The Baltimore Orioles became Justin Verlander’s latest victims yesterday afternoon, falling 7-5 and getting swept in a three-game set at home in the process. The O’s had called Kevin Gausman up from triple-A Norfolk to make the start, sending Miguel Gonzalez to the bullpen. Gausman was smacked around in his short outing; after the game Buck Showalter said that he was looking for about 85 pitches out of Gausman in total; Gausman’s line: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 2 K. Showalter went onto say that Gausman had a great first inning, although the O’s were looking to get a bit more out of him.
Detroit loaded the bases on Gausman in the third, and Miguel Cabrera’s RBI-single gave them a 2-0 lead. Just prior to that however Ian Kinsler hit an infield single in order to load the bases…a ball that might have resulted in an out (the final out of the inning) had it not hit off the mound. When things aren’t going well, those are the types of bounces you get. Detroit would also plate three runs on Gausman in the fourth, netting them a 5-0 lead and chasing Gausman. They would also plate a run in the fifth off of Miguel Gonzalez to run the score to 6-0.
So the fireworks started in the last of the fourth with Chris Davis on first base after a walk and Nelson Cruz at the plate. Verlander threw a pitch behind Nelson Cruz (allowing Davis to head to second base), which bristled a few feathers in the Orioles’ dugout. Whether or not this was “retribution” for Bud Norris “intentionally” throwing at Torii Hunter on Monday is something that only Justin Verlander knows. However home plate umpire John Tumpane apparently thought something was up – and thus issued warnings to both benches.
In my opinion, this is an alarming trend in baseball, which I’ve started to see across the board. Baseball is a sport that’s always policed itself in a sense, and there is a certain aspect of blind American justice in some of these situations. However I’ve noticed that whenever something like this happens the umpires immediately are warning both benches. Buck Showalter was livid at this yesterday; by warning the Orioles’ bench Tumpane not only punished the victim in a sense, but he took away the Orioles’ ability to pitch inside without risk of a pitcher (and Showalter) being tossed.
I suppose the idea behind warning both benches is to head off a fight/bean ball war before it starts. But do umpires and MLB as a whole really want to be in the business of keeping this type of stuff pent up? In old school baseball someone on the Orioles would have thrown over a Detroit player’s head later in the game, and then both benches would be warned. Furthermore as Showalter said after the game, the umpires decided to judge intent on Bud Norris on Monday and they threw him out of the game. There had to be a thought that there was intent on Verlander’s part given that they warned the benches – yet no ejection?
However it’s also very possible that Verlander did the Orioles a favor. Their bats, which had
previously gone to sleep, seemed to wake up. Adam Jones and Chris Davis delivered with RBI-singles in the last of the fifth, and Nelson Cruz came back to the plate with two on. With the count at 1-2, Cruz took revenge on Verlander by smacking a three-run homer out of the park and in the process putting the Orioles right back into the game.
The fact is that ultimately the O’s dropped the game 7-5, and in the process were swept in the series. However that’s the type of incident that could help the Orioles to win the war after losing the battle. The act of Verlander throwing behind Cruz, combined with the fire shown by Buck Showalter in going after umpire Tumpane could have been just what the doctor ordered. We won’t truly know that until the Orioles play a few more games, but it seemed to work yesterday.
Some people will probably question my commentary above in that it might come across as if I’m advocating fighting. That’s not the case; however keep in mind that more so than any other sport baseball has very old traditions. One of them is that you don’t let other teams show you up or push you around. Traditionally, umpires “get this.” I’m reminded of Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels hitting Washington’s Bryce Harper a few years ago. A few innings later Washington hit a Philadelphia batter, and then warnings were issued. That’s good, traditional umpiring. Sure that’s allowing and perhaps even advocating retaliation on my part, however that’s a part of the game. It’s always been a part of the game, and personally I think it’s something that should always be a part of the game.
The O’s will now lick their wounds and head to Kansas City for a four-game set. The Baltimore Orioles remain in first place by a half game over Boston in the AL East, and of course they dropped two-of-three to Kansas City at the yard a few weeks ago. So this is an instance where the Birds really need solid starting pitching and for the bats to prove that they’ve come around. Wei-Yin Chen will get the starting nod tonight, after being pushed back a night in favor of Gausman yesterday. He’ll be opposed by Yordano Ventura, who the O’s remember all too well from the series at Camden Yards.