Okay, if you are still scratching your noggins wondering why presumptive American League Cy Young Award winning closer, Zach Britton did not appear in Tuesday’s Baltimore Orioles/Toronto Blue Jays AL Wild Card Game, I may have some insight.
Maybe Mr. Britton did not have his socks positioned properly, or perhaps he was caught fraternizing with some of Toronto’s players prior the game (perish the thought)? These my friends, are two no-nos in Baltimore manager, Buck Showalter’s baseball world. In doing some research on Showalter for today’s blog, I read an article written in 2014 by Pat Jordan (sportsonearth.com), called: Curious Buck. Jordan chronicles how Buck became one of the sport’s true micro-managers, preferring the term, “overly alert”, to those labeling him a “control freak.”
But just how overly alert was he last night in Toronto? I am happy to report that the ball Edwin Encarnacion pulverized in the bottom of the 11th inning, has just landed safely. That the pitch was thrown by Ubaldo Jimenez, has many baseball scribes, as well as casual fans, wondering if Showalter has lost his fastball (pun intended). Here are some of those tweets:
Buck Showalter says there was nothing wrong with Britton. Just liked his setup men. "No one has been pitching better for us than Ubaldo."
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 5, 2016
151 pitches thrown by #Orioles, none by Zach Britton.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 5, 2016
Orioles either saving Zach Britton for spring training or perhaps Tim Tebow in Arizona Fall League?
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) October 5, 2016
Now I know, I know, the “baseball book” says: the visiting team’s manager shall hold his closer until his team takes a lead, then and only then will he be summoned to protect it. Well, did you watch the game? If not, here’s the Cliffs Notes version: the Orioles had a total of 4 hits the entire evening, the last of which came in the 6th frame. So, waiting for them to score a run in order to bring in the Brilliant Britton, wasn’t happening. Did you know that after giving up 3 earned runs over his first 10 innings in April (2.70 ERA), Britton went the rest of the season (57 innings), allowing just 32 hits, and a grand total of 1 earned run! Six months of pitching high leverage innings and only giving up a single run (0.16 ERA), is downright nasty! The fact that he threw the same amount of pitches that you and I did last night is inconceivable!
Here’s what skipper McAleavey would have handled things – once Brian Duensing struck out Ezequiel Carrera to start the bottom of the 11th inning, I would have brought Britton on to face the top of the Jays order. With how ridiculously efficient Zach had been this year, I would have then hopefully been able to ride him for at least 2 innings (remember, there’s no tomorrow in an elimination game). Would it have worked? We will never know, but I’d certainly have slept better knowing I fired off my one true rocket in the bullpen. Instead, Buck Showalter, who is a very good manager, heads into the off-season with this pitching line from Ubaldo Jimenez: 5 pitches, 3 hits, and 3 earned runs. Game and season over, drive safely.
And that is My 2 sense for this week.