Baltimore Orioles: Did Buck Showalter over-manage?


Up front Baltimore Orioles fans should know that I have a lot in common with Buck Showalter. I say that in the sense that I’m kind of a thinker and a schemer. I don’t live very often in the moment, and instead I live in the future – my thoughts now are on tomorrow and the next day. Yesterday my thoughts were on today. But did that mentality cost the Orioles a game this afternoon?

Keving Gausman was as strong as strong can be once again this afternoon. Gausman’s line: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K. However Gausman found himself down early – thanks again in part to a ball that wasn’t hit hard. Joe Mauer lined a very soft blooper into left field with two outs. He was followed by Miguel Sano, who smacked a two-run homer. That’s pretty much how this series has gone from the Orioles’ standpoint; it seems that the moniker for Minnesota has been the softer the hit the more damage it does

But Gausman settled down, and did more than his share to keep the Orioles in a spot to win the game. The Birds finally broke through in the last of the third with an RBI-single by Jonathan Schoop, which cut the lead to 2-1. After that initial flurry in the first, Minnesota appeared in no position to threaten; that’s due in large part to Gausman. Schoop came through again two innings later with a two-RBI single in the fifth, which gave the O’s a 3-2 lead.

And that lead stood up for most of the afternoon. Darren O’Day redeemed himself after Friday night by retiring Minnesota 1-2-3, and the O’s even tried to get something going in the last of the eighth by pinch-hitting Matt Wieters for Ryan Flaherty. Wieters recorded an out to end the inning, and was replaced in the order by J.J. Hardy (who also took Ryan Flaherty’s spot in the field at shortstop). Keep in mind, Flaherty was in the game because Hardy was resting a sore groin.

These things start innocently enough – and that’s always the case. Brian Dozier led off the inning with a grounder to Machado at third. Machado’s throw to first was a bit off, and Chris Davis dropped the pick. It was charged an error on Machado, however it’s also a play Davis should have made. And when you’re a team like Minnesota who seemingly puts things together one step at a time and bleeds people to death, that’s all you need.

Dozier went to second on a fielder’s choice, and Miguel Sano proceeded to strike out to record the second out. (Sano and manager Paul Molitor were also ejected for arguing the third strike). Trevor Plouffe then sent a seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield, which allowed Dozier to score. Yet again, Minnesota had found a way to get tho the Orioles without hitting the ball very hard – or really doing much of anything. 

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It’s really the classic idea of walking softly and carrying a big stick. Whereas the Orioles are hitting the ball hard and recording outs, Minnesota is barely touching the ball and they’re falling for base hits. If you’re the O’s, that has to be incredibly frustrating. Furthermore it’s also overly simplistic in that you’re basically sitting back and waiting for the other guy to beat himself. And sure enough…

…that’s what’s happened in every game the teams have played this year. However this time that mistake came from a rare source: Buck Showalter. It’s unfair in a way to second guess after a loss where his decision(s) didn’t work out. He is the reining AL Manager of the Year, after all. He’s forgotten more baseball than I’ll ever know. But work with me here, and maybe you’ll see my point.

Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Before Adam Jones struck out to end the inning, the Birds had two runners on with two gone in the last of the 11th. Showalter sent Jimmy Paredes out to pinch run for J.J. Hardy, who is now headed to the DL with a groin injury. In the top of the 12th, the Birds shifted Manny Machado over to his old position at shortstop, and inserted Paredes at third. Machado was thought to be a prized shortstop, but he hasn’t played the position since 2012 in the minors. As for Paredes, well…he has a decent bat.

With one down Machado committed a fielding error at short on a ball that took a bad hop and allowed Eduardo Escobar to get to second base. With two down Paredes committed an error of his own, which allowed Escobar to score. And that was your ballgame – Minnesota defeating the Orioles 4-3. While Machado was originally a shortstop, he hasn’t played there in some time; and Paredes isn’t a good fielder overall.

So the point here is that the Orioles re-shuffled their infield due to offensive changes, and it backfired. When guys are playing at spots where they shouldn’t be, mistakes like that will happen. Any game is a team effort, however it’s entirely possible that Buck Showalter over-managed or even out-thought himself in this game. And that might have even started by pinch-hitting Matt Wieters, which forced Hardy into the lineup.

It’s tough to put too much blame on Showalter in that sense, given the fact that his moves in games have worked out much more often than not. And having said that fans also need to realize that Showalter’s human just like the rest of us. Mistakes happen – and hindsight is always 20/20. And again, I’m kind of an over-thinker myself so I can’t totally fault him. If he did over-manage in this game or this situation, there’s no doubt he made the wrong decision for the right reason.

The Orioles will now head to Kansas City, for a four-game rematch of the 2014 ALCS. Ubaldo Jimenez heads to the mound tomorrow night in game one. He’ll be opposed by Kris Medlen of Kansas City. Game time is set for just after 8 PM.

Next: Baltimore Orioles need to start expecting the unexpected

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