Jim Rogash - Getty Images
One year to the day after the 2011 Orioles dealt the Red Sox a game 162 knockout blow, this year's incarnations of the teams will take the field for another high-stakes game.
This is the anniversary of the final defeat. The field-storming, the double dogpiles, Adam Jones giving a mid-air chest bump to Robert Andino that knocked him flying, Chris Davis going fully horizontal as he dove into the pile around shortstop, Alfredo Simon aggressively high-fiving everyone in sight. They did it. They did it. They did it. The Orioles beat the Red Sox, two runs, bottom of the ninth inning.
You can go back through those videos now and you might imagine the departed Orioles players disappearing from it one by one, as a narrator solemnly intones, like that scene from Band of Brothers where they are resting in the church while the choir is singing. Gone and mostly forgotten are the likes of Matt Angle and Kyle Hudson. Fun as that game 162 was, it was all the tiniest of appetizers compared to the awesome things that we have seen this season - perhaps all of it as unexpected as that game 162 walkoff, but all of it more delightful because it has been, against all expectations, sustained.
Nothing has been won yet. While the Orioles control their own destiny as far as making it into the playoffs and getting at least the wild card home game, they need to do something with that control. The magic number is 4, and unless the Rays and Angels both lose tonight, it won't go down from another team's losing. The Orioles have to win to improve their chances. And all that stands in their way is a team that, perhaps, would like to do the same to the O's as the O's did to them last September.
Even one win by Boston could throw a monkey wrench into the Orioles dream machine. Surely that's not so hard, even for a team that by all accounts appears to have quit on its manager, and with that manager also appearing to have quit on his team. So just go ahead and win, O's. That would be great.
Tonight, they will face the ultimate contact pitcher, Aaron Cook, that being the same guy who got spiked in the knee in Fenway earlier in the year. His last start was against the Orioles, 5 earned runs in 5.1 IP, and let's hope they can hit him for that and more again tonight.
Cook will be opposed by Chris Tillman. I'm afraid if I suddenly start to believe in Tillman, he'll revert to the suck that I'm used to. I've had that fear about the Orioles team the whole year, and as they get closer to the end, rather than having their track record lessen that fear, it heightens the fear, because if they fell out now it would be all the more painful. Was last year's game 162 merely the beginning stages of a cosmic joke, whose punchline will be told this weekend? Still, at this late hour, I wonder.
A win in tonight's game lowers that magic number, but more importantly it puts us in dan o'hare-ville.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||BOSTON RED SOX|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Scott Podsednik - CF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Pedro Ciriaco - 3B|
|Chris Davis - RF||Dustin Pedroia - 2B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Cody Ross - RF|
|Jim Thome - DH||James Loney - 1B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Jarrod Saltalamacchia - DH|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Ryan Lavarnway - C|
|Ryan Flaherty - 2B||Daniel Nava - LF|
|Taylor Teagarden - C||Jose Iglesias - SS|