WASHINGTON - Manager Buck Showalter talked about starter Jason Hammel, his bullpen, the Nationals’ comeback attempt, his red-hot center fielder and his ice-cold catcher following tonight’s 6-5 win.
Hammel was making his second start since being pushed back because of swelling in his right knee. He was good for a while, but it’s clear that he’s not all the way back.
“No more than what he’s been dealing with his last start,” Showalter said. “Something we’re aware of and we’re going to be careful with. He pitched real well for a while there. It just kind of got away from him a little bit. One of the problems he has is it’s a little bit of a challenge with his conditioning just because he’s trying to stay off of (the knee) as much as possible. But I think that’s where you kind of keep an eye on how far he’s going to be able to go before he may lose a little endurance.
“He was getting the ball up and Washington was starting to put some good swings on him, but if I know Jason, he’s not going to use that as an excuse.”
The bullpen had its shaky moments, but it didn’t fall apart. Ryan Zimmerman homered off Jim Johnson with two outs in the ninth, but Adam LaRoche struck out to end the game.
“It’s not always you come in and strike people out and get easy outs. Sometimes, it’s keeping guys in the park and minimizing the damage, especially when you’re kind of pitching to the lead,” Showalter said.
“I don’t think anybody feels like J.J. would have made that pitch if he had a one-run lead. Sometimes, you have to pitch to the score a little bit.”
Showalter isn’t used to the Orioles taking big leads, and that six-run cushion figured to deflate. They always seem to end up in tight games.
“They strung together a lot of good at-bats,” he said. “It wasn’t anything we were doing. They did some really good things there with a good batting order. You knew they were going to make a run at us regardless, and our bullpen allowed it to stand up.”
Adam Jones homered again tonight, giving him 14 on the season. The Orioles are 13-1 when he connects.
“He’s that type of talent, and he’s in a good place mentally,” Showalter said. “He’s slowed the game down some, but at the same time, he’s letting it rip every time he gets an opportunity to help his team. The things that come out of Adam’s mouth are about the Orioles and about us playing well enough to compete, and those are good things.”
Matt Wieters went 0-for-4 tonight and is in a 4-for-40 slump that’s lowered his average to .243.
“Keep in mind that with catching, the total that he’s caught with the innings and everything... I’m amazed any time a catcher, period, is an offensive threat with the things they have to do,” Showalter said. “And you go down the list of things that made the difference in the game tonight, one of the top things will be Wieters behind the plate. The catch he makes to end the ballgame, not many catchers make that catch. He caught two or three foul-tip strike threes tonight. That’s so difficult. You can’t teach it. It’s just good hands.”
Showalter had to dip into his bullpen four times tonight, but he’ll have a few fresh arms ready tomorrow if needed.
“Because we’ve got a lot of people performing at a high level, we’re able to pass it around,” he said. “We didn’t pitch O’Day tonight, so he’ll be OK tomorrow. We’re going to try to stay away, Kevin (Gregg). I’ve got (Dana) Eveland tomorrow. The only problem is you’ve got a long guy, left, with a left-handed starter (Wei-Yin Chen), but we’re equipped to handle it.
“If you look back through the history of it, I think we’ve been pretty diligent about passing the load around.”