Archive for October, 2012

Game 162 again crucial. Also, thanks for nothing, Boston.

October 3, 2012

With the final day of the MLB regular season upon us, there are still a multitude of potential scenarios in the American League playoff picture.

Though we know the five teams that are in the postseason, who will play who, when, and where is all still very much up in the air.

This morning, the Yankees (94-67) are one game ahead of the Orioles, who are tied with the exact same record as the Rangers and Athletics (93-68). We were robbed the chance of having all four of those teams enter the final day equal in the standings by the Boston Red Sox incompetence last night.

Boston held a 2-1 lead for most of the game in the Bronx, extended that lead to 3-1 in the top of the ninth inning, but “closer” Andrew Bailey allowed a single to Curtis Granderson and a two-run game-tying home run to 800 year-old Raul Ibanez. A home run that probably would have been a home run in all of zero other major league ballparks. The Yankees ultimately won, 4-3, in the bottom of the twelfth on a seeing-eye single by the aforementioned 1200 year-old Ibanez.

Forget steroids, I want every Yankee player tested for Fountain of Youth water. It’s ridiculous the contributions that squad gets from geriatric players year after year.

The O’s pulled off a most unlikely win in their own right down in Tampa. Facing Rays pitcher James Shields, the Birds couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, striking out 15 times against Shields, who tossed a complete game two-hitter on just 107 pitches. Luckily, one of those two hits traveled roughly 440 feet off the bat of Chris Davis (his sixth straight game with a home run, and seventh in that same stretch!) His solo home run accounted for the only scoring by either team on the night, as Miguel Gonzalez, Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day, and Jim Johnson combined for a two-hitter of their own in shutting out the Rays.

Unfortunately, O’s fans who dared to dream of going into the final day tied with the Evil Empire had our hearts crushed by the ineptitude of the Red Sox and their always-trolling-somebody manager, Bobby Valentine.

Thanks to the Sox being a doormat, the best the O’s can hope for is to win today and have Boston salvage one game in New York. In that case, there would be a one-game playoff for the American League East crown played Thursday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Should the O’s win and the Red Sux continue to play like a little league squad, the Birds would finish a game out of first place, despite a valiant effort over the season’s final two months. They would be relegated to the wild card play-in game, which would be against the loser of tonight’s Oakland/Texas contest. As long as the O’s win the finale in Tampa, the wild card game will be played in Baltimore.

If, however, the O’s lose to the Rays tonight, they would finish tied with whoever loses the AL West. Because the Birds lost the season series to both Oakland and Texas, they would be forced to travel to one of those two cities for the play in game.

We can play “pick your poison” between those two squads all we want, but no situation seems ideal, all factors considered.

The A’s are red-hot, even if they lose tonight, and facing them in Oakland would be going into a Lion’s den, while seeing them in Baltimore is only slightly more appealing.

Facing the Rangers, who would have just completed a devastating collapse to lose the division, might seem like a better option. They will be disheartened and shell-shocked, and the O’s may be able to jump on them in that one-game playoff.

However, the O’s would likely be facing Texas phenom Yu Darvish in that game. Not only is Darvish a certified ace already in his rookie year (16-9, 3.90, 221 K; 3 ER or fewer in his last 8 starts, 1 ER or fewer in 5 of last 7), but it would be the Birds’ first time facing him. We all know how the O’s can make even AAA call-up scrubs look like Cy Young the first time they see a new hurler.

On top of that, the Rangers – for whatever reason – seem to own Oriole pitching, and nightmares of 30-3 games and four HR explosions by a single player will have O’s fans shaking in our cartoon bird hats if the boys from Arlington are slated to come to town.

Throwing another wrench into things is that the Oakland/Texas game today is an afternoon contest. Thus, the Birds will know who their opponent would be on Friday before they even take the field in Tampa.

What all of this boils down to is that the best-case scenario for the O’s is still to tie with New York. They need to win tonight and have Boston win, which would result in two chances (the one-game division playoff and the one-game wild card play-in) to win a single game to advance to the ALDS.

It’s been a whirlwind year for baseball here in Charm City. Nobody is ready for it to end yet. Let’s all hope that we wake up tomorrow once again tied for the AL East lead, and will be guaranteed at least two more baseball games.

Let's Go O's! On to the playoffs!

October 1, 2012

The last time our Baltimore Orioles clinched a playoff berth I was 4 years old.

This is new territory for myself as well as the generation that was “lost” in close to a decade and a half of consecutive losing seasons. But that’s all in the past now – we are losers no more, we are playoff starved no more.

But this ride doesnt feel like its coming to an end anytime soon.

We are still hungry for more and by all rights we should be!

