A game to pick apart, but ultimately Tuesday's many decisions came up Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

A game to pick apart, but ultimately Tuesday’s many decisions came up Orioles

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

With baseball, you can debate the smallest of moves that may end up altering the outcome of a game.

Tuesday night, there looked like a major decision might implode on manager Buck Showalter. In the end, though, it didn’t matter, not when Mark Trumbo singled with the bases loaded in the 12th to give the Orioles a 5-4 win against the Washington Nationals.

And after the game, Showalter explained just why he did what he did in the eighth – which made sense given the facts he presented.

Ubaldo Jimenez pitched great Tuesday – no argument there. The oft-ridiculed right-hander basically matched Washington’s ace Max Scherzer frame for frame through seven.

“Ubaldo pitched real well,” Showalter said. “When you’ve got a guy like Scherzer out there, you know runs are going to be at a premium for your offense, so you’ve got to really dial up a good one and he did. Really proud of him. That was a really good lineup and he pitched well.”

Sure, Scherzer carried a no-hitter into the sixth, but a solo homer by Seth Smith broke up an attempt at history and knotted the game at 1-1.

Jimenez, who isn’t really considered Scherzer’s equal in baseball circles, also had allowed a lone run on a solo homer (by Daniel Murphy) heading into the eighth.

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So, it was an old-fashioned pitching duel between one of baseball’s most feared pitchers and one of its most confounding.

And then the battle unraveled in the eighth. That’s where some serious Internet debating commenced.

Jimenez entered the inning with just 91 pitches thrown – a pretty efficient number through seven. And not nearly his highest this year; he had outings of 104 and 108 pitches in April.

Showalter stuck with Jimenez to face the bottom half of the Nats’ powerful lineup. Jimenez allowed a slicing single to Anthony Rendon and a bloop single to Matt Wieters.

At that point, Jimenez had 98 pitches. Mychal Givens was warming in the bullpen. And Showalter stuck with Jimenez, who struck out Chris Heisey on three pitches (albeit, two of them bad bunt attempts).

Then Nationals manager Dusty Baker summoned the left-handed Adam Lind to pinch-hit. Showalter stuck with Jimenez, who promptly allowed a three-run homer – Lind’s third pinch-hit blast already this year.

And Twitter exploded.

Why was Jimenez still in the game? Why wasn’t Givens or lefty Donnie Hart?

Well, Showalter explained later, that Givens, Hart and Logan Verrett were all he had in the bullpen Tuesday. He wasn’t using Brad Brach, who had pitched in four of the last five games, Darren O’Day, who had pitched in three of the last four, or Alec Asher, who had thrown 3 1/3 innings Sunday and was a bit sore Tuesday.

With the game tied, and extra innings a possibility, Showalter was saving his remaining bullets and sticking with Jimenez, who was at 101 pitches and only needed two more outs to escape the eighth. It’s not as if he were laboring previously.

Flip side, of course, is that seven tremendous innings from Jimenez against the mighty Nationals was plenty good. Accept the gift and move on.

It could have gone either way, I suppose. I understand the criticism in this instance, but, frankly, handling/protecting a bullpen is one of Showalter’s biggest strengths.

He is confident enough in his abilities that he doesn’t manage to win one game without considering how his decisions may affect the club down the road.

“Roger (McDowell) and I made the decision we weren’t gonna use three or four of our guys tonight, regardless,” Showalter said. “(The short bullpen) figured into it strongly. We’ve got to think about a lot of things (before replacing Jimenez). We’ve got Mychal and Donnie a little bit and (the Nationals have) all the moves with the switch hitters, left and right.”

I’ve covered managers who act as if every contest is Game Seven of the World Series, and they burn out their best relievers by June.

Showalter gambled Tuesday night with Jimenez and it didn’t work out. But now he’ll have more relievers, theoretically anyway, at his disposal on the road Wednesday in DC.

Verrett, ultimately, made Showalter’s decision stand up when he threw three scoreless innings for the win.

The funny thing is, Showalter hates when people boil a game down to one play. And, really, Tuesday was a perfect example of that “so many variables” concept; so many things that could have gone one way or the other.

Some on Twitter argued that third base coach Bobby Dickerson shouldn’t have sent the slow-footed J.J. Hardy home on a Caleb Joseph single with two outs in the 11th and cannon-armed Bryce Harper throwing in right.

But I think it was the right call with two outs. You make the opposition make a great throw and tag to stop you. And Harper and catcher Wieters did.

You could have made the argument that perhaps Hyun Soo Kim should have been pinch-hitting for Joseph in that 11th-inning situation, but Joseph did his job with the single.

