Right before first pitch Tuesday, Orioles infielder Danny Valencia had to be scratched from the starting lineup because, according to manager Buck Showalter, Valencia had to meet his expectant wife at the hospital.
That’s obviously the right thing to do. No problem with that at all.
But not having Valencia available forced Joey Rickard into the starting lineup. Again, not a problem. Rickard had two hits and is holding his own with a .286 average after raking at Triple-A Norfolk.
But that left the Orioles with a three-man bench: Trey Mancini, who was getting a breather after being in a 6-for-51 skid (.118 average) since May 16; Craig Gentry, who is hitting .217 in 83 at-bats and Andrew Susac, who is 3-for-24 (.125) since his recall.
And that loomed huge in the bottom of the ninth in an eventual 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals.
With one out against nasty, left-handed closer Sean Doolittle, Showalter brought Mancini in to pinch-hit for lefty Pedro Alvarez.
Doolittle hit – barely – Mancini with a pitch and then gave up a single to Rickard.
Two on, one out and the tying and winning runs on base.
So, Showalter had the right-handed-hitting Gentry pinch-hit for lefty Chance Sisco. Gentry struck out.
Then Showalter subbed in Susac for lefty Jace Peterson.
Another strikeout. Game over.
You can argue that Gentry (.190 in 42 at-bats versus lefties) didn’t need to pinch-hit for Sisco (2-for-8 against southpaws).
But that’s not really the point.
The point is this bench has zero depth, especially when a guy like Valencia is not available.
“I don’t look at it that way. (Valencia’s absence) just creates an opportunity for somebody. Those guys are capable of doing the job,” Showalter said. “You knew Joey was going to get a couple hits as soon as (Valencia’s scratch) happens. He came through for us. That’s kind of an excuse. We’ve got some good people capable of doing the job there.”
I appreciate Showalter supporting his guys, but these players aren’t doing the jobs that are needed – partially because too much is being asked of them.
Again, it goes back to roster construction. Gentry, Susac, Peterson, Alvarez, Valencia and Rickard are, at best, role players in the majors and they are being counted on in key spots – IN MAY.
Because the Orioles were counting on Colby Rasmus, Tim Beckham and a revolving door of light-hitting middle infielders to plug holes, and instead they all got hurt.
Injuries happen, but injuries to those players shouldn’t cripple a roster.
It’s stunning that the Orioles’ roster is where it is and there is still two-thirds of a season to play.
Davis at cleanup; goes 0-for-4
Showalter used the line again Tuesday afternoon when explaining why Chris Davis and his .156 average and his anemic .491 on-base-plus-slugging percentage was batting cleanup.
“If not him than who?”
The answer: Anyone.
Simply, anyone else besides Davis. It’s not helping him or the team to continue to put him into a run-producing spot. You want his defense at first? Fine. But bat him seventh, eighth or ninth.
Showalter made a point of saying that Davis has had some success against Washington starter Jeremy Hellickson – and that is true. Davis was 11-for-30 against the Nationals’ right-hander and former Oriole. But they hadn’t faced each other since 2014, and Davis hadn’t gotten a hit off Hellickson since 2013.
I think it is fair to say Davis is a different hitter now than he was in 2013.
Showalter also said he was trying to stagger his left-handed and right-handed hitters against a Nationals team that had three lefties in the bullpen.
Fine, then use Alvarez at cleanup. Or go crazy and bat Sisco fourth once.
Instead, Showalter relied on his veteran again, and Davis went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts looking. He’s now batting .153 with 71 strikeouts in 177 at-bats.
Ill-fated send, understandable reasoning
With two outs in the fifth and the Orioles trailing 3-1, Adam Jones hit a double to left-center that scored a run. Third base coach Bobby Dickerson decided to be aggressive and send Peterson home as well, and he was easily out on a good relay throw by Trea Turner.
It would have been the tying run, and ultimately the Orioles lost, 3-2.
Here’s the thing: It wasn’t a good send by Dickerson.
But because the Orioles simply aren’t scoring runs, they have to be aggressive on the basepaths. And, frankly, if Dickerson had held Peterson, we all knew what would have happened.
The Nationals would have intentionally walked Manny Machado to bring up Davis with the bases loaded and two outs.
And because Davis is an offensive liability, you’re probably better off pushing the baserunning envelope.
Jones, for one, said he liked the aggressiveness – and said it is something the Orioles must do right now.
“I think we do. What can we lose? I look at it that way. What else bad can happen? Try it. Screw it. We’ve gotta try and do something different. Imagine if Turner short-hopped (the catcher) or he bobbled (the ball) and we scored a run,” Jones said.
“Manny’s probably gonna get walked. Hopefully, (Davis would have) came up and (drove) everyone in. But obviously that scenario didn’t happen. But I like the aggression on the basepaths. We need to do something and trying something different is good cuz we haven’t hit well with men in scoring position. So, when we get a hit, we gotta try and score them.”