Calling the Pen: Dreams derailed by Orioles' quick exit -
2023 Postseason

Calling the Pen: Dreams derailed by Orioles’ quick exit


It was raining when Barb and I got on the light rail at Hunt Valley last Saturday morning, but the day held so much promise. Everyone on board was all in for the Orioles, dressed in their colors, discussing their chances against the Texas Rangers, and sharing their excitement.

At a subsequent stop, a rider stepped on and bellowed: “I see a lot of orange!” He got a rousing response.

As I checked my phone, I saw that the Orioles had released their roster for the American League Division Series, It didn’t include left-hander John Means. That was more ominous than the weather because of the Rangers’ left-handed-packed lineup and the fact that the Orioles would be missing a key starter.

But spirits remained high for a team that no one thought would win the AL East title. By 10:30, we were pulling up to Camden Yards and hearing impromptu cheers. No one seemed to mind the rain.

The concourse was already getting crowded, and it would make one claustrophobic before a scheduled 1 o’clock game started at  2:15. When we got to our seats, the sight of a full house of fans waving orange towels and seeing how much noise they could make was electric. Some would sing the national anthem along with Joan Jett and all gave Adam Jones a standing ovation for the ceremonial first pitch.

Fireworks went off against a now blue sky, and Oriole starter Kyle Bradish began piling up strikeouts and zeroes. In the fourth inning, though, Texas totaled five hits and two runs. It was a harbinger of things to come.

The inevitable second-guessing started in the fifth when manager Brandon Hyde removed Bradish with two outs, even though he had nine strikeouts. In the sixth, reliever Jacob Webb gave up a solo home run that would prove to be the difference in a 3-2 loss.

My wife, Barb, was among those trying to will the team to victory. At the end of the seventh, she decided that we should exchange seats to change the Orioles’ luck. In the bottom of the eighth, the first two Orioles reached base. She was ecstatic. Then Anthony Santander, who earlier had excited the crowd with a home run, grounded into a double play, ending the rally.

In the ninth, exceptional rookie Gunnar Henderson led off with a single to right. However, he was thrown out at second in an apparent steal attempt, and the Orioles would go quietly after that just as the fans did as they were leaving.

Barb and I managed to be the last two to squeeze back onto light rail for the long ride home. Four fans wedged in next to us on the stairs wondered why Henderson had tried to steal. One thought it had been a missed hit-and-run, and it turned out he was right. Veteran Aaron Hicks missed the sign, the kind of mistake a 101-win team shouldn’t make in the ninth inning of its first playoff game. Another fan viewed a video of Hyde in the dugout after that play, clearly dismayed by the events.

There was more dissection on the ride home, including whether the Orioles were hurt by the five days off between the end of the regular season and their first playoff game.By the time we approached Hunt Valley, fans’ thoughts had drifted toward other subjects. Two behind us were talking about running, and the proper way to train for longer distances. It almost seemed like a metaphor for the Orioles. They had won the marathon of the six-month regular season, but they were no match for the Rangers in a playoff sprint that lasted only four days and three games.

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