I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about this. I wish that I had been there, I wish I had pictures of something, but I wasn’t and I didn’t, and none of that stops me from being happy as a little clam about last night’s Orioles clinching of the AL East.
My trip to Camden earlier this year was just sort of a bucket list thing, something I had wanted to do from the minute I saw the field on TV, shortly after realizing that I wanted to follow the Orioles as a secondary team in the AL. I had a wonderful time, took lots of pictures, and can still remember very vividly how it felt to be there. For two days, I was on top of the world, and some time I do plan to go back. I wish that time could be this October, but money will not allow for that, so I need to really enjoy this season and the Orioles as much as possible.
Yesterday was an amazing sports day for me. I had been looking online for a place to watch the game all day long, assuming maybe it would be on ESPN or MLBN. But no; ESPN I can understand; they have a lot of games and teams of all sports to cover. But MLBN?? Baseball is your job; that’s what you do. There is a possible championship game on the line, but you’re playing four hours of Baseball Tonight or whatever it’s called. Four. Hours. Local news can cover four local big time teams in less than 15 minutes; what do you possibly have to say for four hours that trumps this very important east coast game?
But I digress, out of loyalty to my number twos.
It was suggested on Twitter that I go to a larger chain restaurant or sports bar, but I don’t like to frequent places like that; not really my thing, and I don’t live in an area where I can get to them easily, so I searched for local places, and finally, as a last ditch effort after finding out other bars didn’t carry extended cable packages, found the number for The Bridge, and called. I was lucky. The Bridge is about a half mile from where I get off the bus in the afternoons, and the bartender informed me that not only did they have extended baseball packages, but that it would be on in the bar by the time I got there. And it was! On three TVs even!
I nabbed a corner seat at the bar itself, and it was already the top of the 2nd and the score was 3-1 in Baltimore’s favor. Munenori Kawasaki was busy stealing second, and was soon scored at the last minute by a single from Jose Reyes. I know the Jays have been very good this year, so I was wary of them. I am also very used to the Mariners’ style of play, and it is hard for me to prevent projecting that on other teams. I shouldn’t, but I do. Plus, Ubaldo Jimenez was on the hill, and the last time I saw him pitch was in person at Camden; and it was not very pretty. That game was a blowout for the Jays, and left me feeling great about being able to attend, but still wishing that my Birds had won. Jimenez was visited on the mound, then gave a walk to Jose Bautista, but the Orioles pitcher managed the remainder of the now 3-2 inning with no more damage.
Jimmy Paredes smacked a 91MPH 4-seamer over the left center field wall for a 4-2 score, but that wasn’t quite enough for me. I found myself at this point, sipping my cider and twitching my leg around in a lot of anticipation. At this point, Tom joined me and ordered some snacks, and played on his phone while I sat in rapt attention to the TV, occasionally snickering at one of the bar staff, who kept walking around and checking the score while swearing under his breath. Jays fan, I guess. Or Orioles-hater, one or the other.
Jimenez pitched through 5 innings, keeping things nice and scoreless (and ridiculously fast-paced!), and was replaced by TJ McFarland in the top of the 6th. McFarland was replaced by Darren O’Day, which nearly made me do a cymbal monkey clap in public. O’Day has been a favorite for quite some time now. I got to see him in person in Camden, so to see him in such an important game was exhilarating. At this point, it was getting harder for me to sit still in my seat. O’Day used sliders and sinkers with impunity, and had a 6-pitch 7th inning. SIX!
The bottom of the 7th was where everything went incredibly wrong for the Jays and incredibly right for Baltimore. With Aaron Loup on the hill for Toronto, Jimmy Paredes hit a single, Ryan Flaherty reached on a fielder’s choice, and Paredes advanced to third on a throwing error. Then Nick Markakis got hit by a pitch to the shoulder blade. With ducks on the pond and one out, Alejandro De Aza stepped up to the plate and whacked a fastball to right field, earning himself a triple and clearing the bases. Score now 7-2. I ordered another cider, and now it was even more difficult to sit in my chair (and it is getting a little crazy right now typing this). O’Day continued until he got Edwin Encarnacion to strike out swinging, and was replaced by Andrew Miller, who took down the next two Jays swinging as well. In the 8th, the Orioles managed to load the bags again against reliever Daniel Norris. Nick Hundley sacrificed himself to score JJ Hardy.
By the top of the 9th, the score was 8-2 Orioles, but in my mind, I was thinking they could still tank it. I asked the bartender if she had champagne though, because I have never celebrated a victory like this with a team that I care about, and I wanted to do it right. By this time, the full house at OPACY was on their feet. I wish I could have had this game with sound, it would have chilled me to the bone. Tommy Hunter came in to shut everything down, and with a single, some “defensive indifference” (sorry, John Mayberry, the O’s just didn’t care enough to try and stop you from getting to second). I chatted briefly with another fellow at the bar, as the Ms game was starting on a different TV in back of us, and he was asking if I was from Baltimore. I explained my position on the team, and as Ryan Goins grounded out to first base, the guy paid his check, congratulated me, and left.
I ordered a glass of champagne, enjoyed watching the Orioles spritzing each other in the locker room for a while, and then we went home to watch the Mariners game, which started out poorly but ended very, very well, at 13-2 against the Angels (I could only stay up until the 7th-ish inning, when it was 10-2).
It took me a while to get to sleep last night. I couldn’t settle down enough to really be tired until about 9.30 ,and even then my mind was just going. I regret that I haven’t been able to follow the O’s as much as I might have liked to this year, but we just can’t afford to get extended ball channels. It means a lot to me that I got to see this game. This month has been a very rough one for me. Work has been very difficult, and we had to put our kitten down last week due to a very sudden illness. I have needed something to pick up my spirits. The Orioles provided that in spades, and now for the first time since I became a fan in late 2007, I am looking at a post season that actually means something to me, rather than simply having to pick the lesser of two evils. This is fantastic. I am still reeling from it, and plan to get my Orioles AL East champions shirt at my earliest convenience. With the Mariners still in the fight, this has turned out to be a wonderful baseball year. There may be playoff games that will still turn out to be a bit conflicting for me (the Tigers, for example, are still going pretty strong), but whatever happens, this is great. My heart is still beating, there is a bit more life in the air today than there was yesterday, I love, love, loooooove baseball right now.
If the Mariners make it to any kind of championship, I will probably have to take the next day off work. Probably two. Another half month of baseball left. Bring on the insanity!