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Orioles' 14-inning win was a chess match Buck Showalter loves to play

Buck Showalter won't admit it, but games like Wednesday's 14-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers are the type the Orioles manager lives for.

As much as he might publicly bemoan interleague play, he loves the strategy involved when playing in a National League park. He likes the double switches, choosing the spots to utilize his bench and making decisions that lead to victory.

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And few skippers will outmanage Showalter. He leaves no stone unturned in preparing for every game. So it was slightly fitting that the Orioles' 6-4 extra-inning victory ended with the Dodgers having to send their pitcher to hit with two outs and the bases loaded because they had no more position players available.

Showalter is often praised for how well he uses his bullpen pieces, putting them in positions to succeed while keeping them away from injury. On Wednesday, he used six relievers, and they gave him nine scoreless innings. In both the seventh and eighth innings, he ordered intentional walks to load the bases with first base open. Both times, the strategy worked.

"It's kind of last man standing," Showalter said. "It's [getting to the point of] diminishing returns. You want to make sure you're OK in the long run. We're fortunate because we have guys who are capable of pitching multiple innings. We had three more pitchers available, and another guy on the bench. You have to take a shot where you take a shot, and it doesn't work out, and you're going to put yourself in a tough spot. That's a tough spot at the end of the game."

With runners at the corners and two outs in the 14th, Showalter called to intentionally walk catcher Yasmani Grandal to load the bases and put the tying run in scoring position to bring reliever Chris Hatcher to the plate. Closer Zach Britton, who was up five times in the bullpen before entering the game, was obviously fatigued and created his own trouble by walking two batters in the inning. But Showalter's foresight was the determining factor.

"I was hoping to have a clean one," Britton said. "Just tired, everyone is. Tried to find a way and navigate the lineup with the fact that they were out of bench players. I knew I was tired, so tried not to leave anything up they could do damage on really and make them hit my pitch."

Showalter kept J.J. Hardy on the bench for a pinch, and he had pitcher Yovani Gallardo ready to step to the plate if he needed a pinch hitter to sacrifice. He had right-hander Vance Worley, who pitched most of his career in the NL, in the game before the winning runs were scored.

Unlike the Dodgers and rookie manager Dave Roberts – who was ejected in the 14th inning – Showalter certainly wasn't going to get caught outmanned.

"It would have been a great win for both clubs," Showalter said. "We get to sit on it for a day. Gallardo was ready to bunt three times. We had him on deck three times ready to go if we got in that bunt situation. Worley would have bunted there. J.J. was the next hitter. There were three or four situations there that called for everybody to have spikes on. We had the most people with spikes on out of the 25. Usually a lot of guys aren't spiked up on days they're not going to play."

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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