ARLINGTON, Texas - If anyone wondered whether the Orioles would celebrate a wild card game victory, they did so with great enthusiasm and impressive aim.
Champagne and beer soaked the walls, the floor, the players, coaches, manager and executive vice president. Team employees, and yes, every member of the media.
I learned that my shoes aren’t liquid-proof. I’m just glad I don’t have to drive back to the hotel.
“Officer, I’m sure you get this all the time, but...”
Jim Johnson was covered in baby powder, and not by choice. Players circled Dan Duquette and poured champagne over his head until, unable to fight it, he simply raised his arms and soaked in the moment, as well as the bubbly.
“We came to play ball, right?” Duquette said. “If you’re going to advance, you have to beat the former champion, right? That’s what we did. Guys did a great job. They had a good plan and they had discipline to get it done.”
The Rangers had the Orioles’ number again this year, but they had no way to beat them tonight.
“Our pitchers did a great job and we had a good plan going in and the guys executed it,” Duquette said. “Our hitters got a hit when they needed a hit. They were aggressive on the bases and the guys just made the plays. The guys had discipline and they played the way they had to play to win.”
Is this Duquette’s biggest thrill in baseball? Rather than rate them, he said, “This is a terrific moment for Baltimore, the Orioles, the fans, the players. Hats off to everybody. This is a young team, a hungry team, and they know they have more work to do.”
Manager Buck Showalter wiped his eyes, smiled and said, “It’s a nice burn.”
“It’s freezing, but it feels so good right now,” said left fielder Nate McLouth, who drove in two runs, scored once and stole a base. “It’s just a pleasure to be a part of this team.”
It took a while for him to get here. He had to make a stop in Triple-A Norfolk and wait for his turn.
“This is amazing,” he said. “It’s been a strange year for me, but to be where we are now is incredible.”
J.J. Hardy credited “small ball” for tonight’s win. No home runs, only one extra-base hit, two stolen bases.
“It’s whatever we need to do. I think we all know that,” Hardy said. “Some nights, it’s a home run, some nights, it’s moving a runner and getting some timely hits. This team, we feel like we can do it all and we believe in each other.
“No one had us winning this game tonight against Yu (Darvish) with the numbers, but it doesn’t matter. We go out there, we compete every single night and we all believe in each other, and that’s all that really matters.”
Next comes the Division Series and two games against the Yankees at Camden Yards. Players can’t wait to get there. Adam Jones stood outside the clubhouse, alone, hands on his hips, gathering his emotions and saying how he wished he could be in Baltimore tonight.
“I bet it’s crazy there,” he said.
Playing the Yankees ramps up the intrigue and the drama.
“We know them, they know us, it’s going to be a good series,” said Mark Reynolds, who didn’t let a swollen left hand dampen his mood. “I think we split during the year. We’ve got a big game at Camden Yards Sunday night and I’m sure the place will be rocking and our fans get to see a postseason game at Camden Yards. It’s pretty cool.”
“We were picked to finish in the basement like always,” said reliever Darren O’Day. “I think the only guys who believed in us were the guys in the clubhouse.”