Now that the series is over and Orioles fans are breathing normal again (until Friday at least), we can take some time to acknowledge just how much of a blowout this ALDS matchup truly became. I mean it really wasn’t even close — what was I so freaking nervous about? The O’s faced the last three AL Cy Young Award winners and still managed to sweep the Tigers, they outscored Detroit 21-11 and the O’s bullpen held to their offense to just a .220 batting average.
Perhaps the most lopsided matchup in this series was that of managers Buck Showalter and Brad Ausmus. It seemed that every button Showalter pushed went in the Orioles favor, while Ausmus struggled to make many correct decisions in his first postseason as a skipper. And I’m not just talking about the decision to walk Nick Castellanos intentionally to set up the game ending double play on Sunday.
In game three, Showalter turned to starter Bud Norris over Miguel Gonzalez, despite the fact that Norris was 0-3 with an ERA of 6.57 in his career against the Tigers. Bud The Stud pitched 6.1 innings allowing two hits and no runs, turning in the Orioles best start of the postseason.
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) October 6, 2014
What about game two? The Orioles were down 6-4 in the bottom of eighth when Ausmus turned to Joakim Soria to relieve Joba Chamberlain. J.J. Hardy was walked to load the bases and Showalter pinch hit Delmon Young for Ryan Flaherty. Well, you know the rest:
Young stopped browsing Instagram and setting his fantasy football lineup and crushed the first pitch he saw down the left field line. All three base runners scored and the Orioles took a 7-6 lead.
Buck’s management of the Orioles dominant bullpen was a big part of their success in the ALDS as well. He leaned on Andrew Miller for 1.2 innings in game one after Chris Tillman left after 5. Then he turned to Tommy Hunter for the final three outs of the game after the O’s scored eight runs in the eighth and Zach Britton recorded the final out of the top of that inning. This kept the Orioles closer rested, he threw just five pitches, and allowed Buck to use him in games two and three.
Buck has relied heavily on the best guys in his pen and they’ve all delivered. He hasn’t overworked them, but unlike Ausmus, has managed to get them in when the O’s find themselves in high leverage situations.
Oh yeah, and one more thing. Remember how scared everyone was about the Orioles struggling defense at third base at the end of the regular season? Seven errors in the last ten games of the season — woof. Ryan Flaherty has looked like an absolute monster at the hot corner. I mean, just look at this double play Flash turned from game two:
We don’t have a manager WAR stat or any metric that truly measures how important a skipper’s decision making is in the postseason, but anyone who watched the ALDS knows that Buck pushed all the right buttons. He’ll be a big x-factor for the O’s in the Championship Series.
Image Credit: Keith Allison