ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Manager Buck Showalter had a few words for his players tonight before leaving the clubhouse to do his postgame interview on MASN and meet with reporters.
“I told our guys how proud I am, and just to be associated with this bunch,” he said following a 4-1 loss to the Rays that forced the Orioles onto the road for Friday night’s wild card game. “They’re a baseball-playing bunch of guys. They’ll let it rip in Texas and it won’t be from timidness. I can tell you that.
“We knew it was a long shot in New York tonight, and we ran into some really good pitching. I’ve got tip my hat to (the Rays). What’s really kind of amazing is that you look over there with what they’ve been able to do this year, win 90 games, and their season is over. It tells you what a fine line there is and, a couple extra-inning games and few one-run losses and we could be in the same position they are.”
The Orioles need for forget their two losses at Tropicana Field and focus on the Rangers.
“Did we lose two out of three?” Showalter asked, grinning “We did? We already forgot about it.
“No, they’ve got great pitching and they’ve got so many weapons. And we pitched well, too. I thought Tilly (Chris Tillman) threw the ball pretty well. There just wasn’t much margin for error. But the guys are ready. They’ve worked very hard to have this opportunity.”
Someone suggested that there was an empty feeling after tonight’s loss.
“Empty? No, not at all. Heavens no,” Showalter said. “We knew the game tonight in New York was a real longshot. There were some advantages of being able to win, regardless. I don’t think that’s the word that even comes close to describing our locker room. They’re looking forward to the opportunity and head down to Texas and playing. It’s a tough road however you do it. We feel real good about the opportunity that we have earned by being one of the, what is it, X number of teams left. Five in our league? We’re one of five in a pretty good league.”
Did Showalter see evidence that his players were pressing?
“No, I saw evidence of good pitching,” he said. “We shouldn’t feel like Tampa is picking on us. They’ve got two guys, some people would tell you three guys, worthy of the Cy Young Award. It’s this time of year, when pitching is on top of its game and hitters are on top of their game, pitching wins. When people say it’s not about pitching, trust me, the people who are playing this time of the year starting Friday, it’s because of their pitching. That’s a common denominator.”
The Orioles really wanted a playoff game in Baltimore, but as Showalter reminded everyone, “We still have that opportunity, OK?”
“It’s like the guy on that first tee that wants a bunch of strokes in handicap. I tell them. They never ask for strokes from me. Play better,” he said.
“It’s in our hands. It’s not someone else controlling it.”
Showalter mentioned Joe Saunders and Steve Johnson as options for Friday night. Jason Hammel will accompany the team to Texas, work out and be an option for Sunday if the Orioles advance to the Division Series.
“If you look at what’s been going on all year, it’s been the sum of the pitching staff between Norfolk and Baltimore,” Showalter said. “We think our No. 1 starter is the guy that’s pitching that night.”