O’s ‘grinded’ way into the playoffs
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.
Matt Wieters is congratulated by Mark Trumbo after Wieters’ two-run homer in the fourth inning Sunday. “This team is battle-tested,” Wieters said.