Despite deep hole in ALCS, Orioles believe they can rebound

October 11, 2014|Peter Schmuck | The Schmuck Stops Here

There is only one hook left for the Orioles to hang their World Series hopes on, and it certainly isn't history.

They have dug themselves a hole in the American League Championship Series that no team has ever climbed out of, so they'll have to dig deep into their own team chemistry to pull out this best-of-seven playoff after losing the first two games at home.

The Orioles have been known for their resiliency throughout the Buck Showalter era. They have bounced back from all manner of adversity, especially during this unlikely AL East championship season, and they will have to do that over the next several days in Kansas City just to force the series back to Camden Yards.

Maybe to a team that lost its All-Star catcher in May and its Platinum Glove third baseman in August, not to mention the 2013 major league home run and RBI champion in September, this might not seem like a bridge too far, but it certainly looks that way.

Talk about sucking the air out of the room — or stadium. The Royals came into Baltimore as a slap-happy wild card team that was expected to try and play rope-a-dope with the big-swinging Orioles. But they chose to stand and fight and they won the first two rounds to the amazement — and disappointment — of a super-charged city full of orange-clad fans who were wildly confident they would be partying the way they did when the Detroit Tigers showed up here 10 days ago.

This town was bursting with so much positive energy after the Orioles completed their unlikely sweep of the AL Central champions that it figured to take a rainout to cool everyone down.

That almost happened Friday night and, as it turned out, it would have been a good outcome for the Orioles. Instead, the speed-oriented Royals rained home runs on them in the opener and turned Game 2 into a must-win situation that the Orioles could not make good.

The crowd stayed engaged throughout, but the Royals did a very good job of keeping a lid on the decibel level by jumping on top in each of the first two games and forcing the Orioles to play catch-up, which they did in both games only to lose the much-anticipated battle of the two great bullpens each time.

"They're a scrappy ballclub and we knew that coming in," first baseman Steve Pearce said. "We didn't take them lightly. They are a good team and now they're getting timely hits, they're starting off fast. They had a lead in both games…We've been fighting all year, so maybe we'll fall back into a comfort zone and go over there and play our game."

So far, it has looked likethe Royals have been playing the Orioles' game. They were supposed to be the speed team, but they hit three homers in Game 1 and added another on Saturday. The Orioles have hit just one in the first two games — a two-run shot by center fielder Adam Jones that temporarily got them even in the third inning.

Team MVP Nelson Cruz, who had another multi-hit game, didn't downplay the challenge that now lies ahead, but he also cited the resilient nature of the team and the fact that the Orioles have rebounded from plenty of disappointments and frustrating losses over the course of their title run.

"If any team can do it, it's us," Cruz said. "I believe in what we have here and I believe in my teammates. If there's one team to do it, it will be us."

Reliever Darren O'Day, however, bristled at the notion that the Orioles can rest on their reputation for overcoming obstacles and battling through adversity.

"We need to rest on some runs is what we need to rest on," he said, "and we need to rest on them not getting runs. That's what we need to do. This team tries hard to stick together so this is the time to do that."

What choice do they have? If nothing else, they will show up at Kauffman Stadium with a long-odds chance of doing something that has never been done.

"We've got a lot of baseball to play in this series," Jones said. "Let's get back after it. We're going to go to KC and we've been a very good team on the road, so let's go there and have some fun … and eat some barbeque."

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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