The firestorm was expected.
Buck Showalter opted to keep Zach Britton in the bullpen in the bottom of the 11th inning, inserting Ubaldo Jimenez instead. The end result was Jimenez giving up a three-run home run to Edwin Encarnacion on a walk off that sent Birdland into a complete state of shock.
And then, the hate started.
“Why is Britton not in the game?”
“Why is Reimold getting an at bat before Pedro Alvarez?”
“What is Buck thinking?”
The real question should be, where the hell were the bats?
It was an all-too-common theme of the season. The Orioles live and die by the long ball and it was never more apparent than last night. Mark Trumbo gave Baltimore their only hope of the night in his first – and likely last with the O’s – postseason appearance with a two-run shot in the fourth. Two runs are not going to keep the job done on most nights, but especially come the playoffs.
The Orioles had four hits on the night. The last of which came in the sixth inning on a Manny Machado single. After that? Eight ground outs, a fly out and six strikeouts. The most embarrassing being Reimold’s strikeout on three straight pitches as a replacement for Kim as the last out for the Orioles.
To make matters worse, Reimold bobbled a ball hit to him in the 11th that would have likely doomed the Orioles regardless if Jimenez allowed the bomb to Encarnacion. Just like that, everyone turned on Buck for putting Reimold and Jimenez in the game.
The postgame press conference was nothing but questions about Britton. The Orioles closer commented after the game that he was “disappointed” not to play, but “it is not his call.” The media blasted Buck for not using the best relief pitcher in baseball.
Some want to blame Michael Bourn for the error that allowed a run to score. It was a bad read without a doubt, but Bourn saved a run earlier in the game on a ball that Trumbo would have had no chance to get. Even after the error, it was still a tie ball game for either team to take.
Then, there are the people chastising the decision to bring Ubaldo into the game. He has been the Orioles best pitcher in the month of September, and there were PLENTY of fans who were critical of him not taking the mound over Tillman. Most starting pitchers need an inning to figure things out, but he was not afford that by coming in late in the game against the Blue Jays best hitters.
All that said, the Orioles should have not been in that position. This is the time of the season where the bats need to come alive, and after scoring 16 runs against the New York Yankees, it looked as if they were hot heading into the playoffs. The final 16 outs were brutal to watch.
I cannot stress it enough: FOUR hits. In a playoff game. It’s not enough to get it done, regardless whether Ubaldo or Britton is on the mound. The Orioles had 10 other innings to win the game and could not do it.
Going forward, the Orioles must become a more complete team. The San Francisco Giants have been one of the best franchises in the past decade because of their ability to beat you in a variety of ways. They can win by the long ball. They can also play small ball. Baltimore has the pieces in the rotation and bullpen, but Showalter and Dan Duquette must find a way to score runs when the power hitters are off.
The most gut wrenching moment of the evening was listening to the great Joe Angel close out the radio broadcast by saying, “Go Ravens.” I do not like these guys. I love them. It was not the result we wanted, but thank you for a memorable season Buck and company. Cannot wait to see what 2017 brings us.