KANSAS CITY - It wasn’t long ago that Orioles manager Buck Showalter fielded questions about his club growing stale after clinching its division so quickly, about how it could lose its edge and bring no momentum into the playoffs.
Move ahead to yesterday, when Showalter was asked whether the Orioles might benefit from the rain that washed away Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. Maybe they needed a little more time to recover from the two losses at home. Maybe the Royals would cool off.
Showalter wasn’t worried about the layoff and he wasn’t celebrating the postponement. The Orioles need to win four of the five remaining games, and Showalter doesn’t doubt that they can do it. Whenever they’re allowed back on the field.
“I’ve got 96 reasons to be confident in our guys,” Showalter said, referencing the win total during the regular season.
“You’ve got four teams meeting this time of the year and you can create a lot of positive feelings about it because you’ve been through so many battles with them. You’ve seen them respond so many times.
“I’m very careful about saying something that makes my players’ job harder than it is. That’s what I try to keep in mind. You think about the words and how they reflect your team, your organization, your city. It’s tough sometimes but I think that’s the bottom line. The game’s hard enough as it is.”
Did the postponement benefit the bullpen arms?
“Maybe theirs more than ours,” Showalter replied. “We had seven to 10 days to really back off our guys and pitch them every two or three days. Really, our guys were pretty fresh coming in. You reach that fine point where they’ve got too much time, too. I was hoping to get everybody out there the first game or two because we were looking at some guys six, seven days.
“Our guys were ready to post up every night if needed, especially with the off-days. That’s another reason why postseason play is so different. You don’t get many ‘nos.’ You actually have to take it away from them and tell them they’re not pitching. I did that with (Kevin) Gausman in Game 2, because he gave me that look, but it’s pretty much all hands on deck. Starters, too.”
Showalter is leaning heavily on rookies Gausman, Jonathan Schoop and Caleb Joseph. It benefits the team now and it most certainly should benefit the trio down the road.
“I think anytime you participate and then perform in that arena, so to speak, you’re going to be able to reach back for that,” Showalter said. “There’s a confidence they gain and the confidence you have in them, if that makes any sense. Players should take great confidence in the confidence you have in them. There’s so many ups and downs during the season, and even in series. You have so many times you need to reach back for some of that. But if it’s a bad experience, what does that do? There’s two ways to look at it.
“I love how people say this guy’s good or not good in the postseason, and it’s true statistically. But it’s a cold business where great things guys have done for 162 games kind of ... I wouldn’t say got forgotten by you all, but there’s that focus on, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ And they understand when this all started after the season ended that we entered that ‘What have you done for me lately?’ world, and they’ve embraced it and I applaud them for it.”
“They’re getting the opportunity,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette, “and these guys are ready to play when they get the opportunity. They know that’s what the Orioles are about, and to their credit, they were ready when they got the chance.”
Gausman was asked yesterday whether receiving additional rest with yesterday’s postponement could be helpful to a team that’s down 0-2 in games.
“I would say maybe if we wouldn’t have had the off-day (Sunday), but with the off-day, I just kind of feel like it’s another off day,” Gausman said. “I don’t think it plays that big of a role.”
Left-hander Andrew Miller should be eager to get back on the mound. He’s on a serious role, having allowed only one hit in 6 1/3 scoreless innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts. He also should be eager to hit the free agent market because he’s going to get paid handsomely.
“I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well lately, but as a whole I’ve improved every time out as a reliever,” said Miller, 29, a former starter who was the sixth overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player draft out of North Carolina.
“I feel like I’ve started to get better and better at this role, which was new to me only a couple years ago. I feel like I’m improving and getting better. Certainly no complaints on how I’m throwing the ball right now.”
Another left-hander, Brian Matusz, is eager to get back on the mound for a different reason. Left off the American League Division Series roster, Matusz served up a home run to Mike Moustakas in the 10th inning of Game 1. In his previous playoff experience, he allowed a walk-off home run to the Yankees’ Raul Ibanez in Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS.
Matusz wants another shot at the Royals.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “Shoot, it was 14 days since I had pitched. Obviously, I’d like to take one of those 14 pitches back, but you can’t change it now. You can only learn and make adjustments. Hopefully, I’ll play a role to help this team win.”