The Sisco bunting controversy and other notes off first series

While waiting for Gabe Kapler to signal for the other team’s reliever ...

I was going to devote this blog entry to an assortment of observations on the Orioles’ first series of the 2018 season and I intend to stick with the narrative, but only after chiming in on the Twins taking exception to rookie Chance Sisco’s bunt single in the ninth inning.

Let me set up my mini-rant with a few quotes from the Twins clubhouse, courtesy of their beat writers:

“Obviously we’re not a fan of it,” said second baseman Brian Dozier, who homered twice. “He’s a young kid. I could very easily have said something about it at second base, but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that and you move forward. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

“Nobody liked that,” said starter José Berríos, who had a one-hit shutout before Sisco laid down his bunt with one out in the ninth. He finished with a three-hit shutout.

“No, no, no,” Berríos continued. “That’s not a good play.

“I don’t care if he’s bunting. I just know it’s not good for baseball in that situation. That’s it.”

PEDs aren’t good for baseball. Imaginary rain delays down the road aren’t good for baseball. Crab cakes served in media dining rooms and at concession stands outside of Maryland aren’t good for baseball. Putting a runner on second base to start the 10th inning to speed up the game wouldn’t be good for baseball. A bunt in that situation? Let’s not overreact here.

Chance Sisco jogging home grey jersey 0919 sidebar.jpgYou don’t want Sisco bunting? Then don’t shift on the kid in the ninth inning with a 7-0 lead. The Orioles eventually loaded the bases with one out, so the single ignited a rally. Or should the Orioles have taken a knee and boarded their charter to Houston?

“What is the unwritten rule he seems to be referring to?” said vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson. “That if a team is winning by several runs they can continue to employ their shift taking certain hits away from the batter, but out of respect ‘for the game,’ the opponent must continue to hit the ball where they’ve positioned their defense until the score is a little closer? Is that how it works? Is he the arbiter of how the game should be played?

“Chance’s age is irrelevant and although we do have a veteran presence here, that type of advice was not needed because what he did was correct, which was to reach base any way possible.”

Byron Buxton stole second base in the fifth inning with the Twins leading 6-0. Is that OK? Someone get me the unwritten rules so I can flip through its unwritten pages and see whether the lead was still too small or if the fifth inning was still considered early in the game.

Didn’t Joe Mauer lay down a bunt last season with the Twins down four runs and spark a rally? I’d have to look it up, but it sounds familiar.

Berríos didn’t have a no-hitter intact. I guess one-hitters are held to the same standard in the book of unwritten rules. If he wants to vent at someone, it should be left fielder Eddie Rosario for whiffing on Sisco’s fly ball in the third that was scored a double and ruined what would have been a bid for a perfect game.

The media tends to fan the flames - as we saw last year after Manny Machado’s slide into the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia - and it happened again yesterday with a tweeted warning that Sisco should expect a fastball in his earhole when the teams meet again in July. Yes, the Orioles saw it. No, they aren’t happy about it. Not by a longshot.

The Twins are a good team and they play the game the right way. They have the utmost respect of manager Buck Showalter, who raves about their homegrown talent, their balanced lineup and formidable pitching, and the way Paul Molitor runs the club. He’s also a big fan of their minor league complex in Fort Myers. He’s pro-Twins and you’ll find plenty of people in the Orioles organization who agree.

Too bad that they couldn’t just take their two wins on the road to open the season, have a happy flight out of Baltimore and not waste energy over a rookie catcher bunting in a 7-0 game.

Next time, play him straight up and I bet he doesn’t bunt. If it really matters.

The lineup for tonight’s series opener in Houston might not include Chris Davis atop the order. Or it might. Showalter was non-committal, but he intended to talk about it on the flight, along with other issues after the Orioles were held to five runs and 11 hits in three games.

Davis is 0-for-12 with two walks (one intentional) as the new leadoff hitter. He’s only struck out once, if you prefer your glass to be half full.

“Not a lot of production,” Davis said. “I feel like I’m seeing the ball well. I’m being overaggressive, I think. When you’re not really swinging the bats collectively as an offense, I think that’s kind of a tendency, to go out there and be a little too aggressive. I mean, it’s three games. I understand that we’ve got a long way to go.

“I try to take the positive. I feel like I’m seeing the ball well. Just kind of getting myself out right now, but I think that’s somewhat to be expected with the limited time in spring training. I missed a few weeks with the elbow. That’s part of it, grind it out and keep going.”

Davis wanted to bat first. This wasn’t a concession. No one had to twist his arm.

“I mean I think it’s a good spot for me,” he said. “I think it’s a good spot for the entire lineup for me to be at the top. At some point, we’ll all start clicking and get rolling.

“Honestly, it’s just a spot in the lineup. I think when our offense gets going, it doesn’t matter who is hitting where. We’ve got power from top to bottom. We can drive in runs. We have to take a deep breath and stay after it.

“I think it’s just important for me to be in there every day, whether it’s in the one-hole, three-hole, four-hole, wherever it is. I know what my job is. It doesn’t really change where I am in the order. We talked about that. We talked about it before the season started, kind of the fact that (Showalter) wasn’t married to the idea that we were going to change it up a little bit and it was understood.”

Davis is under a very large microscope after his last two seasons following the $161 million deal he signed that gets thrown in his face like a pie every time he strikes out or doesn’t bunt against the shift. But he isn’t the only guy off to a slow start.

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop went 1-for-13 in the series, struck out four times and hit into a double play with the bases loaded against a five-man infield in the 10th inning on opening day. He’ll do better.

Adam Jones had one hit in 12 at-bats, but it was a walk-off homer on opening day. Tim Beckham was 1-for-11 and committed an error, but the hit was a two-run homer.

Brad Brach retired the side in order with a strikeout in the eighth inning after his blown save on opening day. He’s mentally strong. And that also applies in the ninth inning, though the knee-jerk reaction yesterday on social media was to suggest he’s only suited for eighth-inning duty.

Check his save totals in the minors. Those games count, too. And he’s had success at this level, too, while filling in for Zach Britton.

Mychal Givens has logged 2 1/3 scoreless innings over two appearances. He’s poised to have a big season that could include his transformation to closer. It’s definitely in his future.

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