Exactly one year ago today the Baltimore Orioles had an opportunity to prevent their division rivals, the Boston Red Sox, from going to the post season. I’ll spare everyone the play-by-play of that night’s events for the most part, however I think that needless to say “game 162” (as it’s often called) will always hold a special place in the hearts of Birdland. It wasn’t just that one game or that one moment; that culminated years of abuse (from the perspective of Orioles fans) at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. Whether it was their fans coming and “taking over” Camden Yards with their “let’s go Red Sox” cheers, their players posing at home plate after home runs, or anything else, the Orioles owed this team a knuckle sandwhich. There was no better way to pay that out than by the Birds reaching into the depths of their rich history and taking a page out of Orioles Magic to knock the BoSox out of the playoffs.
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On the one-year anniversary of that historic moment, the Orioles find Boston coming to town again. However this time around the roles are reversed…or are they? The game last year was the culmination of a historic collapse of a team that was supposed to win the World Series. While Boston can certainly make their presence felt in the playoff race this weekend (and next week in New York), I’m not sure they can do to the Orioles what the Orioles did to them in such a pin-point manner last year. However the fact remains that Boston’s a team playing out a string of games, and the Orioles are fighting for a playoff spot. There’s also a difference in the contexts of the two situations; Boston missing the playoffs last season was a huge disappointment. If next Thursday rolls around and the Orioles find themselves on the outside looking in, that shouldn’t take away from the resounding success of the 2012 season. The ends I suppose would in theory be the same, however the means would be starkly different.
With the Orioles’ magic number standing at four (with six games remaining for all teams), it turns into very simple math. Two Orioles’ victories and two L.A. Angels’ losses (vs. Texas) this weekend puts the Orioles in the playoffs. You can play with the numbers anyway you want to…an Orioles’ sweep and one Angels’ loss, etc. Ultimately the goal is to clinch a post season appearance, or at worst not allow Tampa to gain any ground this weekend. If the Orioles haven’t clinched and Tampa enters next week’s series at Tropicana field being two games or less behind the Orioles, we might have a dog fight on our hands.
However one thing at a time, which is what Buck Showalter’s preached to this group all season long. You worry about today’s game today, and then move onto tomorrow’s tomorrow. Given the circumstances, it’s probably tough to do that for any team right now. That pressure certainly dwarfed the Boston Red Sox exactly one year ago tonight. Going into that final game there were even rumors swirling of the BoSox making an 11th hour trade to aquire a veteran starting pitcher to pitch in a would-be extra regular season game if Boston had to battle Tampa once more for the right to go to the playoffs. However this Orioles team has played with pressure all season long; while this kind of pressure is unlike anything they’ve ever seen, the existance of the pressure itself is not new. I’ve said this before, however it’s worth repeating; the Orioles played play off baseball last September. Buck Showalter managed as a manager would in the playoffs throughout the month, and the players played as they would in playoff games. So this team has experience playing in these kinds of games already…for whatever that’s worth.
Chris Tillman heads to the mound tonight against Aaron Cook of the BoSox. Tonight is also the final fireworks night of the 2012 season at the yard. However one has to hope that the majority of the fireworks are on the field from the bats of the orange and black.