And Baker can be scrutinized for walking Chris Davis to load the bases in the 12th, allowing Trumbo to deliver the game-winner – though that really is a pick-your-poison moment.

So many things to analyze from Tuesday, but ultimately it was an excellent game to watch.

And a big comeback for an Orioles team that now has the best record in baseball at 22-10.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Creatively_19

    May 10, 2017 at 8:41 am

    I could pick this game apart on multiple levels and in many places, but I’ll just be satisfied being “In the Win Column!” this morning having witnessed one of the most exciting games the O’s have played. I’m still not sold on Ubaldo and probably never will be, but I guess we’ll stick with him for now.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 10, 2017 at 8:59 am

      My contention has always been that Ubaldo can pitch like he did last night. The problem is you never know when.

      • Creatively_19

        May 10, 2017 at 9:24 am

        I’m not denying that he can, but just more often then not during his Orioles tenure he hasn’t been anywhere close. I set the bar low for his starts and just enjoy his successes.

  2. claudecat

    May 10, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I’m usually not shy about criticizing Buck’s moves (the playoff game in Toronto for instance), but I was fine with everything he did last night. Especially with leaving in Ubaldo with the game hanging in the balance. Givens was who was warming, and I don’t trust him any more than good Ubaldo, the one that had held the powerful Nats lineup in check to that point. You’ve got to let your starter sink or swim sometimes, especially with a bullpen that’s been worked so hard, one trying to get by without Britton the best it can.

    On the other hand, Dusty’s auto-walk (still hate that) to Davis was a gift. He’s the guy you most fear will fail to make contact in that situation. Thanks Nats! To me it felt like they gave us the game the moment I saw that move being made.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 10, 2017 at 9:01 am

      It is pick your poison. And all hitters say they understand intentional walks are part of the game. But no one can tell me there isn’t extra motivation and concentration when a guy gets walked in front of you. It’s an extra challenge and top athletes are top athletes because they can rise to challenges.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 10, 2017 at 9:01 am

    The problem I have with Buck, is this distrust in The Hitting Machine. I understand that Mancini may be an every day stud in the making, but really, the guy IS THE HITTING MACHINE after all. Let’s let him hit for crying out loud! Somehow, someway .. pinch hit .. platooned more often .. get him in the DH rotation … whatever … we need more at bats from him. We still need players to get on base more regularly going yard all the time, and Kim is that man to do that.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 10, 2017 at 9:02 am

      The burying of Kim really is an intriguing storyline so far this year.

      • Bancells Moustache

        May 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

        That really is a “rock and a hard place’ type situation. I am in the camp that the Hitting Machine needs as many plate appearances as can be given, but I am also starting to come around to the idea that Mancini is blossoming from rookie on a hot streak to rising franchise cornerstone.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          May 10, 2017 at 10:21 am

          I’m with you on the Mancini blossoming … but there must be some way to let Kim hit more. Another block is the arrival of Seth Smith … and I’m certainly in his corner as well. I guess this is what they call a ‘good problem to have’.

      • Creatively_19

        May 10, 2017 at 9:33 am

        Yeah, very disappointing he hasn’t been able to crack the lineup much this year. We hated him at the beginning of last season, then we came to love him. Now he’s relegated to 5th outfielder, when we know he can flat out rake when he hits every day. If Buck trusted him more off the bench then maybe he could have pinch hit last night, but I think in the close games Buck values the defense of everyone else over Kim.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 10, 2017 at 11:58 am

      I do think the defense plays into it somewhat. But I’m not sure Mancini I better defensively. In fact, given the experience, I’d rather have Kim in left in the last inning more than Mancini. But Rickard and Gentry render that point moot.

  4. Bancells Moustache

    May 10, 2017 at 9:28 am

    At least we know why the Orioles live and die by the home run. The reverse the quote of legendary Indians and Mud Hens skipper Lou Brown, “You may hit like Mays but you run like s–t”. Youth and scholastic level coaches everywhere must have been cringing at the wretched display of baserunning last night on the part of both teams (the Nats have been really bad both games). And I have to disagree with you on the Dickerson send, Dan-o. Don’t get me wrong, it was impressive watching Hardy round third then hop out of the wheelchair and slide into the plate but come on, Harper+Wieters/JJ=oops.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 10, 2017 at 10:27 am

      Love the Lou Brown reference, although I admit, I never picked up on his last name ’til now. IMDB has nothing on you sir!

    • Dan Connolly

      May 10, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      I hear ya, Stache. But there are two outs. Push the envelope for the score. Nats did everything right, but that’s not always the case.

