As deflating as Game One was, this O's team wasn't one to quit.
"Even if tonight's game wasn't literally a must-win, going to New York down 2-0 would have been mighty troublesome for the Orioles. They needed a good start from Wei-Yin Chen, and to actually score some runs against long-time O's nemesis Andy Pettitte."
People in Baltimore were flying pretty high, with the O's hosting their first play-off game since 1997.
"Orioles. Yankees. The two teams fought until the bitter end for the AL East title, and now square off in the AL Division Series. New York sent ace CC Sabathia to the mound, while the O's countered with Jason Hammel, who was their best pitcher this year but had barely appeared in the Majors in the last two months (though Hammel did have a slightly lower FIP this year, 3.29 vs. 3.33). Even playing in Baltimore, the match-ups probably favored the Yankees."no comments
"So here they are. The Orioles finally made the play-offs, and they had to travel to Texas to face a team that's beat up on them some this year. They used their best starters trying to win the AL East, leaving them with Joe Saunders as the only really option to take the mound. The same Joe Saunders who was 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in his career at the Rangers' ballpark. And Texas had Yu Darvish (3.90 ERA, 5.1 fWAR) going for them. The odds were certainly against the O's, as they have been all year."
Though they may be underdogs, the Baltimore Orioles are certainly capable of winning the World Series this year. Five reasons why:
"1. No. 1 -- and, you could certainly argue numbers two through five as well -- is the bullpen. The O's went 73-0 when leading after the seventh inning. As relievers, Tommy Hunter is touching 100 mph and Brian Matusz has struck out 19 batters in 13 innings. Then there's Troy Patton (2.43 ERA), Pedro Strop (2.44), Darren O'Day (2.28), and Jim Johnson (2.49, 51 saves) to finish things out. While it might not be the best bullpen ever -- or even the best bullpen in the league this year -- it may have been the most "effective" pen in history, as noted by its record-setting (record-obliterating, really) +14 Win Probability Added. Maybe 16 consecutive extra-inning wins and a 29-9 record in one-run games (the best since the 1800s) is partially a fluke, but having a quality bullpen certainly doesn't hurt in keeping that going.
2. Buck Showalter. Aside from bullpen management that's been so effective, Buck seems to just make all the right moves, putting guys in positions to succeed and making in-game decisions that seem to work even when they probably shouldn't. Sac bunt? You get the run you need. Hit and run? Batted ball goes right to where the second baseman was. Bring in Chris Davis to pitch? Two shutout innings, a pair of strikeouts (including Adrian Gonzalez!), and a win. Judging managers is tricky, but it would be mighty hard to argue that Buck isn't a net plus.
3. A surging offense. Overall, the O's were a little below average, but since the beginning of September they've actually been one of the league's better hitting teams (with an AL-best 50 home runs). It's mostly been the Davis show recently (.320/.397/.660, 10 home runs), but Matt Wieters (.296/.389/.541), Adam Jones (.295/.343/.504), and Nate McLouth (!) (.280/.355/.456) haven't been slouches either.
4. An improved defense. The glove work was often sloppy early in the year, all around the diamond, but not so much lately (largely since Manny Machado was called up). Machado is a shortstop (with the range that implies) playing third base, and adjusting both well and quickly to it. J.J. Hardy is one of the game's better shortstops. Whoever is playing second is decent (Robert Andino or Ryan Flaherty). Mark Reynolds may have found a home a first base, even if he's not a Gold Glover there (yet!). The O's fielding (via FanGraphs) for the first four months: -20 runs. Fielding since: +0.
5. Orioles magic. Even if you count the O's as underdogs in each playoff series -- and really, you probably should -- they still have a 3-5 percent chance of winning it all (those chances double if they knock off Texas, by the way)."
If you are into baseball betting, you would have known that 3-5% is still greater than odds most people gave before the season of the Orioles even making the playoffs this year. And, well, here they are.no comments
With wins by the Yankees and A's yesterday, the Orioles came into this game looking more like they'd need to go on the road for the Wild Card game. Some people were happy about Oakland's win, since it knocked the Rays out of the playoff picture - perhaps making them less motivated and allowing the O's a better chance to win (I think that was silly, and was cheering for the Rangers).
* Miguel Gonzalez's final start of the 2012 regular season was one of his best; 6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K. He'll end the year 9-4 with a 3.25 year. It's been a season that's more or less come out of nowhere, but the O's needed him to come up big in this game and he certainly did.
* Chris Davis hit a mammoth home run to center-field - 440 feet, I believe it was measured at. That tied him with Reggie Jackson for the club record with a homer in his 6th straight game. Davis was mediocre for most of the season, after a relatively hit start, but has been on fire over the last month. He's accumulated about 1.5 or so of his 2.1 fWAR on the season since the beginning of September, and has hit at close to a 200 wRC+ clip (which, you know, is pretty good).
* Pretty much nothing else on offense, as the clearly disinterested James Shields pitched one of the better games I've ever seen; 9 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 15 K. Hard to blame the O's batters too much, as Shields was just dealing.
The O's the 1-0 win in the pitchers' duel, but with the Yankees' win (Raul Ibanez irritatingly hit a cheap game-tying home run in the 9th and then a walk-off bleeder through the infield in the 12th) and the A's win, the Birds remain a game back in the AL East and tied (but, with Oakland holding the tie-breaker, effectively a game back) in the Wild Card race. So Chris Tillman goes in game 162, with the hope that he can shut down the Rays and the O's can get a little help from Boston (to force a tie-breaking game for the division title) and Oakland (leaving Texas to come to Baltimore for the Wild Card game*). Pretty crazy that all 5 AL playoff teams are decided but there's still a lot riding on the last day of the season.
* Actually, both teams hold a tie-breaker over the O's but with the A's and Rangers currently being tied, an O's win against the Rays guarantees the Wild Card game being held in Baltimore, if they have to play in it.no comments
Things are coming down to the wire, leaving Buck Showalter with some decisions to make as to how to utilize his pitching staff:
"The Orioles have clinched a play-off spot. Wow. That feels a little weird to write after the last 14 years (especially given expectations going into this season), but it's true. The team is guaranteed at least a Wild Card spot, and given the schedules of the respective teams (O's on the road versus the Rays, while the Yankees host the Red Sox at home), that's the most likely route the Birds will need to go through to reach the World Series. With Oakland finishing the year against the Rangers and the Orioles holding a one-game lead over the A's, I'd expect the Friday AL Wild Card game to be played here in Baltimore. The question is, who should start that game for the O's?"no comments