortened game. I’m curious as to if Dylan remembers that outing, and how it compares to this year’s meetings? Looks like our boy has grown into the man the scouts envisioned 5 years ago. With all due respect to Storm Davis, I’ll put it out there again …. Cy Future?

    • Dan Connolly

      May 2, 2017 at 11:23 am

      You and your optimism. And Bundy is the kind of guy who remembers everything. Especially bad outings. I guarantee that.

  5. ubetonit

    May 2, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Hopefully, this Red Sox episode will be one less team that Manny will be tempted to sign with when a free agent.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 2, 2017 at 11:24 am

      One way of looking at this.

  6. sciggs

    May 2, 2017 at 11:30 am

    I love Kim, but the Os should trade him to somebody who will play him. Its not going to happen with the Orioles.

    • ubetonit

      May 2, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Before they obtained Davis, the Orioles lacked a 1b for yrs. Now they have a glut: Davis, Trumbo, Mancini. For many recent yrs, they lacked corner OF’ers, now they have glut there, too. And some good prospects on the horizon in MiL, too. Wish that was true of quality SP.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 2, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      Interesting thought. I’ll explore it later this week.

  7. wirpls

    May 2, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    So can you give us a little more info on what transpired between Adam and the fans last night. You could see him apparently arguing with someone off the field but MASN never addressed it

    • Dan Connolly

      May 2, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      I just wrote a piece about it wirp. Check it out on the site and if you have any more questions about it, comment there and I’ll try to answer.

  8. claudecat

    May 2, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Lines like “timed with a sundial”… Anyone can write the facts, ma’am. It’s another level of skill that makes reading dry baseball information fun. In other words, thanks again Dan!

    On the Kim thing, I know I’m not alone in wondering what this poor guy has done to ensure that he’s always the first guy off the field or out of the lineup. Always. It’s as if Buck is actively resisting using him! Me (surely wiser than Buck!)? I’d play him much more regularly, against lefties too. Heck, he’s batting 1.000 against ’em so far this year! (almost as valid a sample size as the paltry 17 against tough late inning specialists last season)

    • Dan Connolly

      May 2, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Thank you, Claude. I think the deal is that last they were hesitant, and they didn’t really have anyone truly better vs LHP. This year they do with a healthy Rickard and Mancini’s emergence. So I get the rationale. But also your argument.

  9. geevee3

    May 2, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    Years back (1966) I became an Orioles and a Frank Robinson fan. I was 10. I later learned that Gene Mauch would fine his pitchers for hitting Frank with a pitch, saying “he’s hard enough to get out if he isn’t angry!” In 1970 I attended a game in which Frank was hit by a pitch in the first inning, I slapped my companion and said “He’ll hit a home run!” That same inning he got called out at the plate when he was safe. I slapped my companion and said “Two!” Frank hit two home runs and drove in five that night, en route to a 9-8 win. Forever a memory! Go Manny!

    • Dan Connolly

      May 3, 2017 at 12:45 am

      Great story. Thanks Gee.

  10. Louiesez

    May 4, 2017 at 1:44 am

    In regards to the Kim, Buck has treated him unfairly from the very beginning. Don’t know what Bucks problem is, but he clearly harbors a prejudice against Kim..

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