You might have been thinking it. I know that I was thinking it.
“Why is Will Ohman coming into this game?”
(And why am I using quotation marks for a thought? Good question.)
I suggested to a few reporters in the press box that I’d bring back Mark Hendrickson for the ninth. The tall lefty had cruised through two innings, allowing only an infield hit and striking out one. He threw 14 of his 21 pitches for strikes. I’ve rarely seen him better.
Put him back on the mound in the ninth inning, with Ohman ready in case Hendrickson falters. Did we really need a third pitcher to get through a 5-1 win?
Manager Dave Trembley had his reasons, which he outlined after the game.
“We don’t have a bona fide closer,” he said. “If you have a bona fide closer in the ninth, you probably don’t bring a guy in when it’s a four-run lead, when it’s not a save situation. But I think you’ve got to bring in the best guy you have in that situation with experience.
“Ohman hasn’t given up any runs. Let’s try to put a lid on it and win the game. It really doesn’t matter there about matchups - right, left. They haven’t scored off him, we’ve got the lead, he’s already warmed up. Plus, (Jason) Berken’s down there and he’s a younger guy and as soon as you sit him down, maybe the switch in his head goes off and says, ‘Hey, I’m not in it.’
“You see this a lot with young guys and you see this a lot with young closers late in the game. Once the game gets one way or the other, I’ve seen it with young closers, you get way ahead and then all of a sudden, boom, it gets close and they’ve shut it down mentally for the day. And now you ask them to flick the switch again, you’re asking for trouble, so I wouldn’t do that to Berken.”
Fair enough, though I’m still inclined to save Ohman from a non-save situation after so many appearances over these first two months. Ohman got three easy outs, remaining one of baseball’s best minor league signings - I remember a few readers here ripping Andy MacPhail for bringing him into the organization - and the Orioles could feel good about themselves for one night.
“That’s the best Hendrickson has pitched all year,” Trembley said. “He looked very relaxed.”
Hendrickson wasn’t sure how Alfredo Simon’s absence would impact him.
“He came to (Rick) Kranitz before the game and said, ‘With Al being out, does my role change?’” Trembley recalled “And we told him, ‘Yeah, you’ll probably be used later in the game.’ And he said, ‘OK, I’m ready for it.’
“He did a real nice job. The ball was down, he had good two-seam and he had good extension on his pitches.”
It’s nice to know that reporters weren’t the only ones asking Trembley about bullpen roles before the game. And we asked him multiple times, though we focused mainly on Frank Mata and David Hernandez.
Hendrickson seemed to relish the chance to pitch after the middle innings and with the game on the line.
“I looked at it as an opportunity when I came in the game,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. I loved the situation. I loved the opportunity to come in with the lead late in the game. I think I just tried to pitch accordingly.
“If you look at the way I came in and the way Will came in, it seemed like we were just coming in being aggressive, trusting our stuff and accomplishing some zeroes after we had taken the lead. That’s important and that’s something we really haven’t done a good job of. I think tonight we excelled in pretty much every facet, which is nice to see.”
You know what else would be nice? Brian Matusz trimming some fat off his 5.26 ERA.
He’s struggled badly in two of his last three starts, turning in a superb effort in between that was wasted by Simon’s blown save, and the Orioles need the lefty to get right.
Matusz is 0-3 with a no-decision in May, but he won in Oakland back on April 18. (I guaranteed it, if you’ll recall.) He allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings, with one walk and eight strikeouts.
He’ll be opposed by Trevor Cahill, who’s allowed three runs or fewer in four straight starts. Cahill has faced the Orioles twice in his career, going 1-1 and surrendering five runs and 14 hits in 13 innings. He’s struck out nine and hasn’t issued a walk.
Nick Markakis is 4-for-6 with a double against Cahill. Brian Roberts is 3-for-6 with a double and RBI, but that doesn’t do the Orioles much good.
Then again, they don’t need the hits to win a game. As they proved last night, a couple walks and fly balls will do the trick.