Baltimore Orioles head to the ALCS with hearts of champions


You can go back through the archives of Birds Watcher and see for yourself; I’ve used the term good pitching usually shuts down good hitting all season. The Baltimore Orioles have gone through various great pitchers, and even a few average ones, who have had great stuff this year. So when it became evident that they’d have to go through three different Cy Young Award winners to beat Detroit in order to get to the ALCS, it sto.od to reason that might offer a few problems. But then they got through the first two; they certainly couldn’t do it again…could they?

Buck Showalter began his day of mastery by announcing that Bud Norris would be getting the start instead of Miguel Gonzalez (okay, actually he announced that on Saturday). Obviously we’ll never know how the game would have turned out had Gonzalez started the game, however we do know what Bud Norris was able to accomplish. Norris’ line: 6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Norris was a bulldog, and it was evident in his demeanor early on that he was in the zone.

The Birds might have caught an early break in the last of the second when Andrew Romine sent a slow singing bunt to Jonathan Schoop at second with two out and a runner on third. Romine was called out on a bang-bang play, and Detroit manager Brad Ausmus challenged the play. The replay was inconclusive at best, and while the TBS broadcast crew seemed to think that Detroit got hosed on the call, the umpiring crew upheld the call. They say that a tie is supposed to go to the runner, however in this case the call on the field was out. The umpires would have needed to see indisputable evidence that he was safe. So in the end upholding the call on the field was the right call.

Courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Norris and David Price matched each other almost pitch-for-pitch throughout most of the game, and in doing so provided a pitching duel between two teams that had scored quite a few combined runs in the first two games. However as is normally the case in games as such, all it took was one swing of the bat. Following an Adam Jones walk in the top of the sixth, Nelson Cruz sent a shot straight down the line in right field. The ball barely snuck over the wall and around the foul pole, and the Orioles led 2-0.

Norris was removed with one on and one out in the seventh, and Buck Showalter went to Andrew Miller, who ended the inning. Miller would also send Detroit down 1-2-3 in the eighth, and the Orioles went to closer Zach Britton in the ninth. He allowed Victor Martinez to reach on a double, and a moment later he would score on an RBI-double by J.D. Martinez. So we already knew that Detroit wouldn’t go quietly into the night with their season on the line, but following a pop out for the first out Buck Showalter rolled the dice.

Showalter made a visit to the mound, meeting with the entire infield. Showalter decided that the Orioles were going to intentionally walk Nick Castellanos, putting the winning run on base. My personal opinion is that doing something like that is a huge risk, especially in the post season. But neither baseball, nor life, is made for the faint of heart. Knowing Showalter, had the move backfired he would have been the first to take accountability for it.

But the move didn’t backfire, and Britton induced pinch-hitter Hernan Perez to ground into a game and season-ending double-play, and the Orioles were on their way to the ALCS. In no way do I want to come off as saying that I I felt at the time that it was wrong of Buck to put the winning run on base. Quite the contrary in fact; I’m just saying that regardless of matchups or anything else, I wouldn’t have had the guts to do it. And that my friends, shows the heart of a champion.

There are a couple of things in play here now; first and foremost, the Orioles will now return to the ALCS for the first time since 1997. When they bowed out that year at the hands of Cleveland, I think a lot of fans felt that they were set up for success for some time. Obviously that wasn’t the case; but they’re back now! This was also Buck Showalter’s first series victory in the post season as a manager,

Courtesy of Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

which has to be sweet redemption for a guy who’s put in his dues and never really been rewarded for it – until now.

The Orioles will now return home to Baltimore to get set for Friday’s ALCS game one, which will be Friday night at Camden Yards, against the upstart Kansas City Royals. They’re obviously a team just as hungry as the Orioles are – but one opponent at a time! The Orioles played like champions in this ALDS – and the champions that they already are, at that. One of the things that separates the men from the boys at this level of baseball is the measurement of heart. And the Orioles have certainly gotten that over time. And the cost of obtaining that heart one merely ONE BUCK.