ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Orioles third base coach Bobby Dickerson will show up at Tropicana Field on Thursday and slip into his uniform and his second role with the club.
As the infield instructor, he’s going to want answers. Review the tape from tonight’s game and figure out who’s responsible for the various breakdowns and how they can be prevented in the future.
The Orioles committed five errors and still managed to rally past the Rays 5-4 on Trey Mancini’s two-run double off Sergio Romo in the top of the ninth inning. According to STATS, they hadn’t totaled that many errors in a victory since making six of them against the Brewers on June 9, 1983.
Shortstop Tim Beckham and catcher Caleb Joseph had two apiece and second baseman Jonathan Villar was responsible for the other. Villar and Joseph made errors with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning before Matt Duffy lined out.
Mychal Givens recorded his third save, the Orioles improved to 35-79 overall and no one really felt good about it.
“We could have been charged with another one,” said manager Buck Showalter. “It’s been a challenge for us and we’ve got to get better. You just don’t win major league games very often like that.”
Andrew Cashner retired 18 of 19 batters after allowing two runs in the first inning. He was charged with three runs, but only one earned, over seven innings and settled for a no-decision.
The tying run scored in the seventh on a hit batter, Beckham’s error while covering second base on a potential double play grounder, Willy Adames’ infield hit after Beckham slipped while backhanding a ground ball, and Michael Perez’s sacrifice fly to shallow left field.
“Cash was the difference,” Showalter said. “He didn’t give up a hard-hit ball in the first inning and gave up two runs, but bowed his neck. A lot of people pull the dirt in around them, but he just kept pitching, and that’s the challenge a lot of our pitchers have had when we didn’t convert some balls that should be outs.”
The Rays took a 4-3 lead with two outs in the eighth on Carlos Gomez’s bloop double in front of right fielder Danny Valencia, who pulled up to make certain that the ball didn’t bounce over his head. Mike Wright Jr. nearly escaped the jam he inherited from left-hander Tanner Scott.
“I thought Mike Wright had a really good outing,” Showalter said. “I think he broke three bats in that inning.”
Mark Trumbo and Valencia led off the ninth with singles, Mancini ran the count to 3-0 and lined his two-run double to left field.
“Trey had a real big at-bat there,” Showalter said. “I thought the at-bat that will go unnoticed was Trum’s. Single to left field to lead off that inning, really battling a guy who’s real tough on right-handed hitters.”
Also tough is being able to smile after a five-error game, but winning made it possible.
“That’s what matters at the end of the day,” Mancini said. “It was a very interesting game. I don’t know the last time I’ve been part of a game that we’ve had five errors and won. But baseball can be a very beautiful thing sometimes where maybe make some mistakes, but at the end of the day still do enough to win the game. And today was one of those days.
“I’ve been trying to be more aggressive, especially 3-0. But with Romo, even 3-0 you can’t really even sit fastball, so I let that fastball go by. (At) 3-1 I thought he was going to throw a slider there. It’s such a good pitch. He changes speeds on it. That’s pretty much the approach off him is you really have to sit slider and with two strikes just buckle down and fight.”
The situation didn’t come across as nerve-racking to Mancini, whose two-run double followed solo home runs by Beckham and Adam Jones in the first inning and Trumbo in the fourth.
“As your career advances you get more used to playing in close games,” Mancini said. “We played a lot of close games last year and this year. You can’t let your guard down at all. That’s why you go through the minor league system, to be in those situations, because it happens a lot in the minors, too. You learn how to thrive in situations where there’s high pressure.”
The first Beckham error occurred in the first inning when he failed to catch Joseph’s throw on Jake Bauers’ stolen base. The second came on a bizarre play in the seventh after Renato Núñez fielded Kevin Kiermaier’s sharp ground ball and hesitated while trying to start a double play. No one was covering the bag.
Beckham finally got there and missed it while getting tangled up with Gomez, who had gotten on base when he was hit by a Cashner pitch. Villar didn’t arrive in time for whatever reason, and it’s usually the second baseman who takes the throw. Dickerson and Showalter needed to check the video and find out exactly what happened, since the team wasn’t in a pronounced shift.
“In fairness, I’m going to look at it again,” Showalter said. “I talked to Bobby a little bit. I don’t want to reflect poorly on somebody. I’ve got a pretty good feel of what happened and where some blame may lie, but I want to make sure I’m right and look at it.
“We’ve had some good games, too. It’s potentially there. And there’s not a better infield instructor in baseball. Bobby is one of the most well respected infield instructors in all of the game. We’re going to figure it out and continue working. Certainly, we have their attention about some things that we’ve got to get better at. They need to take advantage of this opportunity they’re getting, and some have at times. A step forward and a step back. Tonight was a step back for us.”
The infielders are still learning about each other, with Villar arriving in the Jonathan Schoop trade with the Brewers and Núñez having his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk. Beckham moved back to shortstop after Manny Machado was traded to the Dodgers.
“They haven’t been together that long, but it’s understanding the responsibilities before the ball is hit,” Showalter said. “They’ve been told and they know. Just concentration lapses.”
Cashner’s had to be tested.
“It’s really hard,” Showalter said. “He and Alex (Cobb) and I talked about it, and Dylan (Bundy). And (Kevin) Gausman before he left. Until we kind of get our defense in line and shored up, they’re going to have to stay mentally tough with that. It’s a challenge for everybody.”
Said Cashner: “I think for me, it’s something I constantly tell myself - I’m not going to tell you all because it’s not very nice - but just continue to make pitches. Just one pitch at a time, try to keep pounding the zone and try to get outs.
“I think it’s very important to know who you are as a pitcher. Would I like to be a strikeout pitcher? Yes. But I think for me to stay healthy, it’s sink the ball on both sides of the plate, change speeds and try to get them out up in the zone.”
Cashner lowered his ERA from 5.05 to 4.83 and made an inspired recovery after allowing 10 runs in 1 2/3 innings in his last start in Texas.
“I think for me, it’s just continuing to find my arm slot with my sinker,” he said. “I thought I did that pretty well tonight. I thought my sinker had some of my best life in a while. I thought my changeup was good. I kind of tweaked my curveball a little bit the last five days and tonight I felt like a lot of my stuff kind of came together.”
The game nearly fell apart again after Villar mishandled Mallex Smith’s grounder with two outs in the ninth and Joseph sailed another throw on the stolen base. But Duffy lined to Villar, a ball finding a glove and the Orioles somehow stumbling upon a win.