As the Orioles get ready to play in the MLB postseason for the first time since 2016 and in the American League Division Series for the first time since 2014, experience in the playoffs is one of the few attributes this team is missing.
The only position players who have played past Game 162 are Aaron Hicks, Adam Frazier and James McCann, and Kyle Gibson and Jack Flaherty are the only pitchers with a combined 26 1/3 playoff innings.
The Orioles have played in many close games and many late-season high-pressure games this year. That should help prep them. But the postseason could prove to be something different and even more challenging.
“Just think that there will be a lot more adrenaline than they’ve ever felt before,” Hicks, who has played in five different postseasons, said. “They’re going to be a lot more nervous pregame and what it pretty much comes down to is who can calm down the fastest and just play baseball. That is what it comes down to. Little things win games in the postseason.”
Hicks has played in playoff games with the Yankees in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and last season, when he went 0-for-3 versus Cleveland in the ALDS.
He said the nerves will be there when they take the field for that first game.
“It lasts for a few innings," he said. "You know, you’re nervous and excited at the same time. I think everybody is different. Some guys, it may last the whole game and you can kind of tell. You see a lot with pitchers their first time they are throwing harder and can’t really find the zone. There are different things where it takes time while you are in it to calm down.”
Have some of his teammates asked him yet about being in a playoff game?
“Think it is going to be coming pretty soon. I think the only guys that have playoff experience are I think me, Gibby and McCann I think and Frazier,” he said and we can add Flaherty to that list.
Hicks said the closest moment recently for him that was like a playoff game was when Frazier doubled in the last of the ninth to tie Tampa Bay on Sunday, Sept. 17 because of the crowd and the pressure of the situation.
So are the O’s ready for what is coming?
“They’re ready. They are definitely ready,” said Hicks. “When it comes down to winning close games, coming from behind, those are things you are going to need to do in a postseason game. And at some point locking it down. Those are extremely important in postseason games and being able to control your emotions during those high-pressure games.”
Can a team with so little playoff experience, like the Orioles for instance, make a deep playoff run?
“100 percent," Hicks said. "I think our 2017 (New York) team was pretty young but we had some veterans around us. Until you are thrown in the fire, you don’t really know what it’s like until it starts.
“But it’s just a baseball game. That is the way you have to think about it and go about your preparation and try not to be someone you’re not.”