If the Orioles ever get around to adopting a team motto for their current cast, one that isn't already plastered on the front and back of T-shirts selling like hotcakes, how about a simple "Give Us A Chance?"
That's all I could think of as the ballclub charged through a preliminary playoff against that all-star team in Detroit, and got back to work preparing for the American League Championship Series showdown against the Kansas City Royals.
In the victorious Game 3 against the Tigers, for instance, pitcher Bud Norris was one of the standouts, and think about where he came from -- the Houston Astros, for crying out loud. He was a dump job at the trade deadline in 2013.
Manager Buck Showalter moved up Norris in the starting rotation, from his usual fourth position to third, for the pitcher's first playoff experience. One theory for the move is that Game 4 was to be a day game, and Norris performs considerably better during night contests. Another thought was that starting in Game 3 rather the Game 4 would have made Norris available in relief had the series gone the full five games.
Regardless, Norris was dynamite, holding the Tigers to two hits and no runs in 6.1 innings pitched. As motor mouth (a nickname the late Paul Blair made famous) Orioles center fielder Adam Jones pointed out, “Bud has never pitched a really important game in his career, a team-important game, that is. I think he did quite well."
Then there's Orioles reliever Andrew Miller, the angular left-hander who relieved Norris in the seventh inning and delivered the game to closer Zach Britton in the beginning of the ninth. It was the quietest five outs anybody has ever heard. Miller showed up in July from Boston at the trade deadline, and the Red Sox probably don't know he's gone yet.
And how about those players previously thought of as utility infielders? The club loses a couple of Gold Gloves and Chris Davis, who smacked 53 home runs and plated 138 runs last season, via drug suspension, and Steve Pearce, Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty move in and perform as though they've been regulars for years.
Pearce, whose previous home run high for a season was seven, smacked 21 during the regular season, and his .293 batting average makes you wonder where he has been all these years. The Birds gave Schoop second base back in March, and he may not give it back until 2020 or so. Flaherty all of a sudden looks as if his batting average in the low .200s is gone forever. These three combined for 44 home runs and 126 RBIs. Utility players, indeed.
Oh, by the way, the Orioles lost All-Star catcher Matt Wieters to an arm injury for almost the entire season, and it took the team about two hours to line up a couple of receivers who combined for a solid season offensively, and handled the pitching staff in superb fashion. One of them, Caleb Joseph, wasn't even mentioned as a candidate for the 25-man roster until he showed up behind the plate one day in April.
The real find, though, was outfielder Delmon Young. When he showed up in Baltimore, he was a non-roster invitee to spring training. He went on to hit .302 with seven home runs this season. As a pinch hitter, he batted roughly .500. And his three-run double giving the O's the victory during the second game of the Detroit sweep is perhaps the biggest hit of the year (to date).
Showalter and Dan Duquette, the Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations, have given numerous players a chance, and many, including Norris, Pearce, Joseph and Young, have delivered.
Be warned: The Kansas City Royals were an even bigger upset winner against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim than the Orioles were against the Tigers. Just what Showalter has in mind for the best-of-seven ALCS is anybody's guess. Just don't bet against it.
Oriole Magic, indeed.