The Orioles haven’t scored many runs lately, so when they had a chance for a ninth-inning rally Wednesday night against the Washington Nationals, outfielder Craig Gentry tried to do a little too much, and his base-running miscue squashed a potentially game-changing inning in the Orioles’ 2-0 loss to their regional rivals at Camden Yards.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter makes no secrets that he loves what Gentry can do defensively and on the bases. He’s struggled at the plate, but he can play all three outfield spots and is one of the few players on the club who can influence a game on the base paths.
And right before his base-running gaffe, Gentry’s dirt-stained uniform was a sign of his hustle on the bases. He started the Orioles ninth with a leadoff single off Nationals left-hander Sean Doolittle and made a heady play by silding into second safely when Nats second baseman Wilmer Difo dropped a popup in shallow right field through an annoying mist.
But with Manny Machado at the plate, Gentry then took a large lead off second and made a premature break for third. Doolittle stepped off the rubber and caught Gentry in a 1-5-4 rundown.
“Obviously, there’s a lot more to the game than that, but I understand,” Showalter said when asked about the play after the game. “We didn’t do much offensively for eight innings, either.
It was the second time the Orioles ran themselves out of an inning with Machado at the plate. In Tuesday’s 3-2 loss, Jace Peterson — who was the potential tying run — was thrown out at the plate to end an inning with Machado in the on-deck circle.
On Wednesday, the rundown changed a two-on, no-out situation to a one-on, one-out scenario. And with the Orioles down by two runs, stealing third base did little to tie the game. But had Gentry not been erased, Machado would have represented the winning run. After the rundown, Machado could do no more than tie the game with a home run.
Showalter came to Gentry’s defense after the game. Gentry wasn’t available to comment.
“It is [beneficial] if you make it,” Showalter shrugged. “We all know it's a play that … we haven't done a whole lot offensively, I'm not going to throw Craig under the bus. He did some things to get us to that point. The guy’s 1.6-1.7 [seconds] to the plate, he inside-moved him and picked the right time to do it. It didn't work out. Nobody tries to do more to help this team than Craig Gentry every day.
“I applaud him one of the few base hits we had and a good base-running play, that's one that doesn't look good because of the results and the chance we had there,” Showalter added. “But we still had two more outs after that.”