Playoff-starved Baltimore Oriole fans know there will be post-season games in October for the first time in 9 seasons. Pennant fever is so high in Charm City that I've heard that the city is already getting decorated in Oriole orange and black.
But the race for the AL East division title against Tampa Bay with the coveted first round bye at stake was still undecided as the last week of the regular season began. Yesterday (Sunday Sept 24) the Orioles salvaged a split in a 4-game series with the Guardians with a relatively easy 5-1 victory behind 7 strong innings by veteran starter Kyle Gibson.
Gibson managed to contain former Met second baseman Andres Gimenez at the plate although the brilliant Venezuelan was a marvel in the field the
whole series. He constantly robbed our hitters in the same spectacular way as our infield - and outfield - defenders have displayed all year.
Even more encouraging for Oriole hopes was southpaw John Means who hurled one-hit 7 & a 1/3 innings on Sat night. Out because of Tommy John surgery for almost two whole seasons, Means had a no-hitter until the 7th when that man again Gimenez homered for Cleveland's only hit.
The weekend proved yet again the wisdom of the old baseball adage, "The best bullpen is a starter that goes 7 innings." Since Baltimore's breakout
closer Felix "The Mountain" Bautista went down in early August with a partial tear of his UCL (ulnar collateral ligament), the Bird bullpen has become
By the end of the 17 games in 17 days road trip that mercifully ended on Sunday, you could sense the fatigue on the bullpen arms, not to mention the agita of those of us in front of our TV sets. I don't even want to think about what it might have felt like if a playoff position hadn't already been secured.
As it turned out, a righty-lefty combo of Yennier Cano and Cionel Perez secured the 4-1 Sat victory for Means and two lefties Danny Coulombe and DL Hall locked down the Sunday 5-1 win for Gibson. Felix The Mountain has been throwing bullpen sessions but I would consider it very doubtful that he can return this season. He is traveling with the team and though on the IL, you know the presence of the 6' 7 280 pounder who was signed by the Marlins at 16 and is only 28 means a lot to his teammates.
AL and NL wild cards are still be determined this week and it is still wide open with only Tampa Bay definitely in although they will miss two recently injured stars, first baseman Yandy Diaz and second baseman Brandon Lowe. The schedule has the Red Sox in the spoiler role, playing two at home with Tampa Tu and W and then four on the road in Baltimore.
The Orioles play two at home with Washington before greeting the divisional rival Bosox for the last four at home. The earliest Baltimore can clinch is Wed with a magic number of 3 (any combination of Balt. wins and TB losses).
Oriole manager Brandon Hyde has been critical of the schedule that put Birds on the road for those 17 games in 17 days. He hopes for a correction in
the future but how about the Diamondbacks having to make TWO trips to New York in the last weeks of the season.
They didn't too well in the Big City and now find themselves in tie with Cubs for last wild cards with the dangerous Phillies already assured of a place in the tournament. The Reds and Marlins still have chances too, the Giants much less so.
Toronto could be the sleeper team in the AL. They have been winning series in September and just took a big one at Tampa. They end season at home against Tampa Bay but first must play the Yankees who are likely to pitch Gerrit Cole on Wed or Thurs. Stay tuned for some great drama in the AL East.
As well as the AL West where Houston, shockingly swept at home by 102-loss Royals, and Seattle are basically in a Survivor series before Texas
visits Seattle and Houston goes to Arizona to end season.
Let me close with a couple of TCM sporting tips.
Th Sep 28 8p "A Night At The Opera" (1935) the Marx Brothers classic with a memorable rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"
Su Oct 1 1215A repeated at 10P - "Whiplash" (1948) A Noir Alley presentation with as seemingly as preposterous a script for even Noir.
But could be a lot of unintended fun. Dane Clark is a painter turned boxer gets into a triangle with Alexis Smith and Zachary Scott who becomes Clark's manager and names him Mike Angelo. You can't beat the supporting players, Eve Arden and S. K. "Cuddles" Sakall. (Obviously this film has no relation to the "Whiplash" of a few years ago about music that won an Oscar for J. K. Simmons.)
Su Oct 1 1015P "On Moonlight Bay" (1951) - Doris Day as the tomboy who falls in love with next door neighbor Gordon McRae. In addition to the title tune, we hear "Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile". Those of a certain age will remember this song as I believe the theme song on WOR Radio's morning "Rambling With Gambling" show.
That's all for now. Take it easy but take it and stay positive, test negative.