Baltimore Orioles: Theatrics and a valiant comeback attempt


I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mike Wright optioned to triple-A Norfolk later today when the Baltimore Orioles activate Kevin Gausman to make today’s start in Toronto. Wright struggled in last night’s 5-4 loss, however in fairness he only started to struggle after tensions were renewed. Wright’s line: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 1 K.

Wright retired the first two Toronto hitters in the first inning before the game

Courtesy of John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

took an interesting turn. Jose Bautista came to the plate, and after he took strike one Wright’s second pitch appeared to graze his jersey. Bautista of course glared out at Wright, and then proceeded to get into a bit of an argument with Matt Wieters – as he went down to first base, he appeared to chirp towards the Orioles’ dugout as well. 

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  • In the middle of all of this, home plate umpire CB Bucknor issued warnings to Wright, as well as both benches (based of course on the history between the two teams). That brought Toronto manager John Gibbons out of the dugout to question this, and he was promptly ejected by Bucknor. Gibbons stayed on the field arguing for the sake of getting his money’s worth for a few minutes afterwards.

    However that incident took it’s toll on Wright – immediately. Edwin Encarnacion would double Bautista home, and would then score on Justin Smoak‘s RBI-double. I would submit that the warning itself made it tougher for Wright to locate his pitches given the fact that he had to be more tentative so as to not pitch inside. This is not to say that one should be tentative in that situation, but in the mind of a rookie this type of thing can be pretty heavy stuff.

    Wright was unable to get his fastball over for a strike, and it showed one inning later when Bautista came up again with the bases loaded. Bautista walked, as did Edwin Encarnacio behind him, and Toronto led 4-0. And that was the end of the night for Mike Wright, who was lifted in favor of Tyler Wilson – who was a bright spot for the Orioles. He allowed one run on Dioneer Navarro’s sac fly RBI in the third inning, but pitched 5.2 innings and mowed down Toronto hitters. 

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    Unfortunately for the Birds, Toronto starter Marco Estrada wasn’t as spooked by the warning as was Wright. Estrada took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Jimmy Paredes finally recorded a pinch-hit single. However that in and of itself seemed to light a spark under the Birds. Later in the inning with runners at the corners, Chris Parmelee‘s RBI-single cut the Toronto lead to 5-1. Then things got interesting again…

    …Toronto reliever Roberto Osuna hit Adam Jones in the elbow on a 3-1 count, and was promptly ejected (along with Toronto’s acting manager, DeMarlo Hale) by CB Bucknor. (And for the record, Jones simply walked to first base in a professional manner – without getting into any discussions with any of the Toronto players, the bench, etc.) Hale of course came out and argued against the ejections, however with the warning already being in place it would have been a tough sell for Bucknor not to do what he did.

    The HBP brought Chris Davis to the plate, and his RBI-groundout cut the lead to 5-2. Jones would come to the plate again in the last of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded, and he would bring the Orioles to within 5-4 with a two-RBI single the opposite way. That brought Chris Davis to the plate with the tying run at third base, but he struck out and the Orioles fell 5-4.

    Incidentally, Chris Parmelee was hit by a pitch also in that sequence in the ninth inning, but there was no resulting ejection. During the game I tweeted that Bucknor was probably right to issue warnings. I didn’t feel that Wright was throwing at Bautista, however umpires are given reports on everything that pertains to both teams before series’. So this crew undoubtably knew that there was bad blood in the past, specifically surrounding Jose Bautista. So in that sense I agreed with the warnings.

    On the flip side, it definitely took Wright for a ride, and he was never the same. Furthermore it took away the ability of both sides to pitch inside. And I think that was the issue with Wright for the remainer of his outing; whereas Toronto really didn’t seem to care if they were pitching inside with regard to the warnings, Wright became too tentative in trying to ensure there was no further escalation of tensions.

    As I said above, Bucknor really had no choice but to eject Osuna and Hale after Jones was hit by the pitch. Had he not, he probably would have ended up running Buck Showalter, who undoubtably would have argued that his guy was hit with a warning in place. Toronto’s point of contention was that two runners were on base, and the tying run was on deck in the form of Chris Davis. 

    Odds are that Osuna wasn’t intentionally throwing at Jones given that situation, and the 3-1 count. Some might argue that’s why the warnings shouldn’t have been issued, but again these umpires knew of the bad blood. The warnings were issued to avoid more trouble. While Wright’s struggles show how warnings can affect a pitcher and a game, the umpires’ goal is always going to be to descalate a situation – and that’s what CB Bucknor was thinking last night.

    The aforementioned Kevin Gausman is expected to start in game two this afternoon, and again the Orioles will have to make a roster move to activate him from the DL. My prediction is that Wright is sent back down. Time will tell. Gausman will be opposed by Toronto’s Mark Buerhle. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

    Next: Baltimore Orioles: Watch your back

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