The party never happened — at least not at the ballpark. Baltimore clinched its first playoff berth since 1997, but not until late Sunday when the Texas Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels 8-7 in the finale of a day-night doubleheader.
After the Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 6-3 earlier Sunday, around two dozen players and coaches took scoreboard watching to a new level by staying on the field at Camden Yards and rooting for the Rangers to win the opener,
Orioles players exchanged high-fives and fist-bumps following their fourth straight win, then gathered along the first-base line to watch the scoreboard telecast of the ninth inning, which began with Texas winning 4-3.
Many in the crowd of 41,257 stood and watched, too.
But a two-run double by Torii Hunter put the Angels in front and ruined the fun. As the Orioles walked off the field, manager Buck Showalter waved to the crowd and offered a fist-pump of encouragement.
Sitting in front of his locker with a beer in his hand, first baseman Mark Reynolds said, “It would have definitely been cool to celebrate with our fans. They’ve been supporting us all year. To be able to celebrate out there with them and take in the moment, it would have been pretty neat.”
Baltimore, on the other hand, is looking to go into the postseason as AL East champions. The Orioles remain tied atop the division standings with the New York Yankees, who rallied to beat Toronto 9-6 and also clinched no worse than a wild-card berth.
Both contenders have three games left. New York begins a season-ending series against visiting Boston on Monday night, and the Orioles travel to Tampa Bay.
Baltimore held out hope of cracking open a few cases of champagne in Florida.
“I take particular enjoyment in ruining someone else’s clubhouse,” reliever Darren O’Day said.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy added, “I’m not going to say there’s no disappointment, but we all understand we need to keep playing good baseball to get where we want to be. We’ll just worry about ourselves and win the next three games.”
Who’d have thought the Orioles would be talking about division titles, playoff berths and champagne after 14 consecutive losing seasons and four straight last-place finishes? The Orioles (92-67) already have 23 more wins than a year ago.
“Our goal now is try to figure out a way to play some more baseball games here at Camden,” Showalter said. “Hopefully, it’s see you later.”
Hardy, Nate McLouth and Chris Davis hit solo homers, and Jim Thome drove in two runs for Baltimore. TheOrioles completed a sweep and went 13-5 against Boston, their most wins in a single season versus the Red Sox since 1970 (13-5).