This is part one in a feature series about the final series of the 2011 season against the Boston Red Sox. Part two will take a look at the significant meaning of the series, not just from the perspective of keeping the Red Sox out of the playoffs. Part three will look at the first two games in the series, the first a win, the second a loss, and why the second game may have been more important than the first. Part four will be the first of many "Road Report" features where Paul and I go back and forth on our thoughts about the live experience at specific games, in this case, September 28, 2011. Part five will take a look at the best and worst of the media journalism following Game 162.
I was dreading the last series of the 2011 season against the Red Sox. This feeling of anxiety was with me long before the final three games of the season had significant meaning. The final home series of the year is "Fan Appreciation." I couldn't think of anything that was more polar opposite of that than a stadium full of obnoxious Boston Red Sox fans, arrogantly cheering their team like Camden Yards is their home stadium as they got set to go to the playoffs, something that is not a privledge anymore for Red Sox fans, but a right.
As the season continued, it looked like the last weekend wouldn't be about clinching a playoff berth for Boston, so that was one load lifted off my shoulders. But unless the obnoxious Red Sox fans didn't show up in late Septemer, it still wasn't going to be a series that would be fun, relaxing, and fit the spirit of "Fan Appreciation."
And then September came.
The collapse of the Red Sox. I couldn't be more happy to see the O's take three out of four in Boston. But as the final series of the year inched closer, it was apparent that these games would take on an entirely new meaning.
Fortunately, the Orioles had transformed into a winning team again, as they had done the previous September. Buck Showalter hadn't lost the team, despite a stretch of play in summer where the Orioles were playing .275 baseball. The O's had taken series against the Rays, Angels, Red Sox in September, as well as a four game split in Detroit. Buck rested the starting position players on Sunday, September 25 against Detroit, which was all I needed to see to be reassured that the final series of the year was going to be played like it was the World Series for the Orioles.