González's playoff experience a handy resource for Hyde (plus other notes)

Brandon Hyde has fielded the same question multiple times in recent days about whether he’s reached out to other managers with playoff experience leading into Saturday’s Division Series. Whether he’s picked their brains about the differences between his dugout duties during the regular season and in October and what he can expect.

Former Rays manager Joe Maddon’s name has come up, since they’re good friends. Hyde said he intended to speak with him.

Hyde also can make it much easier on himself by sitting down with or standing next to his bench coach, Fredi González, who managed the Braves from 2011 until his firing in 2016. His club played in the 2012 wild card game and won its division the following year. He's been there.

A total of five games past the regular season, with the only win against the Dodgers in the Division Series.

“We have spoken a little bit,” González said. “Just the other day he asked me how many games I have managed in the postseason. Not as many as Joe Maddon and those guys. But the experience I gained from those five games, it’s fast, and you don’t necessarily need to give a long leash to a starter because you have the off-days built in. And I think that you have to be prepared to make moves and maybe be unconventional at times. But the biggest thing for me is it’s fast and everything’s under the microscope, and if something doesn’t work out, then you get dissected until the next game – good, bad or indifferent.”

Or the following season if your team is eliminated. Maybe even longer. We've seen the examples.

“You can try to overanalyze everything, whether which starter fits best, what’s the weather going to be on Saturday. If it gets rained out, do we play Monday and who’s going to start? And you can spend a lot of time and a lot of energy trying to go over those things and try to cover those things, and sometimes that’s a little bit too much,” González said.

“For example, and I’m going to date myself. You get a scouting report, ‘Rickey Henderson will run.’ Well, no (kidding). We spend 20 minutes on Rickey Henderson. Things like that. But at the end, it’s baseball, but it’s baseball on turbo charge.”

González sees changes in Hyde because the Orioles have changed.

Hyde has more to work with, the talent and versatility bringing out the best in him.

“He’s got a little Joe Maddon in him,” González said. “He’s not afraid to go against the norm, you know? But I think that us together, we’ve kind of pushed each other to sometimes push the envelope, where sometimes it calls for a bunt and we may hit and run, especially late in the game. But I think he does such a great job anticipating and reading the game, and he really does a great job handling the bullpen. That’s the No. 1 thing I see that he’s done. And obviously, the better bullpen pieces you have, the better bullpen manager you are. I’ve seen him excel.

“He’s never under-prepared. He’s really prepared. And he’s never asked me an easy question. Every time he asks me a question, it’s a tough one, but I think he’s going to be fine. I was told once by a manager who’s a Hall of Famer, you don’t get judged in the postseason by one game or two games, you get judged over the course of 162 games, where people can watch you work. And I think he’s passed that. He’s passed that test.”

* The Rangers bring a potent offense that leads the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, walks and runs, and is tied with the Twins for most home runs. But the bullpen lags behind the Orioles.

Texas relievers posted a 4.77 ERA that ranked 24th in the majors, compared to the Orioles’ 3.55 that was fifth.

“The Orioles’ bullpen is much better,” said a National League scout who’s doing advance work on both teams, “even without The Mountain.”

Félix Bautista’s absence could be felt, of course. He was one of the game’s dominant closers, worthy of Cy Young consideration. But the Orioles collective group gives them an edge in the series.

As one person in the Orioles organization noted, opposing teams no longer can plan ahead for the ninth inning. They can't necessarily save a left-handed hitter to match up against a right-hander because Hyde is liable to use Cionel Pérez, Danny Coulombe or DL Hall in a save situation.

The glass-half-full mindset is that the Orioles are less predictable.

* The same scout really likes the top of the team’s playoff rotation, though Hyde hasn’t confirmed Kyle Bradish in Game 1 and Grayson Rodriguez in Game 2.

“Two guys throwing for the Orioles have No. 1 stuff,” the scout said.

His rotation guess puts John Means in Game 3 at Globe Life Field and Kyle Gibson in Game 4, with Dean Kremer moving to the bullpen. Bradish would start Game 5 at Camden Yards if necessary.

The thinking with Gibson is that he’s a veteran hand with experience pitching in Texas, he won 15 games this season and registered 17 quality starts, and he led the club with 192 innings. He also had a 2.45 ERA in five starts last month. But his 4.73 ERA for the season is the highest among the starters and his 198 hits allowed led the American League.

The Orioles have the depth to move a starter into the bullpen and bolster another area.

“It’s different with a three-game series, a five-game series, a seven-game series, and not being able to do a whole lot of manipulation to your roster once the roster is set,” Hyde said. “So, to be able to have starting pitchers be available out of the bullpen is a plus from a multiple innings' standpoint, as well as, starting pitchers normally have multiple pitches to go to instead of just a two-pitch reliever. We’re working out all those things with all of these guys.

“It could change in the middle of a series, also. You win a couple, you lose a couple, things might change. But I do like where our rotation and bullpen are right now.”

* One last observation from the scout: The left field dimensions at Camden Yards also can be an advantage for the Orioles.

Pushing back the wall makes it a little harder on right-handed hitters like Marcus Semien, Josh Jung and Adolis García.

For what it’s worth, none of them homered in the three-game series in May.

* Some Orioles need to heat up.

Cedric Mullins is 3-for-37 in his last 11 games with an at-bat. Ryan O’Hearn is hitless in his last 23 at-bats. Austin Hays is in a 3-for-27 slump.

The Orioles averaged fewer than three runs per game in their last eight and hit only three homers in the last 10. Three losses in the ALDS and you’re out.

Time to get hot.

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