Are the Orioles prepared for a brawl?
Buck Showalter often says that he doesn’t play the bean ball game, or the retaliation game. I’m not sure I believe that necessarily, because my personal stance is that all players and coaches do it. Virtually every time there’s a major incident we always hear someone involved say something along the lines of “no way was I throwing at him,” or “I don’t play that game.” I would submit that’s either a lie, or if it really isn’t then that player/coach is probably letting people walk on them.
Courtesy of USA Today
That aside, Showalter might now find himself at a crossroads regarding this in the wake of the Baltimore Orioles’ 4-2 loss in Toronto yesterday afternoon. Jose Bautista hit the go-ahead two-run homer in the last of the eighth off of Darren O’Day, however it was what he did in the immediate aftermath of the homer that had a lot of people buzzing. Bautista appeared to verbally taunt O’Day as he rounded the bases, and to his credit O’Day seemed to turn away and say nothing. This comes on top of Bautista getting mouthy with the Orioles a few times in Friday night’s game, and Toronto hitting Chris Davis in the top of the seventh yesterday as well. What gives?
Ultimately we sometimes don’t know why bad blood begins or exists between two teams. However I find it interesting that this is something that’s occurring now, and Boston seemed to make it a point to hit a few Oriole batters last weekend. It’s almost as if teams are trying to bait the Orioles specifically into some sort of conflict. I obviously don’t know for sure that’s going on, however it’s interesting to me that Oriole batters seem to continue to get hit again and again.
Miguel Gonzalez, in his first game back with the team after becoming a father, pitched a pretty decent game. I wouldn’t say he had his best stuff, but he qualified for a quality start. Gonzalez’s line: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K. In the middle innings of the game he was mowing them down pretty well. The Orioles got into an early hole when Melky Cabrera walked in the second inning and later scored from third on a wild pitch. However Gonzalez smoothed things out, and he put the Orioles in a position to win. Travis Ishikawa’s RBI-single in the fifth tied the score at one, but Maicer Izturis led off the last of the inning with a home run to put Toronto back on top 2-1.
However the Orioles utilized perhaps one of the biggest tools on their bench in Taylor Teagarden’s bat to even things up. Teagarden doesn’t play often, but when he does he seems to make some sort of major offensive contribution; his home run in the eighth inning knotted the score back up at two. Unfortunately for Gonzalez, he’s tagged with the loss due to the fact that he allowed Munenori Kawasaki to reach on a single before he was lifted in the eighth. Kawasaki of course scored on the aforementioned Bautista home run.
Aside from the Bautista dramatics, there are a couple of interesting things to point out. The O’s faced knuckleballer R.A. Dickey last night, and many great hitters over the years have said that it can take up to a week to recover from facing a knuckler. Travis Ishikakwa and Taylor Teagarden drove in the Orioles’ two runs today, and they of course didn’t face Dickey on Friday. Yet the Orioles’ offense still managed seven hits (as opposed to Toronto’s four), so they weren’t totally shut down. However that was Toronto’s tenth win in a row, so the Orioles aren’t scuffling per se by any means. They’re running into a lightning hot team that can do no wrong at the moment (which might also partially explain Bautista thinking he could grandstand like that). Incidentally, when a team has an epically long winning streak like that and it eventually ends, it’s generally not pretty. They usually fumble around the field and commit numerous errors in the game, so at some point that will probably happen for Toronto; the O’s are just hoping it’s tomorrow.
If Buck Showalter truly doesn’t play the retaliation game, he has a decision to make now. Does he continue to not play that game, or does he decide to allow a pitcher to “stick up for the club?” Ultimately the idea is to win games, so if they opt to fire back and then lose tomorrow things won’t be spun in a pretty manner. Regardless of where you stand on unwritten codes of sports, I think it goes without saying that you probably shouldn’t yell at the pitcher when you’re rounding the bases on a home run. Baseball’s a game that’s supposed to be played by men, and Jose Bautista acted like a little boy in that regard. Zach Britton will start this afternoon’s series finale in Toronto, coming off of a very quality start in Detroit. He’ll be opposed by Josh Johnson.