Game 134: Orioles 4, Red Sox 6

The Good:

* Matt Wieters looked really good at the plate, showing a patient approach, hitting two doubles (one deep to the opposite field, and one pulled into the gap) and added a single off of Papelbon, lining a 96 mph fastball to center.

The Bad:

* Brad Bergesen had a rough night; 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R (2 ER), 5 BB, 4 K, 1 HR. His defense didn’t help him though.

* The aforementioned defense. Ty Wigginton made an error, but there were a couple other misplays from him, and not the most stellar glove-work elsewhere around the diamond.

* 11 strike-outs, and only one walk for the offense. Against Dice-K. One walk.

* In the ninth inning, down 6-4, Felix Pie led off with a single and Wieters followed with one of his own. Runners on first and second, no outs, with Nolan Reimold, Cesar Izturis, and Josh Bell coming up. Buck Showalter pinch-hits Corey Patterson for Nolan, and has him lay down an easy sac bunt (almost no chance of it going for a hit, and the Sox were expecting it). Then Papelbon struck out Izturis and Bell to end the game, which was a perfectly predictable result once Patterson put down the bunt. Why would you give away an out to set things up for your two worst hitter (and two of the worst hitters in baseball)? The team’s Win Probability Added went down 4% on the play. Just terrible.

Sure he could have pinch-hit for Izzy, but a right-handed Jake Fox (or Brandon Snyder, or whoever) coming off the bench to face Papelbon isn’t really going to be a much better option (though the Red Sox closer does have a slight reverse platoon split in his career). And if Fox was a better option (he certainly might have been), that just means Buck made another mistake – the bunt was still a bad call. Batting Fox for Bell is an easier upgrade to see (Bell is actually a worse hitter than Izturis at this point), but I can understand not doing it if the experience for Bell is worth more than increased chances of winning the game.

Then in the post-game press conference, nobody bothered to ask Buck why he did something dumb like that. As Sam Miller said, his answer would likely be “Because I knew nobody would ask me about it if I did, and they would if I didn’t.” Bunting there is “what you do,” and it’s not going to be second-guessed by the people* who’ve seen the same kind of play many times before. Very frustrating, on both ends.

* None of the game stories I’ve read have even questioned it in the least.

Edit: I had a quick back-and-forth with Britt Ghiroli (the O’s beat writer from MLB.com, who usually does a really good job at her job).

Britt: He had no other option, really. What would you do-bring in Jake Fox?

Me: The pinch-hitting thing is close – Papelbon has a small reverse platoon split in his career. No big deal though… Giving away an out to bring up your two worst hitters is not a good plan, I would have liked to hear his explanation.

Britt: It would be- as opposed to what? Give a better option with that bench being the way it is. Izturis has had a few big hits b4

Me: Cesar Izturis isn’t a good hitter. Having a few big hits previously doesn’t make him a good hitter… Why is letting Reimold hit completely not an option?… And if Fox isn’t hitting for Izzy, he has to hit for Bell (unless winning this game doesn’t matter as much as the experience)

Britt: Guys on first and second and no outs, Im wi Showalter: you have to bunt . Izzy doesnt usually K- so ur hoping for a flare

Me: You don’t “have” to bunt. You have options. Just because Buck did it doesn’t mean that it was correct.

Marc Normandin (of Baseball Prospectus) jumped in with a “You’re giving up an out when you already have one runner in scoring position though.”, trying to back me up somewhat.

Oh well.

Via Britt, Buck’s explanation for not pinch-hitting for Izzy and Bell make some sense: “Showalter on the decision: Izzy has had some clutch hits for us, he is in the game, in the flow there. It’s a good experience for Josh, too.”

The clutch hits thing is complete baloney, but being in the game might be a nod to the pinch-hitter penalty (maybe?). And experience for Bell is fine too.

The Final:

The O’s lose, and they completely deserve it. Maybe Buck is just trying to catch the Pirates (4.5 back).

I’m going to be out of town for the long weekend, so no posting expected.