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Matt Wieters homers from both sides of plate to put Orioles in postseason

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Kevin Gausman and Matt Wieters came up huge as the Orioles clinched a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season.

Michael Bourn is drenched by beer as the Orioles celebrate clinching a postseason berth.
Same.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

A long time ago, a prophecy was spoken on this very website about Matt Wieters, who, in his prospect days, came to be known in these parts as Switch-Hitting Jesus. "He shall lead us to the promised land - a.k.a. slightly ahead of the Blue Jays."

It took Wieters a long time, all the way to what may be his final regular season game as an Orioles player, but he did finally lead the team to the promised land, hitting a two-run home run from each side of the plate as the Orioles dispatched the Yankees, 5-2, in their regular season finale.

With the win, the 89th of the year for the Orioles, they clinched themselves a postseason berth. Since the Jays ended up beating the Red Sox in their game, the Orioles did not end up slightly ahead of the Jays after all, although they may yet: The Wild Card game will be held in Toronto on Tuesday, so if the O’s win that game, they are indeed ahead of the Jays.

The Orioles are now twelve wins away from a World Series title. That’s a long way to go to get there, but there are 20 teams who wish they were in the O’s shoes right now. All of those also-rans will only be seeing postseason baseball if they buy a ticket or watch on TV.

Kevin Gausman in the spotlight

If I might borrow the words of Tommy Hunter, caught live on television as the Orioles celebrated in the clubhouse after the win, how about Kevin F—-ing Gausman? Hunter didn’t have dashes in the middle, of course. But really, how about Gausman?

The Orioles needed Gausman to come up big and Gausman shoved for them. That was not always how it worked out for Gausman earlier in the year, when a lack of run support and a few outings where he came up just short in halting key rallies led to him going winless until June 25.

However, since the start of August, Gausman has pitched to a 2.83 ERA in 12 starts, striking out just over a batter per inning in the process. You do that over a full season for a playoff team and you’ll find yourself in the Cy Young conversation at season’s end.

And over the whole season, Gausman had been dominant against the Yankees as well. In five starts before today, he’d held them to a 0.80 ERA. That’s not a typo. The omens were good, but don’t let that take away from the fact that Gausman came out and owned the spotlight.

It was not the kind of flashy, in-your-face dominance of a double-digit strikeout game - Gausman only struck out three batters. It was a more quiet dominant performance that almost seemed to sap the willpower of the Yankees.

There was never any one moment where you might think, "Wow, he’s amazing!" But as the eighth inning began, there was Gausman still standing on the mound, with his only run allowed up to that point being an ultra-cheapo Yankee Stadium special to right field, hit by Brian McCann with the bases empty in the fourth inning. That’s not me being a homer ... OK, well, it is, but it really was a cheap homer and Yankee Stadium is a joke.

Here’s another way to think about it: Gausman faced 30 batters in 7.1 innings of work and only one of those batters came up with a runner in scoring position. The Yankees only put the ball in the air against him six times. They never really had a chance against him. That’s the guy the Orioles drafted #4 overall four years ago.

Saved by the Wieters

The thing is, it’s not like the Orioles were swimming in scoring chances in the game. In fact, they only had one at-bat the whole game with runners in scoring position, compared to the Yankees having four. The Yankees even outhit the Orioles, 10-7.

What the Orioles did have, as they have had so many times this season, was dongs. I’m talking about glorious home runs. They can be contained for a short period of time but they cannot be stopped entirely.

Luis Cessa cannot cause the cessation of the home runs. Tommy Layne was lain low by the home runs. Both of them were hit by the same man: Wieters, who batted lefty against the righty Cessa and batted righty against the lefty Layne. His 16th and 17th home runs of the season were the difference in the game.

Let’s not forget to credit those who got on base for Wieters and made the home runs more than just Yet Another Solo Shot. In the fourth inning, Mark Trumbo beat out an infield single with two outs to get on base ahead of Wieters.

Later, in the sixth, it was a Manny Machado single with one out. Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Cessa to bring in the lefty Layne. I guess that was because Girardi’s binder said to turn Wieters around. A sensible strategy, actually, as Wieters entered the day with a .615 OPS against lefties. Layne served up a pitch in the sweet spot for Wieters and it was blasted into the left field seats.

The Orioles, at this point, held a 5-1 lead that seemed awfully commanding.

Great Britton’s ground balls

With closer Zach Britton in need of a little work, manager Buck Showalter decided not to screw around and just brought him in for the final five outs. Gausman’s last batter faced was Gary Sanchez, who hit a single.

Britton proceeded to get a pair of ground balls. Most of the time Zach Britton gets a ground ball, an out is recorded, but these two were ripped past fielders. The inherited runner scored on the second single, and just like that the tying run was at the plate in a 5-2 game.

One more ground ball off the bat of Aaron Hicks went right into the glove of Chris Davis, who actually had to make a tough short hop pick to get it and trot to first unassisted to complete the out. That was as close as the Yankees got.

In the ninth inning, Britton picked up two strikeouts and got another ground ball that didn’t even reach the pitcher’s mound. Britton may not get a save in the scorebook for this outing, but he gets a save in our hearts.

The Wild Card game awaits the Orioles on Tuesday at 8 o’clock in Toronto. The Orioles would seem to be picking between Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman for their starter unless they get a crazier idea than that. The Jays could potentially use lefty Francisco Liriano, who struck out 10 Orioles in 6.1 innings just last Wednesday - though the Jays did lose that game when their bullpen blew it.