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