BALTIMORE—On Saturday, the Orioles will host their first postseason game since October 11th, 2014, and the playoffs will be a new experience for nearly all of the Orioles and many of their fans, too.
The Orioles did qualify for the postseason in 2016 but lost a one-game wild-card playoff at Toronto on October 4th.
The three possible home games in the best-of-five American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers were sold out quickly.
Of the Orioles, only pitcher Jack Flaherty, second baseman Adam Frazier, starter Kyle Gibson, outfielder Aaron Hicks, catcher James McCann and reliever Jacob Webb have played in the postseason.
“It’s trying to maintain focus and be prepared,” said Webb, who was claimed off waivers from the Angels in August. “I don’t know everything and I don’t have all the wisdom. I’ve only had a little bit of postseason experience, but regardless, I think this team is really good, really special.
“I think we’re going to be just fine in the postseason. We played a lot of close games this year. I think that’s to our benefit. Everyone’s going to have a little bit of nerves. Everyone’s going to be a little bit excited. It can go a little too fast at times, but I think we’ll be all right.”
First baseman Ryan O’Hearn spent five seasons playing for the Kansas City Royals, a team that didn’t finish near .500 during his time there.
“It’s just been a journey,” O’Hearn said. “I appreciate all the people and all the things that happened in Kansas City because it got me here. To be on a team this talented and get an opportunity to make an impact, just to play on this level and this stage is something I’m very excited about.”
In his first full season as a major leaguer, catcher Adley Rutschman gets the full playoff experience.
“Playing in a big game like this, I think you try and prepare yourself to put yourself in that mindset throughout the year when we’ve had big games,” Rutschman said. “I think our guys are ready to go and are excited to be playing in a high-level game like this.”
The Orioles drew 1.93 million fans, their most since 2017, and fans are clearly excited.
“I’m really excited to see the crowd. I’ve heard that playoff baseball is pretty cool,” Rutschman said. “I was talking to [pitching coach] Ryan Klimek about it, and he went to a postseason game in 2014 and said the atmosphere was absolutely electric. I’m really excited to see the fans and just to feel the excitement.”
Manager Brandon Hyde, who’s been here since 2019, has seen many small crowds and in 2020, no crowds at all because of the pandemic. The larger crowds this season thrilled him and his players.
“I know our guys are really enjoying that. I’m enjoying that,” Hyde said. “Just from where we came from, to have our fans be proud of our team, have our fans enjoy watching us. And our fans have been just amazing this year with how positive they’ve been, and we’re a fun team to watch.”
Kyle Bradish gets to start in front of a packed house, and that’s something he hasn’t always seen.
“It’s going to be a blast having 45-plus thousand, Camden Yards filled up. It’s going to be really exciting,” he said. “I’ve played in big stadiums that are filled and loud. Just have to embrace it. All these people are here to watch us and have fun, so why not do the same thing?”
The Orioles haven’t set their 26-man roster. That won’t come until Saturday morning. Hyde has been working on the roster and rotation.
“You definitely put more thought into it,” he said. “We had to wait to see who were playing. Really since we clinched preparing for the few teams that we might face. Then when it became the Rangers, obviously narrowed it down and put more thought into it. And we haven’t played the Rangers since May. That’s a little different. If we played the Blue Jays or the Rays, we were more familiar with them.
“But not having played the Rangers for a while, you definitely put more work into watching and going over reports and those type of things with those players.”
Rutschman couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.
“I’m super excited. This is a complete blessing to have an opportunity like this to play postseason baseball with a great group of guys in the stadium with an electric atmosphere,” he said. “So there’s nothing more you can really ask for. The opportunity to do something like this is amazing. You kind of cherish it.”
Notes on Game 1: Former Oriole centerfielder Adam Jones will throw out the first pitch. Joan Jett will sing the national anthem. Gates will open at 10:30 a.m., and parking lots at 9:30 a.m. … The umpires for Game 1 will be Lance Barrett (home plate), John Libka (first base), Alfonso Marquez (second base), Cory Blaser (third base), Quinn Wolcott (left field), Nic Lentz (right field). … BaltimoreBaseball.com columnist Peter Schmuck will co-host the Orioles’ pregame show along with Brent Harris on WBAL (AM-1090) on Saturday at 11 a.m.