This is how baseball is cruel.
Lefty Wade Miley is given the start Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays despite his struggles since coming to the Orioles in a July trade.
Fans groused about it. I thought it was a bad move in a pennant race, despite Miley’s good career numbers versus the Rays (4-2, 2.81 ERA in eight starts).
But Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn’t consult me. He gave Miley the assignment despite the veteran lefty’s 8.41 ERA in eight starts as an Oriole.
And what does Miley do?
Tells us all to shut up with his left arm.
He throws three perfect innings to start the game. Then he gets out of a fourth-inning jam – thanks in part to a caught stealing by Caleb Joseph – to keep the Rays scoreless through four.
That’s where the afternoon of redemption would end for Miley.
And it ended in the worst way: Injury.
Miley said he slipped on the mound in the fourth inning while delivering a pitch and felt “something grab in my shoulder-blade area. It kind of stayed there and didn’t go away, and in between innings, it kind of got a little worse.”
While warming on the mound in the top of the fifth, he felt it again, and was immediately met by athletic trainer Richie Bancells, who ultimately escorted Miley to the dugout.
“I didn’t think it was smart to stay out there and try to deal with it,” he said.
So the guy who has struggled so much since being an Oriole, was performing best in this uniform, and had to exit.
“It’s just one of those things, I guess,” Miley said. “It sucks.”
Since he has never had a muscle strain in his back before, he’s not sure what the prognosis will be. The hope is that, because it’s a mild strain, it will dissipate soon.
“If it was something I felt before, maybe I have an idea, but it’s something I never felt. I was a little nervous. I’m not going to lie about it,” Miley said after the game. “It feels a lot better right now, so, hopefully, some cramps. It was pretty hot, so we’ll go from there.”
What shouldn’t be lost in Miley’s unfortunate luck is that his back couldn’t have been pinned more against baseball’s wall, and he delivered four scoreless innings. Really, it was better than could have been expected.
“At this stage of the season I’ll take the four,” Showalter said. “I’m hoping that he comes in tomorrow and feels good and is an option for us.”
Move doesn’t work in seventh
Showalter made two moves in the bottom of the seventh, one which was successful in its intent. The other didn’t work at all.
With runners on first and second and no outs in a 1-1 game, the Orioles decided to have Caleb Joseph drop down a bunt. Joseph, who hadn’t driven in a run in 126 previous at-bats this season, executed it perfectly, moving the runners to second and third.
One can always argue the value in giving away an out, but the move did what it was supposed to do: Get runners to second and third with just one out.
A fairly deep fly ball and the Orioles take a 2-1 lead.
Adam Jones came to the plate and struck out, swinging wildly on the last one that was high and outside.
Hyun Soo Kim was due up next, but the Rays decided to take right-hander Danny Farquhar out and replaced him with veteran lefty Dana Eveland.
Showalter countered by removing Kim, who is hitless in 18 at-bats this season against lefties, and inserted Drew Stubbs (11-for-45, .244).
Stubbs watched all six pitches, and was called out on strikes to end the inning.
Showalter isn’t convinced that Kim can hit left-handed pitching, and he is sticking with that concept despite Kim’s ability to handle the bat versus right-handers and limited exposure to big league lefties. At the very least, Showalter is playing the percentages, which meant go with a right-hander in that situation.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter. As the Orioles are wont to do, they bashed strategy into the ground when Mark Trumbo homered in the eighth to give the Orioles’ the eventual win.
O’Day returns Sunday
One of the unfortunate negatives of Miley’s departure in the fifth, is that no one was warming up in the bullpen.
Darren O’Day was summoned, the earliest he’s entered a game since May 2012.
He gave up a homer to Corey Dickerson on the first pitch he threw, but then retired three of the next four batters he faced.
“It was awesome to be back. Be able to help the guys out,” said O’Day, who hadn’t pitched since Aug. 11 due to a shoulder injury. “They’ve been having a heavy workload down there. So to take one inning, it’s helpful. Obviously, the day was made even better by the win at the end there. It was a good day.”
O’Day and Showalter said the big test will be how O’Day feels on Monday. But if he is fully back, that is huge for the Orioles and their stout bullpen.
Brach gets 10th win
Chris Tillman has the most wins for the Orioles this year at 16.
Next on the list?
Set-up man Brad Brach with 10 – a ton for a reliever. That’s the most for the Orioles since Arthur Rhodes won 10 out of the bullpen in 1997.
“If someone told me I’d win 10 games out of the bullpen, I’d be like, ‘I don’t know how that’s possible, first of all,’” he said. “But it’s pretty crazy.”
Brach is 22-7 in his three-season career with the Orioles, and he’s never started a game for them.
That’s when baseball isn’t cruel – just weird — I suppose.