With rotation continuing to go deep in games, Orioles utilizing bullpen pieces to perfection in late-inning chess matches
By By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun|
Aug 21, 2014 | 10:17 AM
CHICAGO – The first half of the Orioles' six-game, weeklong trip to Chicago was a success in more ways than one.
They beat up on the floundering Chicago White Sox, sweeping the three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.
Fate shined down on the Orioles, but that seems to happen when you're playing as well as this team's playing. On Tuesday, while the Chicago Cubs waited through a four-hour rain delay at Wrigley Field, not a drop fell on the city's South Side, even though the ballparks are less than 10 miles apart.
While the Orioles have a day off in Chicago, not only will the Cubs play a regularly scheduled night game against the San Francisco Giants, but they'll complete Tuesday's postponed game before it.
The Cubs will have to account for at least four additional innings in the completion of Tuesday's game, so that could have an effect on this weekend's series against the Orioles at Wrigley Field.
If former Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta goes deep into the game Friday – he's gone at least seven innings in three of his last four starts – the Cubs won't have to worry as much.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was able to pick-and-choose how he used his bullpen against the White Sox this week mainly because he has received at least seven innings from his starters in each of the past three games.
It has even allowed him to use some relievers as decoys late in the game.
Showalter doesn't like to get his relievers up unless there's a good chance they'll get in the game. He rarely warms up two pitchers at the same time and doesn't like to get a reliever up more than once.
He did get left-hander Andrew Miller up in the eighth inning of the Orioles' 4-3 win Wednesday when it didn't seem to be a spot for him in the game. Darren O'Day was in the game – entering with two on and one out for starter Wei-Yin Chen – and there wasn't another left-handed hitter for several batters.
But Showalter believed that just getting Miller – who holds lefties to a .147 average – throwing in that situation might make the White Sox think twice about pinch-hitting left-handed hitters Adam Dunn and Jordan Danks. He was thinking two steps ahead.
"I wanted to make sure they didn't do anything with Dunn and Danks, so having Andrew there, it was almost like it impacted the game," Showalter said. "I'm not going to tell if I was going to take Darren out, but I like them both against left or right."
Once O'Day got through the inning, stranding two inherited base runners in a one-run game, closer Zach Britton immediately started warming and came in for the ninth, and he recorded his 27th save in 30 opportunities.
It was the second time this series that Miller warmed up but wasn't used. He got up when Bud Norris was in trouble in the seventh inning Monday, but once Norris escaped, Showalter turned to right-hander Brad Brach to close out the game with a two-inning stint, saving the rest of the bullpen from the night.
O'Day continues to have a tremendous season and could have been credited with getting the most important two outs of the game. With the Orioles clinging to a 4-3 lead and two on with one out, he struck out Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, arguably the White Sox's two most dangerous hitters.
O'Day has allowed just one run over his last 24 appearances and has stranded 25 of 31 inherited runners this season.
"Actually, I didn't feel that good tonight," O'Day said. "Sometimes, that's when you pitch better. But it's late in the season. At this point in the season, everybody's got little things that are nagging them. In terms of pitching, we've got a good thing going down there. This is the most complete bullpen I've ever been a part of. It's a fun time right now to be down there."