There are times when Buck Showalter makes a move and it’s easy to second guess -- like going with a struggling veteran in a key situation instead of bringing in a pinch hitter to mix up the fortune.
We’ve seen that one happen several times over the years.
If there’s one easy criticism of Showalter, it’s that he is often so loyal to guys with track records that he doesn’t switch gears quickly enough when a veteran is really struggling. Vladimir Guerrero continuing to bat cleanup in 2011 is perhaps the most lasting example.
So it has been interesting to watch how Showalter has handled the struggles of slugger Chris Davis, who was hitting .154 in 23 May games heading into Wednesday night.
On Sunday in Miami, he had a walk, a double and an RBI groundout -- snapping a streak of 10 games without driving in a run.
The next afternoon, Showalter sat the left-handed-hitting Davis against Dallas Keuchel, one of baseball’s best lefties. It was the first time Davis hadn’t started this season since Opening Day, when he was serving the final game of his amphetamines suspension.
Davis wasn’t thrilled, simply because he’s a competitor and wants to play. Plus, he thought he might be able to build off the at-bats from Sunday. But it’s not as if, intellectually, he didn’t understand why Showalter did what he did.
Davis was back in the lineup Tuesday and hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the Orioles’ only run in that game. On Wednesday, Davis came to the plate four times, and hit two homers, including a solo shot in the eighth that broke a tie and essentially gave the Orioles the 5-4 win.
We all know Davis is a streaky hitter and one two-homer night doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Those fireworks could come at any time. And go away that fast. But you also have to wonder if that day off did something for Davis. He was asked that Wednesday night.
“As a player, I don’t think you ever want a day off. You want to be in there every day, but sometimes you need it,” he said. “Sometimes it’s better for them just to tell you to take a day as opposed to asking you. So I think it was good. I definitely could have used the rest. It was good for me to kind of sit back and watch the game and take a day off mentally.”
We’ll see if it was the start of something or was just a good game in a rough season. But it is worth noting.
Showalter had an assist in the victory with two other moves Wednesday. He called for a delayed double steal in the fourth, including Jimmy Paredes dashing in from third base once the throw went toward second. That ignited a four-run inning. Stealing home was a gutsy call with no outs and Paredes -- who has shown some inexperience on the basepaths -- as the lead runner. It was executed perfectly.
“With Buck, it’s never out of the question to do something like that,” said Davis, who was hitting. “Jimmy did a great job of getting to the outside and getting his hand in. … Little things like that can put the momentum back in the team’s dugout.”
Showalter also seems to be mixing and matching his eighth-inning relievers now -- and it’s working. Brad Brach, one of the club’s best pitchers of late, got the call Wednesday; rookie Oliver Drake on Monday.
Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter are still probably the main guys to set up closer Zach Britton, but Showalter isn’t necessarily managing with a script. And that’s always refreshing to see -- until the next time it doesn’t work, I suppose.