Photo by Keith Allison
As we all know by now, the Orioles swept the Tigers in the ALDS and now move on to face the Royals in the ALCS. Matt had a post yesterday about the Orioles success (or lack thereof) in shutting down the Tigers big bats. Today I wanted to look at a few of the bigger plays, moments, and decisions in the series that allowed the Orioles to advance.
1) The decision to bring in Andrew Miller in the 6th inning of Game 1
Tommy Hunter was warming during the 5th inning, so I assumed he'd be coming in for the 6th. But then Andrew Miller began warming. When Miller emerged from the bullpen to start the top of the 6th, it was pretty clear Buck would be counting on a Miller-O'Day-Britton combination to get the final 12 outs (Yes, that plan changed once the Orioles put 8 runs up in the bottom of the 8th). And why not?
This was great bullpen usage by Buck and a model that I think should be used by managers more often. Miller pitched 1 2/3 of hitless ball before giving way to O'Day. O'Day did give up a home run to Miguel Cabrera, but the Orioles had already added an insurance run at that point, and then they completely ran away with the game in the bottom part of the 8th. In what was the most important game of the season up to that point, Buck used a bullpen strategy different than he had used over the previous 162 games. He extended his best relievers a bit longer than he typically does and it paid off. Looking back to the 2012 ALDS, this isn't a huge surprise, as Buck relied heavily on his setup men (O'Day and Matusz) during that series as well.
2) The double play in Game 2
I was worried about having Ryan Flaherty at 3B. It wasn't so much that I think Flaherty's defense is inadequate, but more so that he isn't named Manny Machado. In the ALDS, Flaherty did plenty to ease the nerves of Orioles fans questioning his defense. There was no bigger example of this than the double play he started in the 5th inning of Game 2 (and yes, Schoop's arm was vital to the play as well).
The Orioles were trailing 5-3 at the time of this double play. A base hit to left would have put runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out for Victor Martinez. Instead, Martinez comes up with no one on base, Gausman strikes him out, and the inning is over. The inning would have taken on a very different complexion had Flaherty not made the diving stop to start the double play.
3) Delmon Young's double in Game 2
Really, just writing "!!!!!!!!!!!!!" with a video clip of this moment would suffice. I know it was only the ALDS, but I'll remember exactly where I was sitting for this play for the rest of my life. I was lucky enough to be at the game and found myself jumping up and down with the joy of a 5 year old child, high-fiving everyone within reach. The stadium went bonkers, I went bonkers, you went bonkers, we all went bonkers. This was a really cool moment. This is why I watch sports. Down by 2 in the bottom of the 8th and Delmon Young hits a bases-clearing double for the lead. Unreal.
4) The close play at first base in Game 3
The close play at 1st in the bottom of the 2nd went the Orioles way. Had it not, the inning would have continued and the Orioles would have been down 1-0. I've watched this replay a few times and it's so close. If the call on the field had been safe, I'm sure that would have stood. It was that close of a play.
Oh, and despite what people on TBS tell you (people who are paid to talk about baseball), there is no such thing as "tie goes to the runner."
That was a fun series to watch. The outcome made it even more enjoyable. Any of these games (yes, even the game the Orioles won by 9) could have gone either way. However, thanks to many decisions, moments, and plays breaking the Orioles way, including these 4, the team moves on to face the Royals in the ALCS.