There are days where you can't help but remember that beauty is fleeting. All good things must come to an end. Even as you watch something great, in the back of your mind is the omnipresent knowledge that this is finite. The shooting star burns bright before it disappears. The flower wilts in the end. When you see these things, you know that you will never see their like again. Something else great, perhaps, if you're lucky, but never the thing in front of you right at that moment.
Baseball is no different. There are only so many games to be played. For a long time, the idea of something ending in baseball is so far away you don't even think about it, but every game is closer to an end. It sneaks up on you, then suddenly it's almost all over. Should we be sad about it? It is a sad thing. It's also an occasion to remember all of the good things that we've seen over many games.
That end approaches for the 2014 Orioles, the greatest team of my adult life. Even if they go on to win the World Series, in six weeks at most there will never be another 2014 O's game. Many players will remain on the Orioles for longer. This specific team will soon exist only in memory, referred to only in the past tense. Their time dwindles, which is sad. They've been awesome, though, and that's not sad at all.
As they coast along towards the uncertainty of the postseason, there are but a few regular season games remaining. Win or lose, A-list players or not, they've all played a part in this amazing season. Wednesday afternoon, with the game meaning nothing to the Orioles and everything to the Yankees, the O's went ahead and won another game, beating the Yankees, 9-5. The stake is in the heart. The nail is in the coffin. The Yankees are officially eliminated from the postseason.
For the O's, it was another one of those games where they seemed not to show up for the first three innings of the game. They went down in order in the first two innings, then managed to load the bases with two outs in the third inning before Adam Jones grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
They trailed after three by a score of 3-0, with the Yankees touching up Bud Norris for a run in each of the first three innings. A first inning RBI double by Mark Teixeira that found the weak spot in the shift got the Yankees on the board. Stephen Drew added a solo home run in the second inning - yes, really. That was the seventh of the season for Drew. Chase Headley drove one out in the third inning.
That sounds like a struggle for Norris, although he struck out the side in both the second and third innings despite allowing the homers. He didn't look like he would be long for the game, but he ended up going six innings, allowing three runs on five hits and a walk. Norris also struck out nine Yankees batters. A bare minimum quality start, but a quality start nonetheless.
For Norris, that gives him a 5.57 ERA in eight starts in day games this year, compared to a 2.99 ERA in night games. Eight starts isn't a huge sample size, but it's enough to make you wonder if the rotation should be juggled to keep him from starting in the day in the early rounds of the playoffs.
One big inning made the difference for the O's. After getting no traction against Yankees starter Shane Greene over the first three innings, they sent 11 men to the plate in the fourth, scoring six runs on seven hits. Nelson Cruz had two singles in the inning, with Ryan Flaherty, Nick Markakis, David Lough, and Jones all driving in runs.
Jones was hitless in the series (0-12) before he dropped a beautiful bunt down the third base line to score Lough, who had just tripled. The Yankees infield was playing back because there were two outs and of course you play back for Jones. He took what the defense gave him. That's the kind of thing you like to see from Jones. It doesn't have to be all homers to be valuable, Adam.
Speaking of home runs, the Orioles didn't hit any on Wednesday, only the 17th of their 95 wins where they did not homer in the contest. They mostly win with homers, but they can surprise you sometimes.
The O's added another three runs in the eighth inning, still without homering. They loaded the bases with one out, a pair of singles followed by a sacrifice bunt from the ice cold Caleb Joseph, which prompted the Yankees to intentionally walk Markakis to load the bases. Set up the force at any base, I guess. It was a nice theory, but it didn't work out for New York. Lough drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Jones and Cruz added RBI singles to put the Orioles up 9-3.
Insurance runs proved important as the O's engaged in bullpen tomfoolery in the eighth inning. It took four pitchers to get three outs. Brad Brach surrendered a foul pole homer to Teixeira after Headley reached with a single, bringing the Yankees deficit down to 9-5. Two more men reached, putting the tying run on deck, before Darren O'Day closed the door on the inning by getting Chris Young to ground out. He ran the count full before getting it done. Nothing comes easy.
Well, except for the ninth inning, when O'Day sent the Yankees down in order to bury them for the season. Because the tying run was on deck when O'Day came into the game, he got a save, his fourth of the season. Norris improved to 15-8, while Greene fell to 5-4.
In all, the O's had 15 hits. Cruz had a four-hit game, with Flaherty, Jones, and Kelly Johnson also having multi-hit games for the team. They went 5-10 with runners in scoring position as a team. Good way to win a game.
With the win, the O's are 16-7 in September and 13-5 against the Yankees on the season. They'll be back for one more game in the Bronx on Thursday night, with a scheduled 7:05 start time, although rain is in the forecast and it could be delayed late into the night if necessary. Kevin Gausman and Hiroki Kuroda are the probable starters.
Only four games left in the regular season, plus whatever they play in the playoffs. Enjoy them while they last. Soon, this year will be only a memory. Hopefully it's a championship memory.