Nick Markakis milked Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon for 11 pitches in the bottom of the ninth inning. Adam Jones worked him for 10 before bouncing out to end the game. Papelbon needed 28 pitches to record the save in the Red Sox’s 8-7 win.
The Orioles didn’t go quietly. Not after falling behind 8-4 in the eighth inning, and not after trailing 8-6 in the ninth.
“I don’t think it surprises anybody who knows those two guys,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I know you all get tired of hearing the word ‘proud,’ but it doesn’t surprise anybody. And J.J. (Hardy), big at-bat there to give us a chance. A lot of things to keep grinding back in that game and give us opportunities. Especially to do it off (Daniel) Bard and have an opportunity against Papelbon.
“I think everybody felt like we’d make a run at them, and we did over the course of the game.”
“The potential’s there,” Showalter added. “We put a lot of the phases of the game together, but you’ve got to do it over a longer period of time like they have. We know where the benchmark is at 90. You come out of Sarasota, if you’re not going to approach 90, you’re not going to be playing meaningful games late in September. I’m not a big believer that this exactly means this is going to happen in the future, but it’s a good experience for everybody.”
Zach Britton struggled with his command and took the loss to end his rookie season at 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA.
“If you asked Zach would he have taken that coming out of camp, he would have said, ‘No,’ but that’s the drive he has,” Showalter said. “He’ll go home and take it all in and learn from it and he’ll figure it out. This guy’s 23, 24 years old. The experience that he’s picked up this year will be important to him, but it’s no precursor to go to another level, and he knows that. There’s no set time frame. There’s not some chapter in a book, ‘A Young Pitcher Develops 101,’ that says this happens and it leads to that. But all things being considered, it’s a good start for him and I hope it’s the start of a long, good career for a young Oriole pitcher for us.”
At least the Orioles get to experience the excitement of a playoff-type atmosphere, even if they remain in last place in their division. One of the perks of playing spoiler.
“I’d like to recollect back to ‘95 when we had all those young kids in New York that we carried on with us in the playoffs and the month of September and got to see all that first-hand,” Showalter said. “I hope it has that same effect. That would be a pretty good thing to say. But like I said, I hope it makes them continue to be hungry to get some other things shored up so we can be a part of this in a different situation.
“I think from a confidence standpoint, if you look at Boston and see how talented and how a lot of things they are without getting into it, here they are and there’s such a fine line that separates those games there. We’ve been saying that all year long. If we do the things that teeters that over toward our side, I think the more we get exposed to what the difference-makers are, the better we are to attack them.”
The Orioles close their season tomorrow night. They’ll try to do the same to the Red Sox.
“We’ve got the chance to compete tomorrow and I think with very few exceptions, you’ve got a lot of people looking forward to tomorrow instead of some sense of finality, even though it is,” Showalter said.