As the Orioles enter this first playoff game in 15 years, I’m going to do something I’ve not done before, and blog my thoughts and feelings throughout the game. Anyone reading this will of course see it after the game is over and the result is known. (My goal is to post it within five minutes of the end of the game.) So here goes …
So, here I sit anticipating the game. I’ll confess to a strong sense of trepidation. The Orioles really should not likely win this game, though that has been the story all year. They weren’t supposed to even have a winning season, and nobody really expected them to make any level of the playoffs.
But the fact is that they can win this game. They’ve won 93 of them this season – many when just about everything was against them. Much has been written about Joe Saunder’s lack of historic success against the Rangers, and though he has helped the Orioles, I do wonder if he is in a bit over his head tonight. He will need to be excellent. I remember during the seasonal games with the Rangers being amazed at their talent.
Inning 1 – Well this is cool! Error, stolen base, single up the middle by J.J. Hardy, and the Orioles have a one-run lead. This playoff stuff isn’t hard! The network telecasting the game just put up an interesting stat – that Yu Darvish is 10-3 with a 3.13 ERA when facing a team for the first time, and that is the situation tonight. OK… if the Rangers don’t score, they can’t win! Crap! The Rangers get a run as Josh Hamilton hits into a double play … but if Saunders can now settle in, it was a decent transaction.
Inning 3 – Both pitchers have settled in a good bit, though Saunders sure is pitching high in the zone – not sure when I’ve seen so many high-outside pitches (and worry one of them is going to fly too far). But overall, this game feels so weird – between the odd one-game elimination atmosphere and the strange announcers. It is more uncomfortable to watch than exciting. This reminds me that I’ve not blogged about my actual dislike for the format of a winner-take-all game. I understand the benefit of adding greater interest throughout the season, but I don’t think short playoff series, let alone one game, prove much in the sport of baseball. But, it is what it is; the Orioles are right now in a game they need to win.
Inning 5 – The Rangers hit into their 3rd double play of the game. Thanks guys! The Orioles were #2 in the AL for ground into such (152), the Rangers were #9.
Inning 6 – The Orioles string together a pair of singles by Hardy and Chris Davis to score a tie-breaking run on an Adam Jones sac fly. Yu Darvish is going through a series of stretching antics, complete with the translator on the field, as he seems to have some sort of neck and back injury. Though there is every due caution granted in this sort of situation, all the time required makes me wonder if Buck is getting annoyed that his own pitcher is sitting in the dugout tightening up as well. Bottom of the inning >> Saunders leaves after 5.2 good innings … Buck was right again! As Darren O’Day comes in to get the final out, I’m wondering what the Texas fans are thinking – with former Rangers Davis and O’Day hurting them in this frame.
Inning 7 – The Orioles have picked up another run on a Ryan Flaherty opposite field single, a bunt to advance him to second, Robert Andino aggressively taking 3rd on a wild pitch, with a clutch two-out single by Nate McLouth. With two stolen bases early in the game, the Birds look like a running team tonight! (The Orioles were dead last in the AL this year with only 58 thefts.) Darren O’Day’s shut down bottom of the 7th had him looking as good as at any point all season!
Inning 8 – Koji Uehara comes in to pitch for Texas. I loved Koji when he pitched for the Orioles. I hated to see him go, but the return on the trade was great for the Birds. 1-2-3 go the Orioles! That’s why I liked him; I’m pleased to see him have success. Bottom>> It would have been great to see Pedro Strop return to Texas to shut down the Rangers in the 8th inning – and that would have likely happened earlier in the season. But Showalter stays with O’Day, with Brian Matusz saved for Hamilton. Ian Kinsler creates problems with a broken bat infield hit, getting moved to 2nd on a wild pick-off throw. With Matusz coming in to face Hamilton, I’m going to take a moment to pray for the boy! <Pause> Wow – 3 pitches, 3 strikes, 3 outs! I need to pray more for the Orioles!
Inning 9 – Come on guys… get another tack-on run off Joe Nathan! The announcers use a line out of the movie Dumb and Dumber … and I now decide I like them after all! The Curse of the Andino extends to Texas, as Robert doubles to put runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out. Manny Machado goes DOWN low to line the ball through the gap and give ME MY desired tack-on run! And another on another sac fly! This is sweet! Bottom>> JJ time! And that’s all I got to say about that – a little too much chaos, but, it’s over! 5-1
The End!!! A win over the defending AL Champs! No matter how you shake it, that is impressive.
The tack-on runs in the 7th and 9th innings really worked to take it out of the Rangers. There was a sense that appeared to settle over them that they were in trouble. I wish the Orioles were more often better with tack-on runs, and if they were, it would be a little less nerve-wracking than having to watch them go 29-9 in one-run games.
On to the Yankees! I really don’t think the Yankees really want to see the Orioles – no matter what they say.
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