Hyde: "Our clubhouse right now is pretty loud and seems very, very normal like the regular season" (updated)

Players filtered onto the field earlier today to begin their workout leading into Saturday’s Game 1 of the American League Division Series. The batting cage set up. Ground balls hit to infielders. Pitchers throwing in the bullpen. Members of the grounds crew leaning against the dugout railing with arms folded, knowing they were in for a long day with the Rangers following the Orioles.

It seemed routine, like any other afternoon, which is what manager Brandon Hyde wanted and expected. The 163rd game in 2023 wasn’t rattling anyone’s cage.

“We have so much inexperience and so many guys that haven't had postseason experience,” Hyde said. “Just today I got to the park, it's really loose, and that's a great sign. Their workouts have gone really well the last few days. I don't feel any tension or guys feeling nervous about the games coming up. Our clubhouse right now is pretty loud and seems very, very normal like the regular season, and that's what I was hoping was going to happen.”  

The stands were empty but a sellout crowd is coming Saturday. Playoff baseball in Baltimore for the first time since 2014.

“It's been exciting,” said catcher Adley Rutschman. “It was cool to have fans out on Wednesday for the sim game and just feel the energy of people getting excited. I think we're excited for Saturday and ready to get going.

“Yeah, I know our guys are really enjoying that. I'm enjoying that,” Hyde said.

“Just from where we came from, to have our fans be proud of our team, have our fans enjoy watching us. And our fans have been just amazing this year with how positive they've been. And we're a fun team to watch.

“It makes you feel proud that the city has rallied around our group. And just going out for dinner or whatever it may be, people walk up to you and say, ‘thank you.’ That means a lot. Just the workout the other day, I wasn't expecting … what was it four or five thousand people here in the middle of the day on a weekday to just watch us practice? So, to see that and to hear the energy and feel the energy from the fans, pretty special.”

To hear anything is a big deal after the pandemic left ballparks empty in 2020 and created a slow buildup in attendance in 2021. After 100-plus loss seasons either kept other fans home or severely tested their loyalty.

Hyde is a rare manager who sat in the chair at the beginning of a rebuild and lasted through the emergence from it.

“Well, it's not that much fun. I learned that. And to do it multiple years is really not fun. This is a lot more fun,” Hyde said.

“I just appreciate them sticking with me and appreciate them believing in me. And like I said a lot, Mike (Elias) had a lot more patience during those years in a great way than I did. There were some tough nights, and Mike had the big picture in mind. And I just appreciate our relationship and how he's put trust in me, liked the way I ran the club, liked the way I ran the game to stick this through to when we got more talented to have a shot in a situation like this. And so, I mean you learn a lot about yourself honestly when you go through years and nights like that where you're trying so hard to win a game during a tough series, just to win a game during a series.

“Sometimes that made you feel good getting on the airplane. But we've come a long way. And I'm proud of those guys in that room that were there for those years and sticking it out and keeping a great attitude and continuing to improve. And now they get to play in the postseason, it's a great feeling.”

The reward beginning this weekend are games against the Rangers, who led the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, walks and runs, and are tied in home runs.

“Yeah, that's one of the best offenses in baseball, if not the best offense in baseball, and extremely dangerous,” Hyde said. “Athletic, power, a ton of power. Corey Seager, seen him a ton. I've been on teams where he really hurt us. Just a really special hitter and a really great player. They have a ton of switch hitters in their lineup, they're really balanced. So, when we face see a lefty, you're going to see four or five on each side.

“Their pitching is different, obviously, with (Jacob) deGrom being out, but you saw what Jordan Montgomery can do. And we've seen that also in New York. And we know what Nate Eovaldi can do, we've seen him a lot when he was in Boston. They have really good starting pitching. It's a really good roster. We have our work cut out for us. But you know, I think we're a good club, also. I think it's going to be a good series.”

“They're a really good team,” Rutschman said. “Played them earlier in the year and they were good then. It's been cool to watch what they've gone through this year. And I think we're excited to play.”

“I think it’s a great team,” said infielder Ramón Urías. “We’re not going to play bad teams now. They are a really good team, but I think we have something good, too.”

The teams haven’t met since May at Camden Yards. The Orioles played in Arlington in their first road trip of the season. Scouting reports are updated and changes are noted.

