O’s ‘grinded’ way into the play­offs

Baltimore Sun - - ORI­OLES -

Rogers Cen­tre, ful­fill­ing a goal to get back to the post­sea­son af­ter last year’s .500 sea­son fell short of ex­pec­ta­tions.

“They’ve grinded, not since Fe­bru­ary, but since the sea­son ended last year,” Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “I told them in the last con­ver­sa­tion [last year], ‘This, too, shall pass.’ The game’s not al­ways fair. This year, it was, be­cause they got a re­turn for what they put into it. You look up ‘grind’ in the dic­tionary, you should have the 2016 Ori­oles there, be­cause these guys never gave in.”

The Ori­oles were swept by the Roy­als in the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries two years ago, and the Ori­oles lost a heart­break­ing Game 5 at Yan­kee Sta­dium in the divi­sion se­ries four years ago.

“Our team is strong, and we’ve got a chance to play in the post­sea­son,” ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Dan Du­quette said. “That’s all you can ask for. You just roll the dice and see if you can knock on the door and break through this time. These guys, they grind it out ev­ery day. They’re there tak­ing care of busi­ness. It’s a hard­work­ing club. They knew at the start of the road trip what the job was.”

The Ori­oles, who tied the Blue Jays for sec­ond place in the AL East with an 89-73 record but lost the tiebreaker be­cause of Toronto’s bet­ter head- to- head record, never made it easy on them­selves.

But by no means did they back into the post­sea­son, win­ning seven of their last nine, in­clud­ing four on the road, to ad­vance to the play­offs.

And they ended up need­ing ev­ery win.

Catcher Matt Wi­eters, a pend­ing free agent and one of the team’s long­est-tenured play­ers, was the hero Sun­day, hit­ting a pair of two-run homers.

The switch-hit­ting Wi­eters home­red in con­sec­u­tive at-bats, be­com­ing the first Ori­oles player to homer from both sides of the plate in one game since Roberto Alo­mar on July 25, 1996.

“Any team that makes the play­offs af­ter 162 games, you’ve been through the ups and down, and this team is no dif­fer­ent,” Wi­eters said. “We’ve been through it all. It’s not time for the post­sea­son. We’ll en­joy it tonight and then move on to the post­sea­son. This team is bat­tle-tested. We are ready for what­ever gets thrown at us. We have been through it all, and now it’s time to en­joy tonight and get ready for the post­sea­son.”

Af­ter a 7-3 loss to the Yan­kees (84-78) on Satur­day, the Ori­oles en­tered the reg­u­lar sea­son’s fi­nal day con­tend­ing for the two AL wild-card spots with two other teams.

Their win Sun­day sealed a spot in the wild-card game, while the Detroit Tigers’ loss to the At­lanta Braves ended their bid. But as the Ori­oles cel­e­brated, they also kept an eye on the end of Toronto’s 2-1 win in Boston.

A Blue Jays loss would have sent the wild-card game to Cam­den Yards, and sev­eral play­ers, their eyes burn­ing from cham­pagne, noted how strange it was to be root­ing for the divi­sion ri­val Red Sox.

“We just proved our­selves, right?” Jones said. “I don’t think we cared about any­one else’s thoughts. We got to play the game, no mat­ter what oth­ers say. You got to get be­tween the lines, and these men right here showed up ev­ery sin­gle day. Some­times it wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t pretty. But at the end of the day, we got the job done.”

The Ori­oles pinned their wild­card hopes on right-han­der Kevin Gaus­man (9-12), who de­liv­ered again in the Bronx. Gaus­man held the Yan­kees to two runs on eight hits over 71⁄ in­nings, end­ing the sea­son with a 1.10 ERA in six starts — all of them qual­ity starts — against the Yan­kees.

MIKE STOBE/GETTY IMAGES

Matt Wi­eters is con­grat­u­lated by Mark Trumbo af­ter Wi­eters’ two-run homer in the fourth in­ning Sun­day. “This team is bat­tle-tested,” Wi­eters said.

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