When an offense is struggling like the Orioles’ is — and has been throughout most of this season’s first two months — sometimes it’s necessary to take calculated risks.
That was manager Buck Showalter’s philosophy on third base coach Bobby Dickerson’s aggressive send that erased the potential tying run at the plate and ended the fifth inning of the Orioles’ 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals with Manny Machado on deck.
Despite putting seven runners on base against former Oriole Jeremy Hellickson, the Orioles had managed just one run — on Machado’s homer in the first inning — when Adam Jones stepped to the plate with two on and two out in a 3-1 game.
Jones doubled into the left-center-field gap, easily scoring Chance Sisco from second. As left fielder Juan Soto retrieved the ball, Dickerson waved Jace Peterson home, but an accurate throw from relay man Trea Turner one-hopped into catcher Pedro Severino’s mitt and beat Peterson to the plate.
Had Dickerson held Peterson, the Orioles would have had runners at second and third with two out for Machado. Showalter said the Nationals would surely have walked Machado intentionally with first base open. Machado has been walked intentionally eight times this season, most in the American League.
“They're going to walk Manny,” Showalter said. “I know Bobby. He's as good as there is — he manages the game right along with it. He took a chance to make them throw him out there. Take the chance there. It's one of those things. Nobody talks about it if he's safe. I know Bobby and I know his thinking there. You take a pop there, especially with as much trouble as we've had scoring runs.”
The Nationals went to the bullpen in the following inning, and no Orioles runner got beyond second base for the remainder of the game.
May 29, 2018 -- The Orioles lose to the Nationals, 3-2. (Denise Sanders, Baltimore Sun video)
Before the game, Showalter defended his decision to place struggling Chris Davis in the cleanup spot, saying he hoped his strong career numbers against Hellickson would play out well Tuesday. But in most instances when Machado has been walked intentionally, it’s been to face Davis, whose offensive WAR of minus-1.3 entering Tuesday was the second worst of any hitter in the majors.
That’s a tribute to Machado, who has put together one of the top offensive seasons in the game this year without much protection behind him.
Jones said after the game that Dickerson’s risk was worth taking.
“What can we lose?” Jones said. “I look at it that way. What else bad can happen? Try it. Screw it. We’ve gotta try and do something different. Imagine if Turner short-hopped [the catcher] or he bobbled and we scored a run. Manny’s probably gonna get walked. Hopefully, CD came up and drove everyone in. But obviously that scenario didn’t happen. But I like the aggression on the base paths. We need to do something and trying something different is good because we haven’t hit well with men in scoring position. So when we get a hit, we’ve gotta try and score them.”