Baltimore Orioles, Zach Britton should expect the unexpected
I’m not sure how many times and in how many manners I’ve said that the Baltimore Orioles and Zach Britton should expect the unexpected in games. The scary thing is that yesterday they did. Granted Britton had already technically blown the save in the ninth, but in fact the O’s were playing against the odds in a manner of speaking. And they were all but out of the inning…and then they resorted to conventional wisdom.
Kevin Gausman was fairly solid in his start yesterday, although he just missed a quality start. Gausman’s line: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 6 K. Gausman showed from the beginning why men on base can be a problem, allowing a run to cross (with a runner on third) on a wild pitch in the first inning. However the Birds tied the score in the third on Manny Machado‘s RBI-single.
Later in that third inning, Chris Davis stepped to the plate with two runners on. And Davis did what Davis does; his three-run home run put the O’s in the lead at 3-1. But we know Tampa’s routine by now…meaning after all these years. Anything you can do, I can do better. Forsythe’s three-run homer in the fifth gave Tampa the lead back at 4-3. However one inning later, the Orioles tied the score back at four on a Janish RBI-single. (Janish got the start at shortstop yesterday to give Hardy a day off.)
Janish would also reach base in the eighth inning on a fielding error, and with Pearce on third. This gave the O’s a 5-4 lead, which in this game was fairly commanding. Parra came up later in the inning and smacked an RBI-single, and the Birds held a big lead at 6-4. Tampa would get a run back on Cabrera’s sac fly-RBI in the last of the eighth, but the ‘pen turned things over to Zach Britton with a one-run lead.
And things went awry right away in the last of the ninth when Guyer hit the first pitch of the inning out of the ballpark – tie game, and a blown save right off the bat. After a strikeout and a triple, Britton intentionally walked Forsythe. That’s when the Orioles started playing for something unconventional to occur – they brought the infield in. Conventional wisdom in that situation says to play the infield at double-play depth to try to get out of the inning. But with all of the freak things that have happened to the Orioles in games, all it would take would be a soft grounder to an infielder to beat them.
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Mind you, I’m a pretty “by the book” guy. I believe in managing to the rule as
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opposed to the exception. So it’s tough for me to fathom when I see a team surrendering the double-play potential like that just to prevent something unorthodox from happening. Britton would walk the next hitter, loading the bases but also giving the Birds a force at every base – including home. It was only after Britton recorded the second out (by a strikeout) that Showalter moved the infield back.
Again speaking for myself, that made me a bit more comfortable. That’s a more conventional look, and a ground ball to any infielder would in theory send the game to extra innings. Britton had an 0-2 count on Tampa’s Kevin Kiermaier – who mind you, can fly on the base paths. And Britton got the play he wanted; a ball in the infield. However it was a soft grounder that took some bounces on the artificial surface at Tropicana Field before settleing in Schoop’s mitt at second. By the time he got the ball to first base, Kieraier had beaten the throw and Tampa had scored the winning run.
Ironically, had the Orioles kept their infield in they might have been an out. It also might have bounced right by Schoop at second base. But again it was the least-anticipated thing that ended up beating the Orioles. And in this case they actually did anticipate just such a scenario – for a part of the inning. Sometimes you wonder if the baseball Gods aren’t trying to tell the Orioles quit doing everything by the book all the time! That’s easier said than done; as I said, manage to the rule, not the exception. And that’s good life advice, incidentally.
The Orioles will now head to our nation’s capital for a three-game “Battle of the Beltways” series. Ubaldo Jimenez will get the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Washington’s Gio Gonzalez. Keep in mind that the Orioles will be playing these three games under National League rules, and thus will be surrendering their DH in all three games in DC. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.
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