The Orioles are a near certainty to play in the postseason. For nearly all of their players, it will be a new experience. Twenty-one of the current 26 Orioles haven’t played in the playoffs. Only starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, catcher James McCann, reliever Jacob Webb, infielder Adam Frazier and outfielder Aaron Hicks have.
“It’s a little bit more nerve-wracking, especially the first couple of games,” Hicks said.
Hicks has the most postseason experience of any Oriole, 30 games in five years with the New York Yankees.
“You’re going to be nervous, and that’s OK. I was nervous,” he said. “Everybody’s nervous. It comes down to who can settle down the fastest and who can make playing in the postseason normal, as if they’re playing during the regular season.”
Gibson is the only Oriole to have played in a World Series. He pitched a scoreless inning in Game 3 for the Philadelphia Phillies last season.
“I think you have to be able to manage emotional waves and emotional highs and lows because every game is going to have a bunch of them,” Gibson said. “There are not many postseason games that are blowouts. It’s a lot about managing emotions, not letting one bad inning where you give up two runs affect the next two or three innings. A lot of mood swings that have to be stopped or maintained.”
Frazier and McCann are veterans who have limited playoff exposure. It took Frazier seven seasons, until the Seattle Mariners advanced to the Division Series. McCann played three games with the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets in 2020 and 2022.
“It’s basically the games we’ve been playing for the last month,” Frazier said. “The way the schedule’s been laid out for us is really since the All-Star break and right before it was all postseason teams. We saw it in Seattle. We saw it back in Baltimore with Houston, and a couple of those other series. It’s playoff baseball and whether the guys have been there or not, it’s preparing guys for that. That’s what I would tell them. I’m not trying to make the moment bigger than it is. You want guys to be calm and collected going in. Everything’s heightened. Attention to detail is everything. Each out matters.”
McCann wants his teammates to know how important the games are, but to play the same way they’ve played during the regular season.
“Just because it’s postseason baseball, just because it’s the playoffs, just because there’s more riding on each pitch, on each game, it’s still the same game we’ve played 162 times plus spring training,” he said. “I think the big thing is is the quicker you can get over the spotlight factor. It’s human nature to know that there’s more riding on each pitch, there’s more riding on each at-bat. It’s a lot harder to step back and say, ‘this is the same game that I’ve played all year long with those greater consequences.’”
Manny Machado made his major league debut on August 9th, 2012, and less than two months later, the Orioles were playing in the first American League wild-card game against the Texas Rangers.
“It’s just different. It’s more than just baseball,” said Machado, who has played in 41 postseason games for the Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. “You’re always playing for a city. You’re always playing for an organization. At the end of the day, it’s bigger than that. It’s fast. It’s fun.
“This is what we played for as a kid. My first one, I always dreamed about it. I was 20 years old when I got called up and I was able to play my first postseason game against one of the best teams in baseball for the last five years, Texas. To go there, it was a dream come true. It is fast. It’s also just a game.”
Manager Brandon Hyde coached for the Chicago Cubs during the postseason run from 2015-2018. In 2016, Hyde was the first base coach for manager Joe Maddon when the Cubs beat Cleveland in seven exciting games. In the Orioles series with Seattle last weekend, Hyde saw performances that reminded him of October.
“What we just saw the last two nights was postseason pitching,” he said. “That’s what it looks like, an environment like that, an environment like it’s been the last two nights on the road. Premier stuff. Every little thing matters. Making big plays in big moment is what it’s going to take in the postseason. There’s just not many mistakes being made on the field.”
Gibson was chatting with Grayson Rodriguez during last Saturday night’s game against the Mariners in T-Mobile Park.
“‘This feels like what a postseason game would feel like,’” Rodriguez told Gibson.
“There’s a natural understanding that the end is near and every loss has more of an impact,” Gibson said. “There’s a lot more weight when you’re losing. There’s a lot more weight when you lose a game. At the same time, depending on how the series is going, there’s a lot more excitement when you win because you know you’re one win closer.”
Through much of the season, the Orioles have had a small press contingent following them. That changes in October.
“What comes with the postseason is a lot more media, a lot more eyes on you. You just have to relax,” Hicks said. “I expect them to be nervous … It’s exciting to have your first postseason game. There’s a lot of nerves that go into that, understanding that it’s the same game and bright lights.”
Gibson said his young teammates aren’t talking playoffs yet.
“Everybody’s pretty much focused on the way to get there first,” he said.