Buck Showalter’s face turned red again last night.
It’s become his primary color. The orange and black are secondary.
Showalter has done more arguing over these past few weeks than I can remember during his entire tenure as Orioles manager. It’s a nightly scene. Calls on the bases. A decision regarding warmup tosses. And he absolutely fumes over the nightly strike zones, which change like traffic signals.
Many of these umpires have to go. Will the commissioner’s office green light it?
Ted Barrett was, let’s say, challenged behind the plate last night. Bad strike zone. And he ruled that a Jason Hammel pitch hit Asdrubal Cabrera’s foot. It did not. He ruled that Jason Kipnis wasn’t hit on the left foot. MASN replays showed that Kipnis was hit on the left foot.
Cabrera reached first base in the fourth inning and Kipnis followed with a home run. Those were the only runs allowed by Hammel in seven innings.
First base umpire Will Little ruled that Manny Machado was out in the fourth inning, though replays showed that Machado’s hand hit the bag before Indians starter Scott Kazmir got to it.
Machado shouldn’t have dived into the base. It slows you down and makes it easier for an umpire to blow the call. Nonetheless, he should have been ruled safe, and Showalter had his first argument of the night.
Little was, let’s say, a little nervous over there. He’s pretty raw. I have more major league experience than he does.
Showalter was livid in the eighth as Indians reliever Joe Smith continued to warm up in the bullpen after Kazmir walked off the field with the head athletic trainer. Smith should have been ordered onto the field. Showalter wanted to order another umpiring crew, but one is worse than the next.
(If I had a change-o machine, I’d get a puppy-brother and I’d make sure Angel Hernandez chose a different line of work.)
Showalter flailed his arms and screamed his objections over Smith’s warmup routine. Finally, Smith emerged from the bullpen because, well, the game must go on.
Were the umpires responsible for last night’s defeat? No. The Orioles had a one-run lead in the ninth inning and couldn’t hold it. But the play on the field was overshadowed by the comedy of errors from the umpires that didn’t bring a smile to Showalter’s face. Just shades of red.
Closer Jim Johnson was more composed as he stood at his locker following the game, but his frustration was evident. Johnson blew the save after converting 12 in a row. He issued a four-pitch walk to Michael Brantley leading off the ninth, an unforgivable sin in Johnson’s eyes.
He wouldn’t get many arguments.
Johnson also issued an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Carlos Santana to load the bases with no outs. He’s walked 12 batters in 38 innings, which he finds unacceptable.
Johnson was sitting at his locker as reporters entered the clubhouse following Showalter’s session. We approached Hammel first, since he was the starting pitcher. Johnson waited patiently. He doesn’t hide. We respect him for it.
Normally, he would wait for the first question, like everyone else on the team. But not this time. Johnson had to get something off his chest.
“I’ll start for you,” he said.
“The leadoff walk,” he continued. “Obviously, that’s pretty much what led to the whole inning. Lately ... it’s uncharacteristic, and it’s something I need to work on.”
Johnson beat himself up a little more before we were done. Then, he took a few steps away from his locker, paused by a trash can and threw away whatever he had been holding - a water bottle or something like that - with only slightly less force than LeBron James used on his dunks in the NBA finals.
Johnson said he wants the ball again tonight. That would be four straight games. It’s not going to happen. If there’s a save situation, look for Darren O’Day or Tommy Hunter to close. Johnson gets the night off.
In his previous 14 games, Johnson had allowed one earned run and seven hits in 13 1/3 innings, with three walks and 10 strikeouts.
Machado collected his 36th double last night, the most before the All-Star break since 1997. He passed Magglio Ordonez and Mike Sweeney.
In his last 59 games, Machado is batting .338 with 30 doubles, two triples, three homers, 28 RBIs and 39 runs scored.
Adam Jones hasn’t drawn a walk in his last 37 games and 156 plate appearances. He passed Eric Hinske last night for most consecutive games.