Baltimore Orioles: Charting Momentum
Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh said something in his postgame presser last night in Pittsburgh that gave me a bit of pause. He mentioned that his team never let Pittsburgh get momentum rolling on their side. In looking back at the 2014 Baltimore Orioles, we can draw a few similarities there.
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Momentum in any sport is something that does in fact make a difference. Look at how teams burn through their timeouts in basketball (especially college). For the most part, they’re used to stem the opponent’s momentum when they go on runs. (In football of course, timeouts are more of a clock management tool.) However we’ve all seen momentum shift in a game and come back to bite the team who appeared poised to win in the backside.
That’s why Harbaugh was onto something with his comment last night, one I’m sure with which Buck Showalter wholeheartedly agreed. And that was part of the unsung story of the 2014 O’s. In so many games when teams would try to claw back into things, the Birds would either shut the door with a clutch hit, run, or strikeout (with that bullpen of theirs). In baseball perhaps this is referred to more so as minimizing the damage than momentum, however the fact is that it plays a role.
We could go game-by-game for examples, however one that stands out at me is the Sunday Night game against New York in September, in which NY broke a tie in the top of the ninth with a solo homer. The Orioles minimized the damage by ensuring that was the only run that was scored – and as history tells us, the Birds won in walk off fashion in the last of the ninth. While a little bit of momentum rolled on NY’s side at that moment, the Birds kept themselves within striking distance.
And we could even point to the final game of the ALDS in Detroit. The O’s led 2-0 only to have Detroit cut that lead to 2-1. However Zach Britton and the ‘pen came through in the clutch, shutting them down and not allowing momentum to totally swing to their side.
That’s all part of what good teams do, and as we know the 2014 Orioles were a good team. Now on the flipside, the O’s were defeated in the ALCS by a team in Kansas City that was dead set on not allowing the O’s to get momentum in the first place. Then again, Kansas City themselves never really had it either – broken bat and bloop singles scoring runs by piecemeal is hardly going to swing momentum over to one’s side. But somehow it worked, and it sent the O’s home early.
And as we saw last night, John Harbaugh’s Ravens are pretty good at that also. Pittsburgh scored a TD after a Ravens’ fumble, and the Ravens came right back and shut the door. Needless to say, Baltimore teams were good at that in 2014.