Orioles mananger Buck Showalter talks about the final play at the plate and more after a 5-4 victory Friday night at Orioles Park. (Video by Jon Meoli; photos by Patrick Semansky of the Associated Press and Rob Carr of Getty Images)
If two areas of the Orioles receive more criticism than any other, it might be their defense and base running. On Friday, attention to detail on both helped the Orioles erase a four-run deficit for a 5-4, come-from-behind win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
It began in the seventh inning, when Rays Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier went above the wall to rob left fielder Hyun Soo Kim of a go-ahead grand slam on a line drive to dead center. Kiermaier had it in his glove, but in pulling the ball back into play, lost control. What ensued was a bit of chaos on the bases, but the Orioles managed to still get a run in without anyone passing the man in front of him or getting doubled off a base.
"There was some pretty good base running," manager Buck Showalter said. "A lot of guys would have passed each other. I think everybody kind of kept their wits and concentration, and didn't get caught up in the emotion of it. I actually thought it was a pretty good base-running play. A lot of people would have passed each other or been retreating, but they kept their eyes on the ball. They're good. Didn't he win a Gold Glove? People at this level, you don't say, 'Oh my gosh.' Everything has to be earned and our guys know that."
That gave the Orioles one run and cut their deficit to 4-3. After they came back with a pair of runs in the eighth inning, they reaped the benefit of their late-season outfield additions by moving Michael Bourn, who started in right field and drove in the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly, to left field and putting Drew Stubbs in right.
Bourn tracked down a deep line drive from right fielder Steven Sousa Jr., then with a man on first and two outs, started a perfect relay that ended the game. Bourn cut the ball off before it got into the left-field corner, then hit third baseman Manny Machado in short left field, and Machado fired home to Wieters to beat Mikie Mahtook and secure the win.
"That was something they work diligently on, and they've been doing it for quite a while," Showalter said. "But there are a lot of elements to that play, the execution of it. Mike got it out of there in a hurry, and got the ball back in fair ground so you create a good angle to throw the ball to third. A lot of guys make the mistake of throwing that ball on a straight line to home plate and it blocks the lane to throw in. Chris held him on there, cut him down a step or two. Zach [Britton] quick to the plate. A lot of elements."
Said Bourn: "When you've got your closer on the mound, you probably get only so many chances, so when you get that chance right there you know they're probably going to try to send him. So I'm trying to get to it as quickly as I can, try to get to it before it hit the wall and get it in to J.J. [Hardy] or Manny and let them do the rest."
Wieters said that with Mahtook off on the pitch, he expected the play.
"We had both cutoff guys there to where if J.J. gets it, I'm probably getting a nice one-hop throw, and Manny with his arm, I knew I wasn't going to get a one-hop," Wieters said. "It's just a luxury we can have when we have those kinds of arms on the left side of the infield."
The Orioles aren't a speed team, but they rarely make outs on the bases unnecessarily. According to FanGraphs, they entered the day with 2.2 runs earned on the bases this season, 12th-best in the league. As for the defense, they're fourth-worst in baseball with minus-37 defensive runs saved. The outfield has been fortified of late with the additions of Bourn and Stubbs, and their late-inning defense is much improved.
Kim joked that Showalter made a great move taking him out of the game and putting Bourn in.
"I think the manager made an excellent choice of the replacement of the defense," Kim said, through interpreter Danny Lee. "If it was me, would I, was I, really able to get him out? Maybe not. Buck made an excellent choice."