How did we get here? I ask myself the question on a daily basis. Last night was no exception. As Stacey noted last night, that game was, on paper, sure to be a loss. The Orioles don't care. They came to play.
You know the Yankees are taking this series with the appropriate gravity because they bumped Freddy Garcia from starting today. I wouldn't have wanted to have Garcia going against Wei-Yin Chen if I were the Yankees, either. Instead, we will see David Phelps today. He's been a solid arm for the pinstriped ones, going between the bullpen and rotation as needed and managing a 2.96 ERA in 70 innings. He faced the O's in three of his relief outings, a total of five innings in which he gave up four hits, a walk, six strikeouts and no runs of any kind. He strikes out more than a batter per inning this year, but Fangraphs tells me he throws the dreaded cutter. Maybe that will work as badly for him as the Orioles think it will for their young pitchers.
And here is Chen. Is this the biggest start of his young MLB career? Probably. For all of the Orioles lifers, this is the biggest game they have ever played. The likes of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis have never played a September game that mattered in their own playoff aspirations. Matt Wieters has never played a significant game this late in the year. Some veterans have seen that action in past lives, including newly-signed Randy Wolf, whose signing press release yesterday highlighted that he has pitched in four postseason games.
Most years, veteran presence is a thing to be mocked. That's probably because the types of veteran presence players we've seen have been Kevin Millar, Vladimir Guerrero, Kevin Millwood, and others who basically stunk but occupied key roles on the team. Most years, when we talk about the Orioles being the last stop on the way to the retirement home, it meant that those sorts of guys could only get playing time and a paycheck here, and they were signed or traded for in the offseason, paid too many dollars.
This year another strange thing is happening. That mad, so-far-genius Dan Duquette did not bring in overpriced veterans. He pulled them off the scrap heap, made them show they had some game left (for the most part) in Norfolk, and if they did, and someone already on the Orioles stumbled, he called them up. It's still their last chance, but it's one they had to fight to earn, fight to keep, and if there are any miserable fun-haters out there, they still think it's impossible that this has happened. Fifteen games over .500, two games back on September 1.
I am nervous, scared and excited beyond my capacity to describe. I don't know how to handle baseball games that matter in September. Maybe you don't either. Join us in the comments for the rollercoaster ride - and don't worry, unlike that crappy Jumbotron promotion at Camden Yards, you don't have to give us your best rollercoaster moves.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||NEW YORK YANKEES|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Derek Jeter - DH|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Nick Swisher - 1B|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Robinson Cano - 2B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Andruw Jones - RF|
|Matt Wieters - C||Curtis Granderson - CF|
|Chris Davis - DH||Russell Martin - C|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Jayson Nix - 3B|
|Omar Quintanilla - 2B||Eduardo Nunez - SS|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Ichiro Suzuki - LF|