ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles manager Buck Showalter walked up to MASN’s Gary Thorne last night to start his post-game interview and mumbled, “Textbook.”
We got the joke.
The Orioles didn’t take the easy path to their 4-3 victory over the Rays, allowing a run in the ninth and putting runners on the corners with one out. Closer Tommy Hunter walked the tightrope again, but he didn’t fall, recording his 10th save in 11 tries by inducing two line drives that found gloves - the last his own.
“You know what? It’s hard to do,” Showalter said. “It’s not always going to be aesthetically pleasing and that’s why guys that have the mentality to do that are in demand. Tommy’s certainly got his feet wet with some adversity and he’s handled it well so far.”
Hunter has two clean save conversions, one lasting two-thirds of an inning and the other one-third.
“You’d like to mix one in every once in a while,” he said. “It’s getting a little ridiculous, but we’re winning ballgames. That’s the bottom line. J.J. (Hardy) just said it good in there. He said, ‘Hey man, you did your job.’ You’d like for it to go a little smoother. I try not to make this stuff very exciting, but I’m going to try to do it better.
“I don’t know. We’re entertainers. this is what we do for a living. I would like to do it better, yes. I’d like to have a clean frame and make it nice and easy for everybody at home, but that’s not the way it’s going right now. You have to continue to make adjustments and keep pitching, because we’re winning. This thing is going to go on whether someone is doing good or not. We’re going to be back there again and hopefully get a 1-2-3 inning next time.
“Our bullpen kind of picks each other up. We’re going to continue to pick each other up and battle through it right now. Everybody’s been throwing the ball well as of late and we’re going to keep rolling with it, hopefully. That’s the idea here.”
And perhaps minimize the drama.
“You continually want to get better,” Hunter said. “A 1-2-3 inning kind of relaxes everybody. It’s been exciting. I’ve gotten excited a couple times and we’ve gotten out of it. We win ballgames and as long as you’re winning, at the end of the day nothing else matters. That’s the thing you have to kind of hang your hat on.”
Rookie Jonathan Schoop was 2-for-17 before hitting his third home run, a two-run shot in the seventh inning that broke a 2-2 tie. He also was solid at second base.
“Jonathan, his contact-to-damage ratio is always good,” Showalter said. “He’s a strong young man that’s growing into his body and he’s always a pitch away from doing something good for you.”
Caleb Joseph’s major league debut didn’t produce his first hit, but he seemed comfortable behind the plate.
“Caleb was really good. Very quiet, very calm,” Showalter said. “You know there were a lot of squirrels running around that hamster cage, boy. He had a quick tutorial on the other team.
“The one common thing is, I talk to a lot of players who play with guys and they all like throwing to him. He takes a lot of pride in calling a game. He’s a smart guy who reads swings well. Pitchers like throwing to him because he’s sincere about what’s important. The thing that (bench coach) John Russell has really beat on these guys is, if you defend, you’re going to play up here. If you don’t, we’re going to have a hard time getting to you.”
Adam Jones hit two home runs on two pitches from Rays starter Cesar Ramos. The usual aggressive approach.
“We like him,” Showalter said. “I like him the way he is. The guy hit 30 home runs and drove in 100 and almost hit .300. I like it. He plays Gold Glove defense. If you want a bunch of robots, it would be boring. I love his personality, I love what he brings.
“Every day he’s slashing. He’s not going down without a fight and he kind of epitomizes a lot of things that we hope to be about. You’re going to like the finished product.”