The Orioles faithful endured fourteen consecutive losing seasons before the Birds Buckled Up in 2012. Two (winning) seasons later, they started the night poised to achieve what had eluded them since 1997: winning the American League East.
For those of you doing the mental math, that is seventeen years. Seventeen, as in the magazine devoted to fashion, beauty, and dating tips. Seventeen, as in the age she was – you know what I mean. Seventeen, as in the edge on which Stevie Nicks was just like a white winged dove. Seventeen, as in way too many for a fan base to endure.
And at long last, they delivered. The beer, Baltimore, is cold. But the champagne is even more satisfying.
The game began with a crowd of 35,297 booing Jose Reyes, and ended with Steve Pearce stepping on first base to clinch the win. Between those two, the Magic happened.
Ubaldo Jimenez gave up a run in the first, and slowly steadied himself for a decent five-inning outing. It wasn’t the kind of start the Orioles envisioned when they signed him to that four-year $50MM contract, but for a a guy whose ineffectiveness has relegated him to spot starter, it was the type of outing this team needed. His final line included two hits, four walks, six strikeouts, and two earned runs. He retired the last ten batters he faced.
The real story was the offense. The Orioles’ offensive output was fueled by some unlikely sources. Steve Pearce (admittedly less “unlikely) answered Jimenez’s first inning miscues with a three-run home run. Jimmy Paredes followed with a solo shot in the second inning, and Alejandro De Aza tripled in three runs in the seventh. Nick Hundley, who had been robbed of a homer earlier in the game, tacked on a run in the eighth.
Yup, just how the Orioles drew it up in April.
If you’ll excuse me, I don’t believe the truly magical part of the evening was what happened on the field. Instead, it took place in the stands, and in bars and living rooms across Birdland. O’s fans counted down the outs, as “Clinchmas” became a reality. Instead of focusing on the game, I want to focus on the future. Not to the rest of the season, not to the playoffs. To the stories we’ll be able to tell.
Remember when the Orioles won the AL East in 2014?
Trust me, you will.