I'm sure there is still plenty of discussion about some of manager Buck Showalter's decisions late in the game in the Orioles' 6-5 loss last night to the New York Yankees in 10 innings. Showalter was asked why he went to Michael Gonzalez in the 10th rather than Koji Uehara, and why he opted to pitch to both Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher rather than walking them to load the bases and set up the force at home. With the first question, he went to Gonzalez and not Uehara because he wanted Mark Teixeira, who led off the inning, and Swisher, who was due up fourth, to hit from the right side because they are way more dangerous home run threats as left-handed hitters. Swisher has 36 career home runs against left-handed pitchers compared to 126 against right-handers. Teixeira has 72 homers versus left-handed pitching and 207 against right-handers. Also, Alex Rodriguez, who was due up second in the inning, and Swisher hit game-winning homers off Uehara last year. Ultimately, the Orioles were hoping to get out of that inning, score a run in the top of the 11th and then bring on Uehara to close the game. As for pitching to Cano and Swisher, Showalter simply didn't want to put Gonzalez in a situation where a walk would have ended the game. Gonzalez's command obviously comes and goes so Showalter didn't think it was the best option to make him pitch with the bases loaded. "You don't want to paint a guy in the corner," Showalter said. "Command was an issue with the first hitter. You want to make sure you give him some margin of error."
I know what else you are thinking: why was Kevin Gregg given the ball in the ninth inning rather than Uehara? Showalter has declined from publicly naming a closer, or weighing the pros and cons of Gregg and Uehara in that role. So before you ask, I can't tell you why Showalter feels more comfortable with Gregg in those situations. Gregg has been shaky in both save opportunities. He converted the first one only after Nick Markakis made a miraculous catch at the right-field wall on Ben Zobrist's extra-base hit bid that would have at least tied the game. And last night, he blew the save on one pitch when Jorge Posada swatted a fastball into the Yankees' bullpen. It will be interesting to see who is on the mound the next time the Orioles have a one or two-run lead in the ninth inning. They simply can't afford to give up games that their starting pitching puts them in position to win.
It was mentioned in the press box by several people, and I'm sure it was brought up in plenty of living rooms throughout the Baltimore area. Felix Pie probably catches both those hits that dropped either in front of left fielder Luke Scott or behind him and led to Yankee runs. Cano doubled just beyond Scott's reach to plate New York's first run in the fifth. In the sixth, Russell Martin led off with a broken-bat single that just bounced in front of a diving Scott. It was laid out pretty clearly here and everywhere else when the fans were so adamant about the club signing Vladimir Guerrero. While it would help their lineup, it certainly would weaken their defense in left field. I don't think Scott is as poor defensively as scouts and other baseball pundits think he is, but he simply doesn't get to balls that Pie catches. And it doesn't help that Scott is still clearly hobbled by that sore groin. It wouldn't surprise me if Showalter gives Scott a day or two off in Cleveland to rest it because he's clearly tentative right now when he has to sprint.
Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley doesn't want to tinker too much with Nick Markakis simply because the right fielder has a great approach. However, one of the things that he has encouraged is for Markakis to be a little more aggressive early in counts. His homer last night off of a very hittable Phil Hughes was on the first pitch. His other homer this season off the Texas Rangers' Colby Lewis was on the second pitch. Markakis is still going to spray the ball around and hit to all fields because that's what he does and that's what kind of hitter he is. But it sure seems to me that he's trying to pull the ball a little more and is taking a few more shots at the right-field seats.
And finally, I know Jim Johnson gave up back-to-back two out and two-strike hits in a scoreless eighth inning. However, you'll rarely see a one-inning reliever produce the number of ugly swings from great hitters that Johnson produced last night. He overmatched Teixeira with a changeup to strike him out. He also got a series of ugly swings from Rodriguez, Cano and Swisher. Johnson is still trying to gain some consistency, but there are some nights when he's out there, where his stuff is so nasty, it's almost humorous to watch the opposition try to hit it.