After Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer retired the last 16 batters he faced tonight, the Orioles must have felt as though they were getting a fresh start with a new pitcher entering in the bottom of the ninth.
“Kind of similar to last night with Freddy (Garcia),” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
Except for the outcome.
Jim Johnson got the save for the Orioles last night after Garcia went eight innings, but Tigers closer Jose Valverde blew the save tonight after surrendering a solo homer to Nick Markakis and a three-run walk-off homer to Chris Dickerson.
Dickerson had one at-bat since May 23 before starting tonight as the designated hitter. But he played the role of hero tonight.
“You’ve heard me say it a lot of times, (age) 28-32, a lot of guys kind of start to figure out who they are and what they bring,” Showalter said after the Orioles’ 7-5 victory over the Tigers. “They also improve on some things. You see how hard these guys work on the days they’re not playing to give themselves a chance to have success. That’s why it means so much more to me personally when you see them get rewarded for that.
“I see them out there when it’s smoking hot, hitting in the last group and trying to make sure they get their bunts down and making throws to the bases, to be ready to bring what they bring. You guys have seen it with Stevie Pearce and him and Casi (Alexi Casilla) and whoever, (Ryan) Flaherty. But when the best players on your team approach it that way, it’s very easy for other guys to do it.
“Chris has been around enough. One time he was... they all were flavor of the month. If you look back at his history with injuries, they kept him from getting an extended opportunity. It’s nice when you tell guys when you have to make that last cut that if you go do this, there will be a need and if you’re doing what you’re doing, we’ll go get you. That’s why we were a destination people wanted to come to, because they knew there was going to be an opportunity along the way. Chris has had some big hits for us.”
According to Showalter’s math, Dickerson had more than one at-bat since May 23. They just didn’t come in actual games.
“In a game, the way we count them, yes,” he said. “But they treat those at-bats and those sim games and the extra BP, showing up early, 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the road, they don’t give themselves that excuse. I told them the other day, I’m not going to let them sit around too long. Whether it’s Steve or, right now I’m trying to find a way to get (Danny) Valencia in there. We’re going to need them, just like tonight.
“You’re right, they haven’t had an at-bat in a game, but there are things you can do to keep that from being a bigger challenge than it normally is.”
The Orioles never let up, even as Scherzer was setting them down. And why should they?
“It’s the way our guys are wired, because they have a quiet confidence in each other,” Showalter said. “It’s not like one guy’s got to carry the load. Whether it be Matt (Wieters) or J.J. (Hardy), they want to deliver for the team. It’s not something personal. You get to a stage in your career, too, where you realize the individual part of it, it’s kind of fleeting. You go through what these guys went through together last year...
“Chris is looking from afar. They get what really matters at the end of the game. Not the game we played tonight, but the game we’re playing in a season.”
Asked if winning teams need to have games like this one, Showalter replied, “I’m OK if they go the other way. I’ve got a great seat. I have a lot of things going through my head, about do I pinch-run for Chris (Davis) or bunt here. But you know, sometimes you just step back and let the guys play the game. It seems like every time I’ve gone that direction, I’ve gotten that confidence repaid.
“There’s no script. Things don’t always follow the script. OK, this has got to happen for that to happen. What happened tonight, does that mean we know exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow night? No you don’t. There’s a guy named (Justin) Verlander pitching over there. Their starting pitching is just tough. It’s tough.”
And as for the monster blast by Adam Jones in the third, it measured out at 444 feet.