Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Guthrie's strong start earns Showalter a win in O's debut

Jeremy Guthrie gave up three runs in seven innings and the O's offense woke up in the sixth inning to score four runs in a 6-3 win over the Angels in Buck Showalter's first game as the team's new manager.

Guthrie served up a two-run homer to Howie Kendrick in the fifth, but he allowed just five hits while striking out two and walking none. Since giving up four runs in 4.2 innings against the Rangers on July 8, Guthrie has been on a roll, allowing just seven combined runs in his last four starts -- a span of 27.2 innings. During that stretch, Guthrie has walked only two batters while striking out 17. His recent improved pitching has also lowered his ERA from 4.77 to 4.21.

On offense, Luke Scott hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning; he also had a double. Matt Wieters, though, may have had the best offensive performance of the night for the O's, finishing 3-3 with a double, two runs batted in, and a run scored. He also walked, allowing him to reach base four times. Felix Pie went 2-3 with two singles; Adam Jones singled and walked; and Josh Bell added a two-run double. Ty Wigginton went 0-2 but did walk twice. At the top of the lineup, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis combined to go 0-8, yet the offense still scored six runs -- not bad, I guess.

As for the Showalter factor, the lineup was pretty much the same, and most things were done by the book. However, he did use the bullpen a little differently and showed some outside-the-box thinking. Here's Dan Connolly explaining the situation:
What interested me most was watching Showalter manage. During the past month, I’ve talked to a bunch of people who have worked under Showalter, and they have all spoken about his preparedness and how he puts his players in a situation to win.

And so I was intrigued by his first real piece of managing: in the ninth inning Tuesday with the Orioles up 6-3. Lefty Michael Gonzalez had already pitched one scoreless inning, and Showalter summoned him to pitch again in the ninth – even though it was a save situation and closer Alfredo Simon was warming up.

Go by the book, and bring in your closer. That’s what every manager I have ever covered would have done. But Showalter left Gonzalez in to face lefty Hideki Matsui, who struck out. Then Showalter stuck with Gonzalez to turn around switch-hitter Alberto Callaspo, and he grounded out.

With one out needed, Showalter called for Simon, even though it was no longer a save situation for the O’s closer. And Simon struck out Howie Kendrick.

Asked about the moves after the game, Showalter said: “The matchup was a lot better. Gonzo, I’ve been watching him throw the ball and talking to [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] and some of the guys. And I liked the switch-hitters turned around. The tough call was Hunter [in the eighth with one on and two outs]. That’s a tie ballgame at worst, though, and we like our chances at home with the last at-bat. Take our chances.”

That’s a guy who is not managing scared.

He followed that up with his best line of the day: “Believe me, I know the save rule and, quite frankly, it doesn’t carry much weight with me. I like the win rule a little bit better.”
Apologies for the long quote, but that's some intriguing stuff right there. I'm all for managers going against the typical bullpen philosophy of simply bringing in the closer in the ninth for a potential save. Now, I'm not a fan of leaving relievers such as Mike Gonzalez in for more than one inning, but Showalter recognized that Gonzalez has been throwing well lately and stuck with the hot hand rather than simply summoning Alfredo Simon in the ninth.

Could the move have backfired? Sure, anything's possible against the Orioles. But the move worked, and that's something that has been hard enough for the O's to find for a long time. I'm not ready to pronounce Showalter the greatest manager ever or anything because of the move, but I am ready to see what he has in store for this team.

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