The Orioles’ improbable season marches on

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For most of the regular season, the surprising success of the Orioles was downplayed because of a negative run-differential and their penchant for winning one-run and extra-inning games. Going into tonight’s Wild Card game against the Rangers, most prognosticators didn’t give the Orioles much of a chance because they were using left-hander Joe Saunders against a lineup stacked with right-handed hitters in a venue whether he had fared poorly during his career. However, consistent with everything they did during the regular season, the Orioles just keep defying expectations.

The Orioles topped the Rangers 5-1 tonight in Arlington for their first playoff win since Game 5 of the 1997 ALCS. They’ll now advance to take on the Yankees in the ALDS beginning Sunday at Camden Yards. Yes, there will be playoff baseball in Baltimore. And that’s pretty cool.

We have seen an unlikely cast of characters play important roles for the Orioles this season and the same was the case tonight. Joe Saunders, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks in August, tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. Nate McLouth, who was signed to a minor league deal in June after being released by the Pirates, had an RBI single in the seventh inning and a sacrifice fly in the ninth. Darren O’Day, who was claimed off waivers from the Rangers last November, tossed two innings of scoreless relief. Manny Machado, a 20-year-old who made his major league debut in August, had an RBI single in the top of the ninth to provide some extra insurance for the bullpen. Just another exercise in “Oriole Magic.”

The Orioles have a pretty tough task ahead of them against the playoff-tested Yankees, who will have CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte waiting for them. As such, they aren’t going to shed that underdog label anytime soon. But you know what? They’ve worn it well so far.

Bruce Bochy wins 2,000th game as manager

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The Giants handily defeated the Red Sox on Wednesday night, 11-3. The win marked No. 2,000 of manager Bruce Bochy’s storied career, bolstering an already airtight case for the Hall of Fame.

Bochy, 64, is retiring at the end of the season. The skipper began his managerial career in 1995 with the Padres. He led them to the World Series in 1998, but they were swept out of the Fall Classic by the Yankees. Bochy would manage the Padres through 2006, amassing a 951-975 record (.494).

Bochy went to the Giants in 2007, which turned out to be a terrific decision. Bochy’s Giants won the World Series in 2010, ’12, and ’14, beating the Rangers (4-1), Tigers (4-0), and Royals (4-3), respectively. Including Wednesday’s win, Bochy has a 1,049-1,047 (.500) record with the Giants.

There have been only 11 managers in baseball history to win at least 2,000 games as a manager. Connie Mack leads overwhelmingly at 3,731, followed by John McGraw (2,763) and Tony La Russa (2,728). Also in the 2,000-win club are Bobby Cox (2,504), Joe Torre (2,326), Sparky Anderson (2,194), Bucky Harris (2,158), Joe McCarthy (2,125), Walter Alston (2,040), Leo Durocher (2,008), and Bochy.

Next stop, Cooperstown.