  5. pjclark4

    May 10, 2017 at 9:58 am

    I’ve second-guessed my share of managerial moves, but this isn’t one of those times. Two guys on, one by bloop hit, and a strikeout?
    If he had been wild and walked the first two, 100% you have to give him the hook. He still had it though. That last pitch to Lind was just a little flat.

    Scherzer gave his second HR in the 8th too, and I’d bet every last baseball fan in the world would argue he should have stayed in. I’m not saying that Ubaldo deserves the same leash, but in this game, he matched him beautifully.

    I chalk the reaction up to the fact that the folks on Twitter who are bothering to knee-jerk tweet are just waiting for Ubaldo to give them a reason.
    I’d liken it to a reporter having most of the game recap written up and ready to go, just waiting for that final out to fill in the last few details. “@danconnolly why buck leavin Ubaldo in to face _____ in the _____??!! #managerfail #ubaldostinks”

    Haters gon hate as the kids say.

    Dan, I agree with you on the Dickerson send. Make them make a play with two outs. I’ve watched Harper enough to know that more often than not, his throws are bullets but off target. That ball two-hopped Wieters from short right field, and it took a swipe take to nab Hardy. Good send, just didn’t work out.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 10, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      With ya on both accounts, PJ.

  6. woody

    May 10, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    100% the right call to send though I have seen some strange ones this year so i’m keeping an eye on you Dickerson!

    It was a great percentage call. 2 outs, he got a good lead – yeah he’s slow, yeah the ball was hit quite shallow and yeah Weiters is great, yeah Harper has an A+ arm (actually I had no idea he had that in him). But how close was it? I think JJ was maybe 2 tenths of a second late. On a 90 ft dash thats pretty close to a 50/50 chance. And Harper made a 99.7mph throw. On the money. Anything less and the game was won. So I think the odds were well stacked in favor of sending. The alternative? Somebody bat him in from 3rd – 25% chance. No brainer.

  7. John in Cincy

    May 10, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Dan, sometimes I think you and I are the only ones around who are still optimistic about Ubaldo. Naturally, is bashers were out last night after he yielded the three-run homer to Lind, but for me the criticism was hardly deserved.

    believe that was the most pitches he’s thrown in any game this year, which could have been a factor in the eighth, and Lind was already having a tremendous year pinch hitting. So, one has to willfully overlook the sterling performance put in by Ubaldo, matching Scherzer pretty much pitch-per-pitch over the course of seven innings. Overall, it was a quality start for Jimenez, and if he can pitch more like that than like his recent struggles, the rotation could be rounding into shape quite nicely.

    As for Kim, could the Orioles be looking for a trade partner? Michael Bourn could be waiting in the wings. I’d have mixed feeling about such a move. I can see why the club would go that route, as Bourn at 34 is still much faster than Kim, and with two Gold Gloves, he’s a considerably better defender. On the down side, Kim just turned 29 in January, and he’s a much better hitter in nearly every stat — makes more solid contact, works counts better, tougher to strikeout, higher OBP and even a little more power.

    As for Dickerson’s send, I can see it both ways. Harper has a gun (twice led the NL in outfield assists), fielded the ball in relatively shallow right field, and had a plodder rounding third in Hardy…oh, and don’t forget that the guy who Buck described once as the best tagging catcher in Wieters awaiting the throw. Advantage Nationals.

    The Orioles have to hope for the unlikely to happen with an errant throw, Matt mishandling it, or JJ somehow evading the tag. I don’t like the send, but can see why it was done. If Hardy’s stopped at third, however, it puts more pressure on the Nats’ battery not to commit a wild pitch/passed ball/balk, and of course, there’s still a chance for Rickard to knock him in or for Washington to commit an error in the field.

    My thought is that if the game was in the Nat’s park, then the send makes more sense, because if the JJ doesn’t score, Washington could win it in the bottom of the frame. In Baltimore could send or not send with the knowledge that if they fail, they still get three more outs, regardless.

  8. Raymo

    May 11, 2017 at 12:18 am

    So if we want the hitting machine to get more playing time, we can start him in left with Mancini at first, and bench the strike out machine. CD then becomes a left-handed pinch hitter and defensive replacement. The on-base percent improvement would be dramatic, but the infield defense could suffer. I don’t know how Trey compares at first.

  9. John in Cincy

    May 11, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    As I indicated above, it looks to me like Kim is being phased out of the Orioles’ plans. It’s one thing to bench him against lefties, but that he’s not getting starts against right handers is real reason for concern.

    Trey isn’t as good a first baseman as Crush, who was a Gold Glove finalist last year, but he’s capable.

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