After amazing Sunday at Camden Yards, O's need to refocus and wrap up AL East

The Orioles played the Tampa Bay Rays four series this year. The Rays did not win one series although they were in great shape to win this last one after winning the first two games.

They scored 11 runs in winning one close game and one blowout. Then the Orioles won one blowout and one close game.

The Tampa Bay offense, which began this series second in the AL in runs per game and second in team slugging and OPS, was held to four runs the last two games - games the O's won by a combined 13-4 score.

Over 20 innings on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, Baltimore pitchers held the Rays to 10 hits and three earned runs. Starting pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer combined to allow one run over 13 innings.

The Orioles went 2-0-2 in four series versus Tampa Bay this year and won the season series 8-5 for their first season series win over Tampa Bay since 2016.

So, they lead the AL East by two games, but it seemingly is three with the O's holding the playoff tiebreaker.

Now they need to somehow move on from Sunday's celebrating and basking in the glow of victory and refocus tonight when they start a road trip at Houston.

“What we just said in there (to the players)," manager Brandon Hyde told reporters after Sunday's win. We want to keep celebrating, so to do that, we have to continue to play. We’re going to go face (Justin) Verlander (tonight). That is the way this sport works. Want them to enjoy it for a short time and go play tomorrow."

Hyde talked about the on-field postgame celebration as their fans cheered them on.

“Unbelievable fan reaction. Just really happy for the players in that clubhouse. They have earned (the right) to celebrate. This is just the first step. Hopefully we have a few more celebrations the rest of the way. Love to see our guys feeling really good about themselves. For the guys that have never been a part of anything like this, this is why you do this, and it makes it all gratifying," said Hyde.

Sunday's win was, to say the least, improbable. The O's trailed when they came to bat in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings and in the ninth and 10th were down to their last out each time. Adam Frazier's double in the ninth tied it then and Adley Rutschman's single in the 10th tied it then.

Said Rutschman, who had three hits: "This is awesome man. We have a bunch of guys who show up every day and pull for each other. We’ve just gotten so close the last couple of years. These guys are brothers. Awesome to celebrate with them."

Rutschman said he could tell way back in spring training that this could be a special season.

“Absolutely. We knew kind of what we were building off of last year. Felt in spring everyone came in full steam, ready to go for this year. We’ve just competed day in and day out," he said. 

Said Rutschman of celebrating with O's fans: “The fans have been so consistent for us all year. They showed up. To feel how they were excited for today, just amplifies this that much more."

The Orioles are 93-56 and need to go 7-6 or better to win 100 games for the first time since 1980.

The Birds have reached postseason for the 14th time in club history. The 2023 team joins teams in the postseason from 1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1983, 1996, 1997, 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Outfielder Austin Hays threw some props toward his skipper for his late-game moves that he felt led to the win.

“Hyder does an amazing job of putting everyone in a situation where he knows they are going to succeed. What he did today was special how he managed that game, it was awesome," he said. 

O's lefty John Means had a big smile on his face in the clubhouse celebration Sunday - who didn't really - but it had to be extra special for Means. He played on some bad O's teams and now he makes it back to the roster in time for the stretch run. He told me the seeds for this year were really planted last year.

"Last year you felt the shift," said Means. "The kids were coming up and the team was ready to win. It's finally here and I think everyone got that energy starting last year. This is special. These guys accepted me back after so long. Just really cool."

On Friday night it looked like the Orioles would finally lose an AL East series for the first time since April 9. Instead, they split four games, and they are now 10-0-3 the last 13 division series. For the year they are 30-18 in AL East games.

By winning two huge division games this weekend at Camden Yards, their next celebration might include their first division crown in nine years. 

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