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Orioles loss in wild card game still a tragedy of possibility

It’s been a week, and yes, the Orioles still lost the wild card game. A lot could have gone differently for them to win, but it didn’t.

MLB: AL Wild Card-Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles wild card game nearly a week ago is still at the forefront of my mind and I am sure lots of others Orioles fans. To have an entire roller coaster season come down to one game is exciting and agonizing.

The 162 game baseball season largely comes down to which team has the best players. Luck is most assuredly involved, but the teams with the most talented players will rise to the top. This is largely decided by the quality of the team’s organization and it’s ability to accurately assess and effectively acquire talent. This is an elaborate and time consuming process that only the long slog of a baseball season can sort out.

However, one game is decided by only a few things. First and foremost, a team has to be fortunate. It is a hard to cope with and hard to explain fact of baseball that luck plays a hugely important role in a single game. The fifth inning double hit by Kevin Pillar on a pitch at his eyes which was mere inches away from finding Michael Bourn’s glove. A single on the next pitch tied the game.

Nobody knows exactly what would have happened if the ball had been caught, but it would have been much harder for the Blue Jays to tie the game with two down and a runner on second.

Second, the team that plays better wins. This is simplistic way to put it. A worse team wins games all the time in baseball. All that has to happen is that that collection of players plays better than the other collection of players. In a one game sample size, anything can happen. This past Tuesday, the Orioles played horribly.

Their pitching was fine, until the end. Their defense kept them in the game. However, the offense, as had been the problem for the team since July, the offense disappeared. Save for one majestic Mark Trumbo blast that happened with a runner on the base the Orioles scored no other runs.

It’s hard to win a game with only two runs scored. It’s even harder when the opposing pitching staff is put under little to no duress. The Orioles offense managed five (FIVE!) in an 11 inning game. The last base runner for the Orioles was a Chris Davis walk in the seventh inning.

The last hit was a Manny Machado infield single in the sixth inning. They went just under HALF of the game without a hit. It’s almost impossible to win a game when your players play that poorly.

Third, and probably least important, is the role of the manager. For a single game, the manager has two jobs. One, to get his players ready to play that day. Buck Showalter has been manager of a team that has the most wins in the American league over the past five years, has five consecutive non-losing seasons, and three playoff appearances. By all accounts, he can get his players ready to play.

The second role of a manager in a single game is put his players in the best position for them to preform and for the team to win that day. Buck Showalter failed to do that this past Tuesday in Toronto. I’ll get to the most egregious example later. However, there are other examples from the game.

In a one game playoff the Orioles had an exceptionally deep bench which Showalter utilized once. He let Bourn face a left handed pitcher in top of the 10th inning. Then, in the 11th inning he pinch hit for Hyun Soo Kim and put in Nolan Reimold to face a left handed pitcher. Reimold has been a dreadful hitter all year and has in his career fared worse against left handed pitching than right handed pitching. He did not put his players in the best position to succeed.

Lastly, the managerial non-move that everyone is talking about, Showalter refused to bring in Zach Britton because it was a tie game on the road. Britton earned a lot of talk for Cy Young award consideration. Britton finished the year perfect in save opportunities. He also posted a 0.54 ERA in 2016.

Britton is easily the Orioles best pitcher and they lost with him never throwing a pitch. Showalter had multiple opportunities to utilize Britton and got away with not doing it until he didn’t. This is quite simply a failure of a manager’s job. Showalter did not put his players in the best position to win.

This is not something that usually comes from a manager as adept as Showalter. He has often times used Britton for multiple innings and has even brought him into tied games on the road before. But, this past Tuesday, Showalter failed. As did his players. The perils of depending on one game for success.