With Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez placed in the Orioles bullpen in the American League Division Series, a couple of relievers had to be removed in order to create space on an 11-man pitching staff.
Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland were the logical choices based on the Tigers’ roster, which includes only three left-handed hitters. But Matusz has been with the club all season and McFarland was quickly recalled after starting out with Triple-A Norfolk.
Also, manager Buck Showalter always prefers to have a left-handed long man to back up the right-handed starters. However, he’s bucking that trend in the postseason.
The rules tend to change in October.
Matusz registered a 1.69 ERA against left-handers this season and held them to a .223 average. He posted a 5.40 ERA against right-handers and they batted .277 - an average that he lowered this season.
Matusz had a 1.42 ERA in 23 appearances after the All-Star break, allowing three runs, walking four and striking out 26 in 19 innings. He’s been on a roll.
Now, he’s on the sidelines in the postseason unless the Orioles advance to the Championship Series.
Speculation grew that the Orioles would drop Jimmy Paredes after he struggled at third base, especially after they selected Alexi Casilla’s contract from Norfolk during the final weekend of the regular season. Didn’t happen.
Paredes could start against left-hander David Price in Game 3. Otherwise, he’s a switch-hitter and pinch-runner off the bench.
Quintin Berry would have made sense as an extra outfielder due to his 30-for-30 success rate stealing bases in the majors, including 5-for-5 in the playoffs, and his reputation as a plus-defender. Showalter chose David Lough, who doesn’t steal bases, but batted .351 (20-for-57) with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, eight RBIs and 13 runs scored in the second half.
The debate comes down to whether the Orioles need Jimenez, most likely ticketed for long relief duty if a starter gets knocked out early or mop-up duty in a blowout, or either another left-handed reliever or stolen base artist.
The Royals, as we know, would have taken Berry and used him as a pinch-runner in every game.
Meanwhile, the Orioles have played in the ALDS three times (2012, 1997 and 1996) and gone 2-1, winning the first two series (3-1 over the Mariners in ‘97 and Indians in ‘96). The Orioles lost a decisive fifth game at New York in 2012 and are 8-5 all-time in ALDS play, going 4-2 at home and 4-3 on the road.