Buck Showalter has been frustrated by the ambiguity of baseball’s new replay review system, so when a call was overturned against the Orioles in the seventh inning of the club’s 8-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, the manager wanted some answers.
When an initial forceout call at second base — Jonathan Schoop lost the ball on the exchange to his throwing hand — was overturned after a challenge by the Cardinals, Showalter jumped out of the dugout, headed toward the umpires and emphatically gestured that he wanted the headset to talk to the replay officials who reversed the call in New York.
“I wasn't waiting around for that one,” Showalter said when asked about the explanation he received from the umpiring crew on the field. “I was hoping to talk to New York, but they wouldn't let me.”
Second base umpire Jeff Nelson gave Showalter some time to argue, but Showalter’s animated display led to his first ejection of the season. He would have been thrown out of the game, regardless of his actions. According to baseball rules, any protest of a reviewed call is subject to ejection.
Showalter let loose after the game on a replay system that he said has diluted the talent pool of umpires, adding that home plate umpire Gabe Morales was “very challenged today. It might have been as challenging a game as we saw all year.”
“You got a lot of these guys who are call-ups,” Showalter said. “You have to have eight of them [reviewing calls] in New York. Kind of like expansion in the big leagues, there’s a lot of players that wouldn’t have been there before. So you try to be patient, which I’ve done a good job with, for the most part. It’s frustrating for players.
“They [umps] are trying to [do] as good of a job as their experience level and talent level. And there’s some really good ones, too. Some of them are young and good, too. … We have a lot of confidence [that], as we go forward, those problems will work themselves out. Today wasn’t one of them.”
After dominating the Cardinals (62-54) for the first two games of the series — outscoring them, 22-5, and hitting nine homers — the Orioles (67-50) couldn’t complete a series sweep of St. Louis in front of an announced 27,779 at Camden Yards.
The American League East-leading Orioles are 18-22 in day games this season, including 6-12 at home. Their lead in the division dropped to five games after the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Detroit Tigers, 6-5 in 19 innings, on Sunday.
Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman struggled through a 37-pitch first inning, but he fought to last five innings.
“From the first inning on, it was kind of a battle of keeping my pitch count down,” Gausman said. “I did a good job of bouncing back in the second inning. That first inning was a rough one. It kind of seemed like wherever they hit the ball, we didn’t have a guy there. Sometimes it happens that way. That’s what you love about baseball, and sometimes it’s what you hate about baseball.”
Gausman (6-4) allowed 10 base runners — eight singles and two walks. He struck out six batters, including five in a span of six outs in the second and third innings.
“I think that's more pitches than we threw all year. I like that he didn't let the game get away from him completely,” Showalter said. “It's a hot, sticky day after a challenging two games. A lot of borderline pitches. It wasn't like he imploded or anything.”
Five batters into the game, the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead against Gausman, but the damage could have been worse.
After the first three St. Louis batters reached on singles, one run scored on Matt Adams’ fielder’s choice play at second base. Jhonny Peralta knocked in another run with an RBI single, and Jon Jay drew a walk to load the bases again.
But center fielder Adam Jones timed fly ball a flyout by Oscar Taveras perfectly and threw Adams out at home plate as he attempted to score after tagging up.
“That definitely got me off the hook,” Gausman said. “I think I gave up three consecutive broken-bat base hits. Good pitches. I thought I pitched pretty effectively that first inning. Hats off to them. They just kind of made contact and fouled some good pitches off, but Jonesy kind of got me off the hook right there.”
The Orioles cut the Cardinals’ lead to one run on two separate occasions, but they were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight base runners. Cardinals starter Lance Lynn (12-8) held the Orioles to three runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.
“He's got that late-life fastball,” Showalter said of Lynn. He's got kind of like Koji [Uehara], that same type of fastball, everybody just sits there and says, 'It's just X miles an hour and it should be easy.' It's not that easy. You see that high percentage of fastballs thrown like he does, you know he's got one that people don't square up very easily.”
Nelson Cruz’s double cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the first inning, but the Orioles couldn’t take advantage of having runners at second and third bases with one out. Chris Davis and Delmon Young both struck out to end the inning
Davis went 0-for-4 on the afternoon, stranding six base runners, including five in scoring position.
After Jay’s two-out single in the third gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead, the Orioles had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the inning and couldn’t score, with Davis striking out and Young flying out to right field.
They cut the lead to one in the fifth when Nick Markakis scored on a wild pitch. But Manny Machado was stranded at second base when Cruz and Davis hit back-to-back flyouts.
After the Cardinals tacked on another run in the eighth on Matt Carpenter’s ground-rule double off Andrew Miller, Peter Bourjos’ three-run homer off closer Zach Britton broke the game open in the ninth.
With a runner on first base and one out in the top of the seventh, Jay hit a ball up the middle on which shortstop Ryan Flaherty — playing there after starter J.J. Hardy was scratched with a left thumb sprain — made a terrific diving stop.
Flaherty tossed the ball to Schoop at second base, but Schoop dropped the ball on the transfer to his throwing hand. Nelson initially called the runner at second base — Peralta — out on the play.
But after Cardinals manager Mike Matheny challenged the play, the call was overturned and Showalter came out of the dugout and headed toward Nelson and third base umpire Laz Diaz. Showalter gestured toward the replay official in the third-base camera pit that he wanted the headphones to talk to the replay officials in New York.
“You just want to ascertain whether it’s an argument directly related to the replay result or if it was an unrelated question to clarify something such as how many challenges someone would have left or something like that,” Nelson said about giving Showalter some time before ejecting him.
The transfer rule has been a smoking gun for the new replay system.
In the Orioles’ game April 20 on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, Flaherty dropped a ball on a transfer play at second base, one of several instances that forced baseball to modify the rule determining possession just a few days later. The rule reverted to the previous interpretation — that a fielder isn’t required to successfully remove the ball from his glove while attempting to make a throw.
“Ball’s in back of the glove, just like the old rule, new rule, old rule,” Showalter said. “They changed it out of spring, then they changed it back to the old rule. Today, it got changed back to the other one, so what are you going to do?”