MILWAUKEE -- The great thing about baseball is how we can take one moment in a 3-hour, 44-minute game and blow it up.
Such is the case from the Orioles' 7-6 loss Tuesday night to the Milwaukee Brewers after manager Buck Showalter decided to intentionally walk Mark Reynolds with nobody on base and two outs in a 6-6 game.
We’ll get to that in just a second, but I quickly want to look at another move by Showalter that is being second-guessed -- taking hot-hitting Nelson Cruz out of the game (and left field) in the bottom of the ninth for weak-hitting David Lough, a better defender.
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It obviously backfired when the Brewers tied the game in the ninth and then Lough came to the plate in the 10th with the go-ahead run on first base with two outs.
With Lough in the lineup, the Brewers took the bat out of Chris Davis’ hands by intentionally walking him. And, yes, you’d much rather have Cruz up in that situation. But I’d also much rather have Lough in left field in a tied game in the ninth.
Lough grounded out, and quickly, the move was questioned by fans.
To me, that’s something that you point to only in a loss. It’s not the reason the Orioles dropped this one.
The decision to walk Reynolds, however, was a risky one. And you can certainly make the argument that it cost the Orioles the game.
We joke in the press box that Reynolds is a poster boy for three outcomes: strikeout, walk or homer. He is batting .216 with 12 homers, 18 walks and 57 strikeouts this season. He had already homered in the game -- and he leads the Brewers in that category.
Reynolds could end the game on one swing. Or he could have swung it into an 11th inning.
Personally, I go after Reynolds. If you get him, then the pitcher has to lead off the next inning, and that usually is an out.
But Showalter was counting on the pitcher’s spot being an out in the 10th.
So he walked the winning run to face the pitcher, which ended up being Yovani Gallardo, who is a pretty good hitting pitcher, but not really a good hitter.
Gallardo was a lifetime .202 hitter in 376 at-bats -- though he has pop: 12 homers in that span. He was only 1-for-14 so far this season. And that obviously went into Showalter’s reasoning.
The move backfired when T.J. McFarland missed with his first two pitches, and badly wanting a strike, served up a 2-0 fastball over the plate that Gallardo slammed into the left-center field gap for a game-winning double.
Showalter explained his thinking when asked why he walked Reynolds to get to the pitcher.
“There’s never a no-brainer. Probably the same reason why they walked Chris to get to Lough. I’ll take my chances there," Showalter said. "It’s kind of you pick the situation. We were well aware Gallardo was one of their better hitters. Didn’t get off to a very good start this year (1-for-14), but we got a ball where we didn't want to get it. … There are some decent hitting pitchers over here, we knew that coming in. We talked about it in the advanced meeting.”
He also joked: “I was hoping [Gallardo] had gone home to get ready for tomorrow.”
Ultimately, Showalter’s risky move looks like a poor one because it didn’t work. If it had, it would be called gutsy. Instead, you can hang a loss on it.
That’s baseball, the game we love watching and analyzing.