Baltimore Orioles stand at the crossroads of destiny


I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about the final game of the 2011 season, when the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Bosox along with Tampa coming back to defeat NY within minutes of each other. That kept Boston, a longtime Oriole nemisis, out of the post season that year and prompted a wild Oriole celebration on the field at Oriole Park. Some people said that was a sign of futility in a team that had nothing else to celebrate other than keeping a team that they disliked out of the playoffs. What a difference three years can make…

Wei-Yin Chen didn’t exactly have his best stuff last night, although he pitched well enough to win – which at this point and in these circumstances is really all you’re going to want. Chen’s line: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K. After Toronto put runners at the corners in the first inning with nobody down, Juan Encarnacion‘s RBI-single gave them a 1-0 lead. However the Orioles did the same thing with runners at the corners in the last of the first, and Adam Jones‘ swinging bunt scored Nick Markakis to tie the game. Nelson Cruz would ground into a double-play with Alejandro De Aza at third, giving the Orioles a 2-1 lead.

Cruz would also add an RBI-single in the third inning to pad the lead to 3-1. Incidentally, that happened after Adam Jones very astutely took second base on a wild pitch. An inning later in the fourth Kelly Johnson would draw a leadoff walk, which was followed by a shot onto Eutaw St by Ryan Flaherty which might still be flying. The Orioles led 5-1, although that lead was cut to 5-2 in the top of the fifth on Danny Valencia‘s RBI-single.

Toronto’s Jose Reyes, who scored on the aforementioned Valencia RBI-single, felt that Caleb Joseph had illegally blocked the plate, even though he scored anyways. Thus in the last of the sixth when Joseph came up, Toronto starter Marcus Stroman threw behind Joseph, prompting a warning to both benches. First off, the run scored on the play at the plate earlier in the game; even if Joseph did block the plate, what exactly did Toronto want the call to be? An extra run? Secondly, Toronto also has to know that the Orioles are in no position to retaliate given the fact that they’re about to clinch the AL East pennant. The last thing they can afford is to get someone hurt or suspended in a fight of some sort. Lastly, it’s unclear to me why the Orioles’ bench needed to be warned; their guy was thrown at, right? This incident will not be forgotten, but it’ll be put on the back burner – until next year.

So it’s very simple now; the Orioles’ magic number to clinch the AL East pennant is down to one. So you can look at tonight’s game against Toronto as an AL East title game in a sense. But it’s not as if it’s for all the marbles; the O’s will clinch the division with their next win or the next Toronto loss. Of all people, Ubaldo Jimenez will get the start tonight in spot duty. While Jimenez hasn’t been good down the stretch this year, he now has the opportunity to only need to be good for a few innings and to put the Birds in a position to win. He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Drew Hutchinson, with game time set for just after 7 PM.

…and bearing all of this in mind the Orioles now get set to play perhaps the biggest baseball game in the history of western civilization –

Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

for this year anyways. At the time of that dramatic comeback (which I termed the greatest closing act of all time) against Boston in 2011, my personal opinion was that it was a moment that could possibly elevate the franchise’s level of play moving forward. Little did I or anyone else know that it was simply the first in a series of steps that have brought us to this moment in time. The following year (2012) was about as special as they come, what could lie ahead in the immediate future has the potential to be earth-shattering.

That one game taught the core group of Orioles that’s still together to this day that they could compete with the likes of the Bostons and NY’s of the world. More importantly, it put the Orioles on a path. That path has had it’s share of twists and turns, highs and lows, and a few surprises. But it’s been a road worth traveling, and one that’s been necessary in order so that this once great franchise could return to it’s past glory and take up the title of CHAMPIONS once again.

And ultimately it’s a road that’s not yet fully traversed. The Orioles find themselves one win from being AL East Champions for the first time since 1997 – when I was a junior in high school! Thus they find themselves not quite at the end of the line, but at the crossroads of destiny. And while the events of September, 2011 might well have set in motion the events that led to this point, the Orioles arrive at this crossroads of destiny after a long journey of 17 years. Bearing that in mind, remember that many roads have tolls. And what might the toll be to use the long road the Orioles have traveled?…One Buck.