Orioles morning thoughts on third-base defense, Derek Jeter, Evan Meek and Steve Pearce

NEW YORK – Over the past three seasons, one of the foundations of the Orioles success has been their defense.

But in recent days, it's becoming evident that the team's defense isn't up to the standard that manager Buck Showalter has set.


The Orioles committed three errors in their 6-5 loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday, and they had to compensate for a seventh inning that included three unearned runs.

"Those aren't errors we make," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "We know that. ... It's not the end of the world. We've just got to fix it."

Third baseman Jimmy Paredes committed the fifth error by an Orioles third baseman over the past seven games. Paredes has two, Ryan Flaherty two and Kelly Johnson one.

Johnson, getting a look at second base with the Orioles trying to finalize their postseason roster, committed an error there Thursday. On the play, the Orioles were shifted perfectly against Brian McCann, but Johnson bobbled a grounder in shallow right-center.

"I'm more concerned right now that we gave them all those runs," Showalter said after the game." We just didn't play very good defense tonight and had a walk or two. … . We're looking at some personnel this time of the year, try to help us make good decisions as we try to put our roster together. So, we'll see."

The biggest question mark is at third base, where Paredes, Johnson and Flaherty have split time since Chris Davis was suspended for 25 games.

Paredes can hit, but he has three errors in 12 starts at third base. Flaherty has been solid defensively at second, but he has four errors in 26 starts at third. And Johnson has a .929 fielding percentage at third in six starts there.

** Orioles fans might have Derek Jeter overkill at this point -- and there were some over-the-top moments this week -- but the Yankee Stadium crowd was electric.

When the cheer "Thank you, Derek" began in the seventh inning, it was sincere. New York embraces its heros, and there's been no bigger one over the past 20 years than Jeter.

"I'm thinking to myself, 'What are you thanking me for? I'm just trying to do my job,'" Jeter said during an on-field postgame interview. "Really, they're the ones I want to thank. They're the ones that have made this special."

Then Jeter began thanking the former Yankees who came out -- Joe Torre, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez and Bernie Williams -- and when he looked over at the Orioles dugout and saw the players standing at the railing watching, he wished the Orioles good luck in the postseason.

It was a gracious gesture from Jeter, who talked two weeks ago about how much he cherished the battles against the Orioles in the mid-90s and how revered Cal Ripken Jr. was and still it to him.

"They deserve it," Jeter ended his well wishes to the Orioles.

Even though the Orioles are in the postseason, it will feel weird with neither the Yankees or Boston Red Sox in it. The Orioles carry the torch for the AL East in a season in which some experts said the division is down. Orioles manager Buck Showalter points out the AL East teams collectively have a better record than any other division.


** Right-hander Evan Meek, who yielded Jeter's game-winning walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth on Thursday, wasn't upset after the game.

"I watched him," Meek said. "When he got the hit, I watched him around first and watched him jump. The crowd went nuts. In that situation, you just can't be upset about that kind of thing. It's bigger than all of us. It was just a great moment, a great moment for the game and him. There's no better way for him to go out. It was just an amazing moment."

Meek actually seemed more happy for Jeter than Jeter.

"The game has a funny way of working out," Meek said. "I know they go to Boston to end the season, but tonight with it being Derek Jeter's last game here. What better way to send Derek Jeter out than with the game winning hit? An amazing moment."

** Right-hander Kevin Gausman admitted he was in awe of the moment when he was pitching to Jeter in his first at-bat of the night.

Jeter missed a home run by a couple of feet on a ball that hit off the left-field wall on the fly.

"Really kind of blacked out for that entire at-bat," Gausman said. "I was trying to throw perfect pitches, and that's how I got down 3-0. I got back into a hitter's count and just left too good a pitch for him. That's why he's been playing the last 20 years."

** One positive to take from Thursday's loss loss was that Steve Pearce homered in his first start back after missing five days with a sore right wrist.

"That's Stevie," Showalter said. "But Stevie for some reason, it doesn't take long. I think it's because of his work habits. I know he feels like he's been let out of jail to actually start to hit again, because he loves to hit."

Pearce is batting .423 (11-for-26) with five homers and 10 RBIs over his past eight games.


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