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Tuesday Bird Droppings: Where it’s playoff time

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We’re in for a wild few days of MLB postseason action. It’s too bad the Orioles aren’t in it, but at least it’s less stressful this way.

San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

By gum, MLB did it. The league plowed through a seemingly impossible challenge with flying colors: completing a 60-game regular season in the middle of a pandemic without having to shut down the sport, much to the pleasant surprise of skeptical cynics like myself. A hearty congratulations to everyone involved for pulling this thing off.

Now the playoffs are upon us, and hopefully the 16 remaining clubs will continue to stay safe and clear of COVID as most of them traverse new parts of the country for the first time. Only one of the eight Wild Card round matchups — the Rays vs. the Blue Jays — features two teams who played against each other during the regular season. For all the rest, they’ll be branching out to non-divisional opponents, some traveling to different time zones. The eight winners of this round will then enter the postseason “bubble,” with four neutral-site cities — Arlington, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Diego — to host all Division Series, Championship Series, and World Series matchups.

Tonight, the American League bracket of the postseason begins. Tomorrow, the National League joins in, which will give us a truly glorious day of playoff baseball in which there are eight games on the slate, one starting every hour from noon to 5 o’clock, plus games at 7 and 10. (Homer Simpson drooling noise) Sounds like a good time to take a sick day! Or if you’re already working from home, you’ll have plenty of baseball action on your TV to keep you company.

That’s the one aspect of the expanded postseason that I enjoy. I’m still vehemently against making the 16-team playoff field a permanent fixture, though. It’s kind of a joke when losing teams can make the playoffs, as two of them did this year (the 29-31 Brewers and Astros). The Brewers, in fact, didn’t spend a single day above .500 this season, yet here they are with a 1 in 16 shot of winning a championship. Ugh.

In any case, there’s a ton of baseball to watch in the coming weeks if you’re interested. Who are you rooting for? My preferred outcomes for the AL first round: Twins over Astros, Rays over Blue Jays, and Indians over Yankees (of course), and I’m totally ambivalent about the White Sox/Athletics. In the NL, I’d like to see the Padres over the Cardinals, the Reds over the Braves, the Marlins over the Cubs, and the Dodgers over the Brewers, though I don’t feel too strongly about any of them but the Pads. (Manny Machado, represent.)

How about you, Camden Chatters?

Links

All of today’s links have a common theme. See if you can spot it!

It was a season of progress and improvement for the Orioles - Steve Melewski

Orioles made progress in 2020; New challenges are in store for 2021 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

O's '20 progress represented in final win - Orioles.com

Connolly: Despite another losing year, Orioles can view 2020 as a small victory – The Athletic

Yep. Hard to argue with any of that. The future is certainly looking bright in Birdland.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! One current Oriole shares your birthday: right-hander and Frederick native Branden Kline, who turns 29. Kline spent most of the 2020 season at the alternate site in Bowie, but popped his head up for three games with the Orioles, giving up one run in five innings.

Ex-Orioles born on this day include 1998-99 first baseman Calvin Pickering (44), 1992 lefty Craig Lefferts (63), and the late 1963-64 lefty Mike McCormick, who passed away three months ago at age 81.

In most years, the Orioles would still be playing baseball on this date; this is the first time since 2011 that their season has been over by Sept. 29. They have just a 22-30 all-time record on this date, riding a four-game losing streak (including last year’s season finale in Boston, which they lost on a throwing error). They’ve had some notable victories, though, including:

  • In 1957, the Orioles secured the first non-losing season in the Birds’ four-year history by winning their season finale to finish 76-76. The O’s scored four runs in the top of the 10th, sparked by Brooks Robinson’s RBI double, to beat the Washington Senators, 7-3.
  • In 1961, the Orioles walked off the White Sox, 3-2, on a 10th-inning homer by catcher Hank Foiles. It was the first of two straight walkoff wins to finish the season for the Birds.
  • In 1970, the O’s swept a doubleheader against the Senators with a pair of 3-2, extra-inning walkoffs, their eighth and ninth wins in a season-ending 11-game win streak. That 1970 team was pretty good, y’all.
  • And in 2012, in front of a sellout crowd on Brooks Robinson Statue Night at Camden Yards, the Orioles beat the Red Sox, 4-3 — flashing a few Brooks-esque defensive gems — to pull into a first-place tie with the Yankees with four games to play. They’d ultimately finish two games back to settle for a wild card spot.