The 2015 Orioles are not a losing team. They made sure of it in their final game on Sunday afternoon, finishing off a sweep of the Yankees to close out their season with a 9-4 win. At 81-81, the season wasn't a winning season, but it was not a losing one, either. Orioles fans will not have to spend all offseason wondering if this was the first of another streak of 14 straight losing seasons.
Though the game was mostly meaningless for the O's, since their postseason hopes have long since been extinguished, there was still a lot at stake, so to speak. The game being played at home meant that it was the last Orioles home game for a number of the pending free agents. Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Darren O'Day, all of whom have been around for all of the recent winning years, turned in what could prove to be their final games as Orioles.
As a curtain call for those guys, the game could hardly have gone better. Davis delivered a two out double in the first inning, followed by Wieters hitting a two-run single inning off of Yankees starter Michael Pineda. Neither of these gentlemen was done showing off there, either. The Orioles have hit Pineda well this year despite that one game where they struck out 16 times against him.
Tillman's battle to get an ERA under 5
One reason the Orioles had nothing to play for in this game was Chris Tillman, illustrated very clearly in the fact that he was a stalwart for last year's division winning team whereas this year he entered this final game needing at least a decent outing in order to get his season ERA under 5.00. It's not like a 4.94 ERA would be much better, either.
Tillman tried to give those runs away almost immediately, giving up an automatic double to Greg Bird the first batter he faced after the O's took an early lead. Two groundouts later, Bird scored, bringing the Yankees back to within a run. They would not score again in the inning. It could have been a lot worse.
Sometimes what you need is a little help from your friends. The O's extended Tillman's cushion by knocking Pineda from the game in the fourth inning. Wieters led off the inning with a double, his second hit of the day. He didn't have the most style points of the O's pending free agents, but if those are our last memory of Wieters in an O's uniform, it could have been a lot worse. Pineda got the next two batters out before giving up a single to J.J. Hardy, which scored Wieters and put the Orioles up 3-1.
The pitching changes that prove Joe Girardi actively hates all other human beings
People make jokes about Yankees manager Joe Girardi and his binder that tells him what to do. Today the binder told him to use nine pitchers to work eight innings. There is no world in which this is not incredibly stupid. His revolving bullpen carousel went a long way towards sending the game to a length of 3:39, which as it worked out made the Orioles in the final game of the regular season. Every other game ended before this one.
Hilariously for us, maybe less hilarious for Girardi, his constant tinkering resulted mostly in failure. Girardi pulled Pineda in the fourth inning, apparently with the intention of getting Chris Capuano, a lefty who has literally been designated for assignment four different times by the Yankees this season, in the game to face Ryan Flaherty. What the heck are you doing, dude? Flaherty made the Yankees pay by ripping a double into right field.
Girardi then intentionally walked Nolan Reimold - really - in order to face another lefty, Gerardo Parra, another pending free agent, although he's spent much less time here. Parra, too, made Girardi pay, driving in two runs with a single to center field. On the play, the Yankees tried to throw out Reimold advancing to third, unsuccessfully. Parra tried to take second on the throw. He was called out on a close play. Despite replays that clearly showed Parra's back leg beating the tag, the replay center did not overturn the call. Nonetheless, the Orioles pulled ahead, 5-1, on the play.
This was the first of five mid-inning pitching changes made by Girardi in the game.
The fated dingers Davis fain would deliver
Let's be honest, what we all wanted was to see Davis homer one last time. Girardi sent out Bryan Mitchell to begin the fifth inning. Like many of his peers, it was not his day. Mitchell issued a walk to Manny Machado, which only put a runner on base for Davis. That means more delicious RBIs! Davis blasted a home run into the O's bullpen, his MLB-leading 46th of the season. He was not done yet.
These two runs would prove to be crucial later in the game. Tillman allowed another run before departing after 5.1 innings. There was a runner on third as Tillman left the game. If T.J. McFarland had allowed the inherited runner to score, Tillman's ERA would have been over 5. The runner was stranded. Tillman ended up at a 4.99 on the year. Moral victory? I don't know. He gave up seven hits and walked four in his 5.1 innings. That's a bad day.
New York pulled closer with two runs in the seventh inning. Three straight singles kicked McFarland out of there. He was followed by Brad Brach, who has looked tired for a little while. He looked tired today too, issuing a walk to load the bases before getting an out on a run-scoring fielder's choice and a popout to end the threat. At 7-4, the game was in striking distance.
That's where it stayed until the eighth inning, when Girardi bindered his way into oblivion again. Girardi sent out lefty Justin Wilson to face David Lough, who struck out. Girardi then brought out an entirely different lefty - Andrew Miller - to face Parra. Miller walked Parra, then retired Machado on a popout. Due up next was the man of the hour, Davis.
Having just blown through two lefties against crappy-hitting Orioles lefties, Girardi summoned a right-handed pitcher, Caleb Cotham, who began the day with a 5.79 ERA in 11 games, to face Davis. The announced crowd of 33,224 at Camden Yards, sensing this might be the end of the line for Davis as an Oriole, gave him a standing ovation as he came up to the plate.
Crummy righty against Davis? Maybe I'm wrong - maybe Girardi doesn't hate all other humans. Maybe he wanted to give a nice parting memory to Davis and Orioles fans. If that was his goal, he succeeded. Cotham made a bad pitch, because duh, and Davis smashed it onto the flag court in right field, to the delight of all assembled Orioles fans. The second home run of the day for Davis was his 47th of the year.
If that does end up being the end, what an end.
O'Day pitched the top of the eighth inning, retiring the Yankees in order, which allowed the O's crowd to serenade him one last time with, "O'Day, O'Day, O'Day, O'Dayyyyyy" Well, maybe he'll come back?
Zach Britton closed out the Yankees in the ninth inning to put the 2015 season in the books. They aren't winners headed for the postseason, but they aren't losers either.
There are 182 days remaining until the next Orioles game.