HOUSTON – The Orioles have moved on from the party.
They went wild yesterday after clinching a playoff berth, but arrived in Houston with their focus on the seven-game road trip and winning the American League East for the first time since 2014.
“I wanted our guys to enjoy the flight, but I think we’ve done a nice job turning the page,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “We just had our advance meeting and I thought that went really well. I thought guys were in tune to facing (Justin) Verlander today. John Means is ready on the mound. I think we pitched a lot of guys yesterday, had to, but I feel like our guys are ready to play today.”
Center fielder Cedric Mullins, whose sacrifice fly scored the winning run in the 11th inning, said the mindset shifted on the charter.
“We were making sure we got our rest,” he said. “It’s hard to sleep on a plane sometimes, but get as much as you can, especially after an intense game like that. I think the energy level here is really high, continuing to push forward after the clinch. Now, we want to win the division.”
The party was over in Baltimore.
“It did not carry on to the plane,” Mullins said, smiling. “I think the biggest celebration will be the division clinch.”
More champagne, beer and frivolity to mimic yesterday’s clubhouse blowout?
“I say it would be just because it’s another feat that we haven’t had in a long time,” Mullins said. “This group of guys, we’re celebrating.”
Hyde took some time yesterday to survey the clubhouse celebration rather than become immersed in it.
“There were a lot of people involved,” he said. “Everybody that’s worked so hard and been around here for some tough years. Me just watching everybody have a great time, that was the best part of the day.”
One of the best days of his life.
“It was pretty unbelievable,” he said. “Kind of a spontaneous celebration, too. A lot of it happened because of the way we won and the excitement of the game. So, definitely very special.”
Reliever Yennier Cano called it “the best moment in my baseball career,” via interpreter Brandon Quinones.
“Something that I never experienced here in the United States, so just being able to enjoy that yesterday, it was the best moment so far.”
Also important to Cano was having closer Félix Bautista in the clubhouse – unable to pitch due to his elbow injury but able to celebrate with gusto.
“I think it was awesome,” Cano said. “Aside from him being a teammate of mine, he’s my best friend on the team. It was awesome getting to see him celebrate and enjoy that moment with us. Honestly, I’m super happy for him.”
Kyle Gibson is starting Tuesday night. Hyde hasn’t confirmed a Wednesday afternoon starter, though Kyle Bradish would be taking his normal turn.
“I’m kind of waiting to see how it goes with Meansie today,” Hyde said. “We’re going to kind of set our rotation for the last … it’s really a sprint, a couple starts left, everybody, without many days off, either. But let’s watch John tonight, hope that goes well. And we’re going to kind of make some determination with how we’re going to set the rotation after that. But Gibby’s tomorrow.”
Ryan Mountcastle is out of the lineup for the fifth game in a row with left shoulder discomfort, but Hyde said the first baseman still isn’t a consideration for the injured list.
“Seems like he’s doing better,” Hyde said. “We’re trying to get him to swing a little bit. He’s still sore, so we’re hoping he’s available soon. But I think he’s going to be back soon.”
Former Orioles reliever Arthur Rhodes was on the field before the game.
Heston Kjerstad had a group of supporters lined up in front of the dugout that included family and University of Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. Grayson Rodriguez’s family also made the trip from Nacogdoches, Texas.