Baltimore Orioles: Did Buck Showalter over-manage the Birds out of a win?
Baltimore Orioles’ starter Andrew Cashner pitched a strong start this afternoon at Rogers Centre. Cashner’s line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K. When Cashner was lifted he was visibly angry. He seemed to challenge manager Buck Showalter in terms of making the change.
The O’s fell behind 1-0 in the fourth on Solarte’s RBI-single, which scored a runner from first base. However it seemed that the Orioles are forever going to be haunted by the absence of Manny, as the cut off man wasn’t in position to receive the ball from Jace Peterson in left (who made a diving attempt to catch it). That alone probably allowed the run to score.
However Peterson himself would tie the game an inning later with an RBI-single, and Jonathan Schoop‘s sixth inning solo homer put them in the lead at 2-1. It was shaping up to be the Orioles’ day – or so it seemed. It was later in that sixth inning that Showalter went out to get Cashner. Now while Cashner was pitching well, just recorded his second out in the inning, and was only 79 pitches in, he had also just come off the DL to make the start. And Showalter confirmed after the game that he only wanted Cashner to throw 70-80 pitches for that exact reason.
Regardless of the reason, I can’t defend Cashner’s outward response to being pulled. Pitchers should never show up a manager in that situation, especially one of Showalter’s stature. Showalter shrugged that point off after the game in saying that he wants guys to want to stay in. But while that’s a valid point, it’s also incredibly unprofessional to yap at the manager like that when you’re being pulled.
Newbie Renato Nunez smacked an RBI-double in the eighth which gave the Orioles some breathing room in the top of the eighth. To top it off, breaks that normally work against the Orioles went in their favor. The Toronto infield fumbled what appeared to be a routine ground ball out off the bat of Trey Mancini – on a collision. That allowed a fourth run to score, giving the Orioles an additional insurance run and a 4-1 lead.
But the strange and bizarre plays are supposed to break against the Orioles, not for them. In case anyone had forgotten that, the Birds played an infield shift against Gurriel to lead off the last of the eighth. With the left side of the infield wide open, he sent a swinging bunt down the third base line and over the bag. He had no intention of doing that, as it appeared to be a defensive swing more than anything else. But it got him on base.
And following the Orioles’ inability to turn two due to a softly-hit ball in the infield, Grichuk haunted the Orioles for the upteenth time this weekend with a two-run homer. Later in the inning with two outs and a runner on second, Showalter opted to go to the bullpen once again to bring in Tanner Scott. However he promptly gave up a two-run homer to Solarte, which ended up equaling a 5-4 win for Toronto.
Brad Brach had given up the two-run shot to Grichuk (following the hard-luck single by Gurriel), but he had worked to get the two outs in the inning. Scott ended up hanging a fastball middle in, which wound up in the seats. Now keep in mind that the manager can’t execute the plays, he can only decide who’s going to be in there to make them. But did Showalter over-think things today? And if so, did it cost the Orioles a win?
There are people reading this (perhaps you!) who’ll say that part of the issue is that Showalter had all but scripted Cashner’s start in that “the plan” was for him to only throw a certain number of pitches. And in general that might not be an invalid point. But you can’t discount the fact that the guy, while pitching fairly well, had just come off the DL. The last thing you want to do is overuse him, and risk further injury.
Then you have the situation with Brach and Tanner Scott. I can’t say for sure what the logic was in bringing in Scott in that situation, however Showalter had his reasons. I think it’s incredibly easy to suggest that a manager overthought things so much that he managed himself out of a win. Maybe he did for all I know. We can’t reverse time and see what would have happened had Brach stayed in the game. Needless to say, had anything other than a home run occurred on the next at-bat, the Birds wouldn’t have lost the lead at that moment.
Whether or not Buck himself is to blame in either the Cashner or Brach situations is really up to the beholder. However we know his reasons for pulling Cashner – and they’re fairly legitimate. And I think you have to give the benefit of the doubt to a guy like Buck who’s been in ALL of these situations as a manager over the course of his career. Point being, he had his reasons for pulling Brach also. And I suspect that they’re sound baseball reasons.