The Orioles left Baltimore on Thursday after sweeping the Royals to raise their record back to .500 for the first time since April 16. They then proceeded to get swept in Oakland and dropped the opener to Seattle today to dip back down to 4 under par. I had a feeling that Oakland would be trouble. Over the last decade or so, no matter where they’ve been in the overall standings, they’ve always seemed to have the Orioles’ number. I checked and confirmed it- the last time the O’s won the season series against the A’s was in 1997. Baseball can be funny like that.
Anyway, today’s contest was another close one, although it probably shouldn’t have been given Doug Fister’s excellent start and Jake Arrieta’s awful one, capped by walking in 2 runs with the bases loaded. But, by the 8th inning, the deficit was a mere 1 run after the Orioles managed to chase Fister and get a rally going. Unfortunately, that rally ended with the tying run left 90 feet away after Luke Scott grounded out to end the inning.
I typically hate Monday morning quarterbacks, but I’m going to be one here today. With 2 outs and men on 1st and 3rd, Seattle brought in left-hander Aaron Laffey to face Luke Scott, a seemingly good move when one considers that Scott’s average against left-handed pitching this year is an uncharacteristic and dreadful .077 (although he is batting .333 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position). I had this game on the radio, and Fred Manfra and Joe Angel asked the rhetorical question immediately after I thought it myself- why not pinch hit Jake Fox?
The reason I had this thought was because this is not the first time we’ve seen this situation. If you think back to that 15 inning debacle against the Yankees a couple weeks ago, the Orioles had a chance to win it in the 12th inning when Scott came up with the bases loaded to hit against Yankee left-hander Boone Logan. He didn’t get the hit then either, and Fox also could have been the pinch hitter in that instance. Fox isn’t exactly killing left-handed pitching himself, with an average of just .107 against southpaws in pretty limited at bats. But he is 2 for 4 lifetime off Laffey with a homerun, and he bats right-handed.
It’s a really tough call. I absolutely get why Buck would be reluctant to pinch hit for one of his best hitters. I also see how your chances might be better with a right-handed batter who has a slightly higher average against lefties and a history of hitting this particular pitcher well.
I put it to you, the reader- had you been Buck Showalter today, would you have let Luke Scott hit or go to your bench for Jake Fox? Comments with your thoughts would be much appreciated.