O’s skipper Buck Showalter rips Theo Epstein, Derek Jeter

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Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn’t usually one for trash talk, but, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, the veteran skipper let some fellow members of the American League East have it in the April edition of Men’s Journal.

These quotes come without the questions that prompted them, but they’re pretty revealing anyway and worth discussing on some level.

First, Showalter on Red Sox GM Theo Epstein:

“I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll. You got Carl Crawford ’cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their butt. It’s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘How the hell are they beating us?’ ”

And here’s Showalter on Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter:

“The first time we went to Yankee Stadium, I screamed at Derek Jeter from the dugout. Our guys are thinking, ‘Wow, he’s screaming at Jeter.’ Well, he’s always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets – and yes, he [ticks] me off.”

Showalter managed the Yankees from 1992-1995 and those teams had awfully high payrolls, so it’s a little odd that he’d touch that topic. As for the Jeter thing? Sounds like he was probably attempting to fire up the down-and-out Orioles at the end of last season with all that shouting. This stuff is innocent.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.