The Orioles remain 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East after tonight’s 12-2 romp over the Blue Jays at Camden Yards.
Manager Buck Showalter wrote out two lineups before the game because he was unsure whether shortstop J.J. Hardy could play with a sore finger on his throwing hand.
“J.J.’s battling through a lot of things right now that most people would be sitting on the bench with,” Showalter said. “I had two lineups up until about 6:30 tonight. Last thing he told me is, ‘If you think I’m coming out with a bad finger ...”
Showalter was in a playful mood tonight, joking with a reporter who asked about his eclectic lineup.
“I don’t know about eclectic because I’m not real sure about the deep meaning there, but I know it’s a collection of people of different ages and ilks,” Showalter said. “Is that eclectic? I don’t want you to put a word in my mouth that I don’t know the meaning of.
“Wouldn’t it be boring if it was all robotic and the same? I love the different personalities and people from different backgrounds, and you stick them in a locker room and see how they make it work.”
Everything seemed to work tonight. Miguel Gonzalez turned in his third straight quality start and the Orioles hit seven home runs, including No. 612 from Jim Thome that started a three-homer barrage in the fifth inning.
“Miguel was good, really good,” Showalter said. “He’s been pretty solid for us this year. We swung the bats well. I thought Jimmy’s home run was big. Through the years it’s hard to stay in a pattern with him. He’s sitting on a changeup. I thought he gave us a little juice right there.”
Did Jim Thome unlock the offense?
“That makes a lot of sense,” Showalter said. “But this is one of those years where everybody’s just trying to pass the baton and have a good at-bat. We knew we were going to see a lot of pitching backward tonight and he’s had a lot of success doing it. I thought some guys made some adjustments to the pitching patterns, something we didn’t do too well last night. Of course, Manny (Machado) had a big night and Chris (Davis) had a big night.
“Jimmy, you don’t hit that many home runs and just be a one-pitch guy. I’ve had to face him too many times and you can’t stay in one place and one pattern on him. He will make an adjustment on you. One thing Jimmy does is he’s very receptive to people asking and he’s not going to sit on the fence. He’s going to tell you. That’s another benefit of having a guy like him around.
“Chris had two big blows for us tonight. He’s a strong young man. He had some success against (Carlos) Villanueva coming into tonight and he just let the ball travel. When he lets the ball travel and get deep in the zone, his contact to damage ratio is real good. He’s given us some versatility, and Chris Davis still has a chance to be a very good first baseman. He had some key at-bats for us tonight and I’m glad he settled in.”
It must have been nice for Showalter to get the chance to relax a little bit with a big lead.
“Maybe the last inning or so, but I enjoy the other ones at a different level, too,” he said. “One thing I found when I got to the big leagues was how little leads meant, especially in the American League. Guys who are hitting ninth are hitting third and fourth in Triple-A and power’s all the way through the lineups, so you never really feel like there’s a comfort level there. But it all starts with Miguel’s outing. I thought he was really good.
“Miggy has been there for us. He stepped up again for us. I had a couple guys down in the bullpen I didn’t want to use. Those types of outings from the starter allow you to have a good bullpen, and that’s what we’ve done a better job with this year. As good as our bullpen has been, our starters have gotten deeper in the game a lot more consistently than in the past, and that’s what’s allowed our bullpen to use their strengths.”
Asked if the Orioles have the most power of any team he’s managed here, Showalter smiled and said, “Yes. I don’t think that’s going out on a limb, do you?”
The Orioles looked like they let out their frustrations tonight after losing three of their last four games and struggling with the offense.
“It depends how you define that,” Showalter said. “They are an aware group of young men. They’re aware. Sure, they understand what’s at stake and they want it so much, for the right reasons, though. Sometimes, you can let your want-to get in the way of doing things. What settles all that down is good pitching. You trust good people and you get out of their way.
“Our guys are staying focused on the competition, on the moment, whatever you want to call it. Those nine innings, that at-bat, that pitch, and then move on to the next day. The challenge for us as a group is to not let that get in the way.”
Now comes a much-needed off-day.
“I hope they sit,” Showalter said. “A lot of guys, they will. And they get to pick their own friends tomorrow, and knowing our group, a lot of them will pick each other. I hope they’ve got something planned tomorrow because it will be gone very quickly. We’ll get back to reality. But the thing about this group, they’re looking forward to Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and what may lay beyond, because they’ve earned the right. They’ve got the attitude they’re playing with house money and they’re going to let it fly, and that’s a good thing. I’m proud of them.”
Also, Showalter said pitcher Randy Wolf may stay with the team after being diagnosed with a torn ligament in his left elbow.
“I’m giving Randy that option, what he wants to do,” Showalter said. “He’s really wanting me to make the call and I will if he wants me to. He had an impact here. He got some big outs for us and pitched some innings we needed to be pitched well, and he’s a pro. Everything we looked into about fitting into what we think is a special fraternity in that clubhouse, we’re not just going to let anybody in, but he impacted this club and he continues to by being in there tonight, and if he wants to continue to be with us, that’s his call and I’ll support that. He’s going to think about it tonight and tomorrow, and whatever he decides to do, he’ll do. He’s earned that right.
“There was some talk about getting an injection and if he got from both doctors that he couldn’t hurt it any worse and see if he could help us in some form or fashion. I told him the only way I’d ethically use him is if I knew for sure that he couldn’t hurt it any worse and it would be if we were a big margin behind. I just wanted to be frank with him. I don’t want to put his arm and his future and his day-to-day life in any jeopardy. So far they’re saying that couldn’t happen, but I’m not sure what kind of guy we’d get back with that, and the last thing we’re going to do is start sticking needles in there and doing things that aren’t right.”