They call them the unwritten rules of baseball, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter obviously thinks even unwritten rules are made to be broken.
He ordered an intentional walk to slumping Bryce Harper in the eighth inning Thursday night, even though the Washington Nationals left fielder represented the potential go-ahead run in a one-run ballgame. That's a classic no-no if you believe in old-school managerial strategy, but Showalter turned baseball convention on its ear, and did it with an opposing hitter who came to the plate with just one hit in his past 20 at-bats.
"There's a lot variables that go into it,'' Showalter said after the Orioles' 4-3 win. "Guys like him, and a lot of guys, we know what they can do, and it's just a matter of time, so you create the best matchup you can. That stuff about the tying run, winning run, playing the lines — all that stuff — I don't pay that much attention to it. Are you trying to win the game or keep from losing?"
Showalter would go on to explain that the conditions at the time dictated — to him, at least — that the Orioles needed to go for the win rather than make sure the Nationals could do no worse than tie the game in that inning.
"I know what the weather says,'' he said. "I know what our bullpen is after Zach [Britton]. There are about three variables there just about whether you take Steve Pearce out and put David Lough in. You've got a sinkerball pitcher, but I think our chances to win diminish in extra innings because of the way things go, so you kind of go for certain things at certain times. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't."