Top 20 Games of 2014: Game #5

5. Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers (October 2 – 5:37 pm – 12-3)

As someone completely invested in the 162-game season and not being used to two weeks of essentially meaningless baseball at the end of the season for the first time since 2010, 5:37 pm on Thursday October 2 couldn’t come fast enough. 

Clinching on September 16 made the last two weeks of the season interesting in an anti-climatic way.  The last home series against the Red Sox was uneventful, despite losing two out of three.  The Yankees away series allowed the O’s to eliminate the Yankees from the playoffs at their own stadium while also falling prey to the fairy tale ending that was Derek Jeter’s last game in the Bronx.  And the final series of the year against the Blue Jays saw two losses before a strong 1-0 victory closed out the regular season. 

Paul and I arrived early to the stadium, around 4:40.  When you go to as many games as we do, arriving as close to game time as possible is a plus, unless it is a give-a-way game.  We arrived early to soak in the ambiance and atmosphere of this special occasion and make sure we didn’t miss any of the pre-game celebrations. 

While the final score was 12-3, the game was much closer over the first 7 ½ innings of play.  Chris Tillman’s strike out of the side in the first set the scene for Nelson Cruz’s two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning.

The O’s took a 3-2 lead into the 7th and after recording 5 outs, Buck called for Darren O’Day to finish the 7th.  Paul said he was going to the bathroom and with longer national TV commercials, figured he would be back in plenty of time to see the final out of the inning. 

Here’s where I have to admit a personal issue in public.  I have an admittedly dumb superstition at Oriole games – it is better to go to the bathroom while the O’s are batting.  Only good or neutral things can happen at bat, unless it is the bottom of the 9th and the team needs a run to tie or take the lead.  If you go while the O’s are in the field, the best case scenario is no runs are let up and worst case, runs are let up.  It’s a bleak view on things, I know, but it’s something that I’ve abided by.  It’s one area where my optimism for everything Orioles is turned on its head.  And it makes absolutely no sense since there is no control over the game from a fan perspective but it is what it is.

So in game one of the playoffs, with a one run lead, Paul decides to go to the bathroom. O’Day gets the final out of the inning and Paul makes it back to his seat by the time JJ Hardy hits his first post season home run.  I shake my head at the amount of time he spent getting to and from the bathroom (46,000+ will make what is usually a quick trip into a longer haul) and tell him he is lucky that nothing bad happened.  Luckily, this incident wouldn’t be repeated in game two of the series.

After Miguel Cabrera hit a decent Darren O’Day pitch to right-center for a home run, Zach Britton was called on to get the final out of the eighth inning.  And then the flood gates opened.

The entire stadium essentially stood for the bottom half of the eighth after deAza doubled with one out.  It was an unforgettable experience, seeing the Tigers trot out their best relievers in Joba Chamberlain and Joachim Soria, only to see them helpless against the O’s offense.  Phil Coke mopped up the inning and the scene would be set for the eighth inning of game two.  At the time, we would have never dreamt that game one would be completely topped in the most satisfying way possible less than 24 hours later.