Buck Showalter confident that Darren O'Day will rebound from Game 1 loss

The Baltimore Sun

Right-hander Darren O’Day has been one of the Orioles’ most dependable late-inning relief pitchers this season.

And even though he has struggled recently, manager Buck Showalter said before Saturday's game that he wasn’t worried about how O’Day would rebound after allowing a 10th-inning home run Friday in the Orioles’ 8-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

O'Day received his next chance Saturday in Game 2, entering with two outs in the eighth. He struck out Royals catcher Salvador Perez to end the inning then allowed an infield single to Omar Infante to lead off the ninth before being removed from the game.

Terrance Gore entered as a pinch runner for Infante and later scored to put the Royals up, 5-4.

“If it wasn't for Darren O'Day, we wouldn't even be sitting here today,” Showalter said before Game 2 at Camden Yards. “We'd all be doing tee times. I wouldn't, but [the players] would.”

O’Day had 25 holds and a 1.70 ERA during the regular season. He allowed an opponent to score in just two of 32 appearances from June 17 to Sept. 12. But after that stretch, O’Day ended the season allowed at least one run in three of his final six outings.

Including the postseason, O’Day had allowed runs in five of his last eight outings entering Saturday. And the solo home run he allowed to Alex Gordon in the 10th inning of Friday’s loss was the second he had given up in two postseason appearances. He also allowed a home run to the Detroit TigersMiguel Cabrera in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.

“He's a real mentally tough guy,” Showalter said. “For a guy that doesn't throw 96 [mph], he has the mentality of a guy of that. He's got some snarl in him. I think he handles success and failure very well.”

Before surrendering the home run Friday, O’Day had helped the Orioles get out of a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the ninth inning by inducing an inning-ending double play from Billy Butler to keep the game tied at 5-5. But Gordon, the first batter of the 10th, then blasted an 87-mph fastball into the right-center-field seats to snap the tie.

Showalter noted that O’Day has dealt with more difficult moments in his career — he was designated for assignment twice and rebounded from hip labrum surgery in 2011 — so the manager didn't think recovering from allowing Gordon’s homer on such a big stage would faze the right-hander.

“You kind of come from his background and the things he's had to overcome over his career, he never assumes anything,” Showalter said. “I got a little ticked at him last night when he was coming off the mound. Not ticked, but I could tell he was kind of frustrated last night. He had a huge [ninth] inning.”

Gonzalez OK with long layoff

Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez isn’t scheduled to pitch until Tuesday’s ALCS Game 4 in Kansas City, meaning he likely will go 15 days between starts. But Gonzalez said he still feels sharp despite the layoff.

Gonzalez hasn’t pitched in a game since throwing five innings in the Orioles’ regular-season finale Sept. 28 in Toronto. He was set to start Game 4 of the ALDS, but the Orioles beat the Tigers in three games.

Since then, he threw a three-inning simulated game (45 pitches) last week and is expected to throw a bullpen session Sunday in Kansas City.

“It’s been a while having pitched, but I’m pretty fresh and I’m pretty sharp,” Gonzalez said. “I’m where I need to be. I’m ready to go."

Gonzalez was available to be used out of the bullpen in Game 1 and Game 2. Showalter said he liked pitching Game 3 starter Wei-Yin Chen and Gonzalez at spacious Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

“You’ve just got to be ready, be mentally strong and not worried about other stuff, just be in the moment,” Gonzalez said.

Around the horn

Although this year's American League Championship Series represents the two smallest market sizes in history, according to TBS, the Game 1 matchup Friday averaged 5.92 million total viewers for the network. The total represented an increase of 9 percent from last year’s NLCS Game 1 telecast on TBS between the Dodgers and Cardinals. The market sizes for Kansas City and Baltimore are 70 percent smaller than the market sizes for Los Angeles and St. Louis, based on available television households, according to TBS. … Yost said he likes left-hander Danny Duffy out of the bullpen for now, meaning left-hander Jason Vargas was “probably” the Royals’ Game 4 starter. Duffy pitched an inning of relief in the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels, but he started 25 of his 31 appearances this year, with a 2.53 ERA in 149 1/3 innings. Vargas, a 31-year-old signed last November in free agency, went 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 30 starts, and allowed two runs in six innings during a Game 1 win over the Angels. … Former Orioles left-hander Scott McGregor threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 2 and singer-songwriter Citizen Cope sang the national anthem. … Showalter said he was concerned about left-hander Andrew Miller’s mindset after Miller hit Gordon with a pitch off his right shoulder and on his helmet flap in Game 1, so he sent pitching coach Dave Wallace to the mound to calm him down.

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