NEW YORK — Put away the ponchos. Give back the goggles. Bottle the bubbly.
If the Baltimore Orioles are going to celebrate, it’ll have to wait until Sunday. Despite taking a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth on Saturday, the Orioles — who came in winners of six of their last seven and playing as well as they have all season — fell 7-3 to the New York Yankees.
In reality, the O’s would’ve needed help to clinch anyway. Entering Saturday, they were a game up on the Toronto Blue Jays for the top wild card spot in the American League, with the Detroit Tigers a half-game behind the Jays. A win by the Birds in their afternoon game, combined with a loss later by either Toronto or Detroit, and Baltimore would’ve been toasting a wild-card berth and a return to the postseason for third time in three even years. Even though the Orioles wouldn’t have been able to clinch until late Saturday night, the postgame clubhouse almost certainly would’ve been buzzing with expectation. Instead, it was fizzling with frustration.
There was no music, as there often is following a win (and sometimes a loss). There was no TV, like there was on Friday while the Orioles closely eyed the end of the Blue Jays’ loss in Boston. Instead of champagne, the only spray in the visitors’ locker room was coming from the shower heads, as players quietly washed off the dinge of a disappointing defeat.
“It’s tough not to come out with a W anytime,” said lefthander Wade Miley, who made his first start since going on paternity leave for the birth of his son Jeb. “Especially in a situation like that. We jumped out to an early lead, but you gotta give the Yankees credit. They kept battling, at-bat to at-bat, and put some runs up.”
“It would have been a nice game to win,” said catcher Matt Wieters. “At the same point, we’re playing for what we need to be playing for tomorrow. So we’ll forget about this one and move forward. And tomorrow’s what we’ve been playing the whole season for, anyway. So it shouldn’t be hard to get ready for the game tomorrow.”
In theory, it shouldn’t have been hard to get ready for Saturday. And for much of the game, the O’s looked as ready as could be. Miley was dominant early, fanning six and allowing just two hits over the first four frames. Even though he seemed to tire, yielding two runs on five hits over the next two innings, manager Buck Showalter sent him back out for the seventh with his pitch count at 99. After serving up a leadoff homer to Tyler Austin that tied the game, then a single to Ronald Torreyes, Miley was lifted in favor of All-Star reliever Brad Brach. That’s when things came totally unhinged.
“I just sucked,” said Brach, who allowed four runs on two hits and two walks in a third of an inning and got tagged with the loss, a rare botch for a bullpen that was baseball’s best in September. “I was not good today. That was pretty much it. Fortunately, this was game 161.”
Game 162 comes Sunday, and along with it a chance for the Orioles to do what they couldn’t do on Saturday afternoon.
“We know what we have to do,” said Miley. “We just have to come back tomorrow, flush this game, and win the ballgame tomorrow.”
In the meantime, they’ll spend Saturday evening honing their scoreboard-watching skills.
“I’m sure guys will be following scores,” said Brach. “I probably will.”
“I’ll watch them,” added Wieters. “It would’ve been nice to watch them with the win today. But at the same time, I’ll still watch them and I’ll pull for the Braves and I’ll pull for the A’s and I’ll pull for the Red Sox tonight.”