KANSAS CITY, MO. — There were several junctures during the 2014 regular season when catcher Caleb Joseph came up big for the Orioles, but he had to admit Sunday that he was starting to wonder if his breakthrough season would be obscured by a lengthy batting slump that had crept into the playoffs.
If that was weighing on his mind when he took the field for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, it didn’t show.
Joseph delivered a solid all-around performance on Saturday that included a sacrifice fly to drive in the Orioles’ first run, two singles and a big, late-inning throw to cut down speedy Kansas City Royals base-stealer Jarrod Dyson at second base.
“There was a weight there,” Joseph said, “but more importantly, what I was more focused on was just the weight of trying to play defense, especially right now. Who cares if you’re 0-for-whatever if your team is winning and you can continue into the playoffs?”
Of course, it would have felt a lot better if the Orioles had gone on to even the best-of-seven series instead of dropping to 0-2. But manager Buck Showalter said snapping the 0-for-33 slump could provide Joseph with a confidence boost that might help the club during the rest of the playoffs and beyond.
“Who knows what it means down the road, next year, the rest of the playoffs,’’ Showalter said Sunday. “Caleb had as good of at-bats as we had [Saturday] night. Just missed a couple of balls. And [faced] some really, really good pitching. I was proud of him.”
Joseph said he was so in the moment when he turned around a high fastball from Royals starter Yordano Ventura in the fourth inning that he didn’t realize he had snapped his hitless streak until he was back in the dugout.
“It took about an inning to sink in that I actually did get that hit,’’ he said. “You just kind of get so caught up in the game, it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, it’s over. I broke that little thing.’ The first at-bat — that sac fly — that felt good and then, that [second] at-bat was kind of weird because he kind of quick-pitched me. The very last pitch was like a quick pitch, and it just kind of happened. I was back in the dugout putting my gear on, and then it hit me.”
Actually, his throw-out in the seventh inning might have more significance when the ALCS resumes Monday night. Joseph and Nick Hundley have managed to keep the Royals running game at bay, throwing out two of the three baserunners who attempted to steal in the first two games.
“We really didn’t change much of what we’re doing, minus some stuff we do at first base,’’ Joseph said. “Our pitchers have been great all year and J.J. [Hardy]’s one of the best taggers in the game and [Jonathan] Schoop made that tag in the first game. We do a lot of the little things right when it comes to the running game.”