The Orioles are assured of being in first place at the All-Star break.
Having fun yet?
This team is 33-12 in extra-inning games since the start of the 2012 season. Manager Buck Showalter jokes that if the Orioles were really good, they’d win more games in regulation. But there’s something special about consistently coming out on top past regulation.
Darren O’Day has the lowest ERA among American League relievers at 1.11 and he’s not going to the All-Star Game.
AL manager John Farrell needed a replacement for injured Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka and he chose his closer, former Oriole Koji Uehara. O’Day still isn’t going to the All-Star Game.
It’s a challenge for a middle reliever or set-up man to find a spot on the team, and especially if your role is largely undefined. O’Day gets it and he’s content with having family time next week while others bask in the spotlight.
“It’s tough,” he said. “We’re the offensive linemen. No one pays attention, just like middle relievers, until you miss the block and the quarterback’s head is rolling on the field and they want to know which lineman blew it. That’s a middle reliever.
“I understand how it works. I’d love to go to the All-Star Game sometime, but I personally voted for Dellin Betances from New York. That guy, he’s a middle reliever in our league and he’s putting up numbers that are just out of this world. As kind of an impartial voter, I voted for him. I think he deserves to go to the All-Star Game more than I do or more than some of these other middle relievers are. Maybe even more so than some of these closers. I understand that.”
The Orioles bullpen is talented and modest. I ask closer Zach Britton about being snubbed and he says O’Day and Nick Markakis are more deserving. I ask O’Day about being snubbed and he reveals that he voted for Betances, who’s 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings.
“I’ve been around long enough and I’ll enjoy my four days off,” O’Day said. “Get some parts of the summer that I miss playing baseball all year. Traditional summer stuff. Boat, lake, just being outside really and not standing in the outfield dodging line drives and fly balls.”
O’Day has struck out a batter in eight consecutive appearances, a season-high for an Orioles reliever. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 10 games, walking two (one intentional) and striking out 14 in 11 innings.
Anyone outside of Baltimore taking notice?
“I do think the non-closers, even though Darren is capable, don’t get the recognition because you can’t bridge that gap and there are so many things that have to fit,” Showalter said.
O’Day has been a better fit in any situation this season because left-handers are batting .250 against him, compared to .309 in 2013.
“Darren’s done a good job of defending himself against left-handed hitters,” Showalter said. “He does such a good job of reading swings and knowing where the better matchups are for him. Basically, he’s a guy who you can trust. He’s a student of the game. And quite frankly, he’s the leader of our bullpen. Guys follow his lead. He’s constantly talking to people down there about things. And he holds himself to a very high standard. And it’s not do as a say, it’s do as I do and we’re lucky to have him.
“He’s very well known in baseball circles. Put him out there and you’ll have people beating down your door for him.”
I’ll close this entry by revisiting the end of Showalter’s postgame press conference last night.
If you were watching “O’s Xtra” on MASN, you heard a New York reporter ask whether Steve Pearce being hit twice and Kelly Johnson once had anything to do with the incident on June 22 at Yankee Stadium.
As you may recall, Pearce slid wide of the bag at third to break up a double play, forcing Johnson into a throwing error. Manager Joe Girardi referred to the slide as “pretty malicious.” Johnson said it “could be dirty.” Pearce insisted that he never intended to hurt Johnson.
Showalter seemed to have forgotten all about it until the reporter reminded him and asked whether there was anything “left over” from the controversy.
“No,” Showalter replied. “What slide are you talking about?”
Given a reminder that he really didn’t need, Showalter said, “Did he get called out for that? Did they call a double play on that?”
Showalter knew the answer. It’s one of his patented moves. Ask the question to see whether you know the answer.
“No, they didn’t,” he continued. “What else?”
“OK, thank you.”