“I think we have the same core group of guys, but I think our pitching is a little different,” Hyde said. “Our young pitchers have grown over the course of the year. (Kyle) Bradish has improved, Grayson (Rodriguez) has obviously improved a lot.

“Our bullpen is a little bit different. (Ryan) O'Hearn wasn't that middle-of-the-order bat back then that he became the last two-thirds of the year. And such a great year he had, such a great story. But we're pretty much the same club.”

Hyde is pitted against veteran manager Bruce Bochy, who won three World Series with the Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

“I don't know Bruce very well,” Hyde said. “The last time when he was here was when he was with the Giants, and I think it was kind of a retirement. But we gave him a gift, we lauded him on the field. That was special for me, honestly, because I grew up in the Bay Area.

“Bruce Bochy, I have an unbelievable amount of respect for. And I've watched closely how he ran games, especially in the San Francisco years. We (Cubs) competed against him in '16 in that divisional series in San Francisco. But he's so good. Especially at that time without with three-batter minimum, the way he could match up out of the bullpen. The players love playing for him. You never heard a bad thing, ever, about Boch from a player. And he absolutely has got the most respect, unbelievable amount of respect from everybody in this game from how he can run a game and the respect he has from players.”

Bochy returned the praise.

"I've talked to Brandon. He has done such a great job here," Bochy said.

"You look at where Baltimore was and where they are now. You have to look at him and how steady he is. He just looks like he does a tremendous job here. Great baseball guy that has turned his team around. And now you look at them, and they're one of the best teams in baseball. It starts with him and the job he's done.

"We talked about he's from the Bay Area, so grew up there. And I got a nice little sendoff here when I retired. So thank him for that, too, but he took care of me on that."

Bochy said he’ll probably announce his Game 1 starter after today’s workout. He said the Rangers are “close” to making a decision.

Asked about the Orioles today, Bochy replied, "I say as much as anything, it's just a young, aggressive team, very talented ball club. Starts with the great starting pitching they have. You don't win a hundred games without having really good pitching, which they have. They have a balanced lineup. They have speed. They're aggressive on the bases, well-managed club. Brandon has done a great job with them. When you get to this point, you know you're playing a really, really good team."

Bochy must prep for Bradish in Game 1 and Rodriguez in Game 2.

"Good stuff, good stuff," he said. "Good command. Big fastballs. They have good spin, too. But they are good, young arms that really ... I mean, you look at the two that we're facing, one guy has kind of led the way all year. And here they brought up a young kid that really has stepped in and done a great job.

"We saw his debut and you could tell he had good stuff. Big fastball, good carry on it. And it looks like he got comfortable. And he's done a great job for them."

The Orioles haven’t been swept in the last 91 series dating back to May 2022, just prior to Rutschman’s arrival. They didn’t lose more than four games in a row this season.

“I get asked that a lot why we haven't been swept. I don't know the answer to that except I know that our guys show up to the ballpark expecting to win, whether we lost the last couple or won the last couple. I think that it's a pretty consistent mindset,” Hyde said.

“The next day starting pitcher always helps. But yeah, our guys like to play. Even in our tough years, I felt like we didn't come to the ballpark the next day with the attitude of a carryover. I think our group has done a great job of not carrying over to the next day, and that's possibly the reason why.”

* Adam Jones will throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and diehard Orioles fan Joan Jett will perform the anthem.

Parking lots will open to fans at 9:30 a.m., and gates will open at 10:30.

Game 4 in Texas, if necessary, is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:07 p.m. on FS1. Game 5 in Baltimore, again if necessary, is next Friday at 8:03 p.m. on FS1.

* Injured Rangers starter Max Scherzer threw a simulated game after his bullpen session. Scherzer went on the IL last month with a strained muscle in his right shoulder.

* The Rangers finally announced their starters - left-handers Andrew Heaney in Game 1 and Jordan Montgomery in Game 2.

Heaney is 10-6 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.378 WHIP in 34 games (28 starts). He owns a 7.63 ERA and 1.565 WHIP in seven career games (six starts) against the Orioles totaling 30 2/3 innings.

Jorge Mateo is 4-for-7 with a home run against Heaney and he could be in the lineup for the first two games. Ryan Mountcastle is 3-for-6 with a double and two home runs.

The lefty starters also increase the chances of Jordan Westburg starting, and could move Ryan O'Hearn to the bench.

Orioles bring same season vibe into playoffs
Adley Rutschman excited to see the crowds and get ...

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