It might sound corny, but to me the Baltimore Orioles have been baseball’s equivalent of the Little Engine That Could in 2012. Now, with just one game remaining in the regular season, the Orioles really can. After 161 games, Baltimore has already clinched at least a playoff berth and is still alive in the race for an A.L. East crown.
If not for an unfortunate turn of events late Tuesday night in the Bronx, the Orioles would even control their own destiny. The Yankees got a two-run homer from Raul Ibanez in the bottom of the ninth to erase a 3-1 deficit and then beat Boston in the 12th to stay a game in front of Baltimore.
To get to the final day of the regular season with even an opportunity to catch the mighty Yankees is still an incredible accomplishment for a team no one expected anything from entering the season. Making it even more mind-boggling is the fact that the Orioles were 10 games behind New York as late as July 18.
Baltimore notched yet another one-run win on Tuesday, beating Tampa Bay 1-0. The Orioles have now won 28 of their 37 games decided by a single score. They are also a logic-defying 16-2 in extra-inning contests, numbers that helped them surge back up the standings.
Even if things don’t work out tonight and the Orioles have to play a one-game wildcard playoff on Friday, Baltimore has to be favored in that contest thanks to its knack for coming through in the clutch during tight games.
The ability to win close contests has many labeling the O’s a team of destiny. And after what happened on Sunday night, it’s becoming difficult to wonder whether that just might be the case.
The Orioles were forced to make an emergency landing during their charter flight from Baltimore to Tampa three days ago. A fire in the kitchen of the plane had smoke filtering into the cabin. Multiple players told reporters they were frightened stiff by the sudden change in flight plans that had the team return to the ground in Northern Florida.
But they received an immediate pick-me-up during their unexpected layover in Jacksonville. Thanks to the Angels’ loss to Texas that evening, the Orioles clinched a playoff spot. Baltimore also managed to maintain its sense of humor. Reliever Darren O’Day joked with the New York Times on Monday that the plane issues helped the Orioles make history, as they became the first Major League team to secure a postseason berth in Jacksonville.
The Orioles have proved doubters wrong all season long, and they have been nothing but likeable in the process. No matter what happens tonight and on Friday, they have carved a special spot in the hearts of Baltimore fans as the team that brought passion for the game back to a great baseball city.
That’s almost as important an accomplishment as standing toe-to-toe with the Yankees for 162 games.