For many Orioles fans who have watched from game 1 to now game 160, we know just how high the ceiling for this team is, and I dont think they have hit it. This final three-game series in Tampa cant change the fact that the Orioles will be in the playoffs but it could help determine just how comfortable their postseason experience will be.

First and foremost the O’s have to keep wining if they want homefield advantage and they will need either some help from Boston -who pens a 3 game set with New York -or they could see themselves in a one game division-settling playoff before the actual playoffs even start.

But over the past few games watching this team, they are so dialed in and so focused on the task at hand that i think they are capable of more than just the division title. I’m talking about catching Texas, I’m talking about being the number one seed in the American League. Don’t mistake this for being overconfident in a team that has put together a magical season or being drunk off my teams first playoff berth that I will be able to remember.

This is as much a possibility as anything else that has happened this season and in all honesty why not the Orioles? Would it surprise you if Texas happened to go 1-2 in their final three and we pull out a sweep of a very good Tampa team? Well probably but at the same time not really. This team has been proving doubters wrong all year and now, and with three games left, they have a chance to hopefully silence their critics for one last time before heading into the playoffs.

How sweet would it be Baltimore? To be able to cheer on our team at home, which if the crowds for those games turn out to be anything like the crowds during this past series against Boston, could prove to be a significant advantage for the Birds.

Camden yards was electric this weekend, as I saw, being lucky enough to be in attendance for the final two home games of the season. Never have I seen Oriole Park so alive, never did I think I would be part of a “Lets Go Texas!” chant at an Orioles/Red Sox game – but I was and it felt awesome. This is going to be one hell of a ride and surely one that regardless of the outcome all of us proud Baltimore fans can look back on and smile.

It's O-ffical. Birds are in postseason for first time since 1997.

October 1, 2012

I woke up this morning and checked the standings just to make sure it was still real.

It is.

The Baltimore Orioles have clinched a playoff berth for the first time in 15 years.

While it’s absolutely a shame that the Texas Rangers blew a ninth inning lead in the first game of their doubleheader, and in the process denied the O’s the chance to celebrate on their home field along with the entire Camden Yards crowd who had stuck around to watch with them, the fact is that the Rangers eventually took care of business in game two, beating the Los Angeles Angels 8-7 to cut the Birds’ magic number to zero.

It would have been an incredible moment to see the team learn that they had earned a postseason berth as they stood on the field for the final time of the regular season in 2012. Alas, the fact that they are even here at all is storybook-worthy.

As Luke Jones of WNST put it so perfectly, it felt fitting that this team – so used to fighting, scratching, and clawing for every inch – had to wait just a few more hours to pop the champagne.

And who is writing this script, by the way?

Adding another ridiculous turn to the tale, the Birds’ plane actually had to make an emergency landing on the way to Tampa last night after a small fire started in the kitchen.

This led to a bevy of jokes on twitter and facebook about the team – 19-9 in the month of September – being so “hot” that they were causing spontaneous combustion all around them.

While humorous, there is nothing funny about a plane fire. We’re all glad our O’s are safe on the ground this morning to continue their improbable run.

In addition to the fire, another odd part of the story is that former Oriole, fan favorite Koji Uehara played a role last night, retiring the Angels 1-2-3 on three straight strikeouts in the eighth inning to preserve Texas’s slim one-run lead.

They are 92-67 today, tied with the New York Yankees for the AL East lead, and just one game behind Texas for the best record in the American League. The next three days will mean the difference between a division crown and a home or away wild card playoff game. The Birds take on the surging Tampa Bay Rays, who have won 10 of their last 11 games and are still mathematically alive for a spot in the postseason, while the Yankees get the hapless Red Sox at home.

The Oakland A’s are in Texas, where a sweep would give them the AL West crown, as they sit just two games back. Hopefully Texas and Oakland beating up on each other will at least keep the Birds in the top wild card spot, as they have a slim 1-game lead at the moment.

Buck’s Birds have their work cut out for them. A sweep in Tampa on the heels of their sweep against the Red Sox this weekend will, in all likelihood, result in an AL East title (of course, we need the Red Sox to win at least one game). Anything less will probably give us a one-game playoff at OPACY on Thursday night for the AL East crown as a best-case scenario.

It will continue to be stressful to watch these next three nights, but regardless of how things play out between now and Wednesday, nobody can take this away from us.

We’re in.

Congratulations, Buck, Adam, Matt, Jim, J.J., Nate, Manny, Nick, and the rest of the team. You deserve to celebrate a little while remaining focused on more lofty goals.

And congratulations, Oriole fans. We deserve this. If you see someone else wearing orange on the street today, give them a high five, or at least a knowing nod.

October baseball in Birdland in 2012 – who saw this coming?


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