As ALCS shifts to Kansas City, Orioles face an unprecedented climb

October 12, 2014|By Eduardo A. Encina | The Baltimore Sun

KANSAS CITY, MO. -- The Orioles will attempt an unprecedented climb out of a 2-0 hole as the American League Championship Series shifts to Kauffman Stadium. It won't be easy because the Kansas City Royals are a team brimming with confidence.

The Royals arrived home having won all six of their postseason games — pulling out two tightly-contested wins over the Orioles at Camden Yards with their share of late-inning hits and celebratory histrionics — to put the Orioles' season on the brink.

After Royals reserve outfielder Jarrod Dyson sent the first verbal jab of the series following the Orioles' 6-4 Game 2 loss — predicting Kansas City would close out the Orioles over the next three nights — Dyson continued to hammer the Orioles during Sunday's workout day at Kauffman Stadium.

Dyson, the Royals' stolen-base leader, predicted the Orioles would fold if they lose Game 3 on Monday. No team that lost the first two games of a league championship series at home has ever come back to win. The Orioles need to win two-of-three to send the series back to Camden Yards.

"I'll just tell you this, man, if we win Game 3, it's going to be hard for them to sit there and look themselves in the mirror and say, 'We can win the next four,'" Dyson told reporters on Sunday. "That's tough to do, man. Everything must click. I'm just being honest.

"If we take Game 3, I guarantee there are going to be multiple people in that clubhouse over there saying, 'Man, there's no way we're going to beat these guys four games in a row,'" Dyson continued. "It can be done, but everybody ain't gonna be on the same page, I don't think. There are going to be some people ready to go home. There are going to be some people not cheering in the dugout — just like if it was vice versa on this side. It might be the same way.''

Inside the Orioles clubhouse Sunday, players admitted the Royals earned the right to be boastful, but weren't going to let Dyson's words affect them.

"I believe that we're coming back [to Baltimore]," Orioles outfielder-designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. "What's important is what we believe here. It doesn't matter what people think outside these doors. That's my only answer. … People are going to talk, so we're not going to worry about what people say. We worry about what we think and what we do."

Told of Dyson's comments, catcher Caleb Joseph let loose a subtle chuckle.

"I'm not worried about what he says," Joseph said. "We've got bigger fish to fry than that. … He's probably trying to make it [bother us], but come on."

Still, the Orioles come to Kansas City reeling. They hadn't lost consecutive home games since June 28-29. But they know they were close to winning both of the series' first two games.

"There's no panic in here," closer Zach Britton said. "I know it might be hard to believe, but we've played so many games this year. We've been in tough situations before. We understand we've lost two games, but baseball is a funny game. You can come out tomorrow, win a game and things can escalate quickly from there. … The pressure is no different than a regular-season game. The games are the same, whether it's Game 1 or this game going on [Monday]."

The series moves from hitter-friendly Camden Yards — where the Royals outhomered the Orioles 4-1 in the first two games — to expansive Kauffman Stadium, which has more outfield square footage than any park in the majors.

The Orioles, who split a four-game series with the Royals in Kansas City in May, were 46-35 on the road in the regular season. Their 46 road wins were tied for second-most in the AL, trailing only the Royals' 47.

"We won one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball," Cruz said. "We've been able to win this division because we play good baseball. There's no doubt they played better than us and they got the clutch hit late in the game. It's not something we can't do also. We're capable of doing anything on the baseball field and [Monday's] going to be different."

The Orioles expect to face a loud home crowd ready to seal its first trip to the World Series since 1985, but center fielder Adam Jones said the Orioles arrive with confidence despite their situation.

"I think from a 1 to 10, it's about a 15," Jones said when asked about his confidence. "I have confidence in every person in this clubhouse, not on the roster, on the roster, our strength guy. We brought our cook with us. I've got confidence in every last person who took that team flight with us. There's no love lost in this dugout or on this team."

Told about Dyson's comments that the series won't return to Baltimore, Orioles manager Buck Showalter played the middle road.

"Why wouldn't he feel that way?" Showalter said. "If I played the way they played the last couple of games, I might feel the same way."

The Royals haven't been shy in letting their excitement in the series show, with players jumping out of the dugout after home runs and making celebratory gestures after hits. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain even tipped his cap after making a diving catch. Privately, that showmanship has irked Orioles players.

As for Dyson's lip service, he was asked whether he might have provided the Orioles with a spark — and some bulletin board material.

"I don't know what they're gonna do, but I know what we're gonna do,'' he said. "We're going to keep going out there and trying to hit them in the mouth early, hoping that they don't get back up when we knock them down. But somehow they always get back up.''

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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