The ol’ Warehouse was humming with the Spirit of Seasons Yet to Come earlier this week, when Orioles general manager Mike Elias introduced Birdland to the team’s new skipper, Brandon Hyde. Like Bob Cratchit, Hyde now will have several youngsters to look after, as the O’s rebuilding project will be flush with fresh-faced prospects.
For Christmas Present, however, MASN will this week summon some ghosts from the past (OK, if you want to get technical, the principal characters in the games we’ll be revisiting are still living, but, hey, try to work with us here).
We’ve no scary ghost stories, but tales of the glories of summers not so long ago (apologies to Andy Williams). On and around Christmas Day, “Orioles Classics” will bring you the very first game and the very last game of the O’s most recent playoff season, a clutch pitching performance from an unlikely source and the ends of two different enduring records of endurance.
God bless us, every one!
Thursday, Dec. 21, 7 p.m. - A win over the Yankees is always a nice way to wrap up a regular season, especially when you’re headed for the postseason and they’re not. Such was the case when the Yanks hosted the Orioles to cap their 2016 campaign on Oct. 2. O’s starter Kevin Gausman pitched 7 1/3 innings while allowing just two runs. Catcher Matt Wieters furnished the lumber, driving in four of the visitors’ five runs with a pair of two-run homers. Lefty Zach Britton got himself in some trouble in the eighth, but kept the damage to a single Yankees run, then breezed through a 1-2-3 ninth to seal the 5-2 win for the O’s and send them on to the wild card game on a positive note.
Sunday, Dec. 23, 4:30 p.m. - Wieters also played hero for the very first game of the Orioles’ 2016 season, breaking a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI single off Kevin Jepsen to give the Birds a walk-off victory over the Twins on opening day, April 4 of that year. Each team burned through six pitchers that day, none going longer than three innings. Britton ended up with the win after facing three batters in the top of the ninth. Adam Jones drove home two in the fifth with a double to right-center.
Monday, Dec. 24, 11:30 a.m. - The 2014 Orioles won the American League East and reached the American League Championship Series in no small measure due to the bat of Nelson Cruz. On Sept. 7, fans at Tropicana Field saw just how powerful the Dominican slugger could be while they watched the Orioles triumph over the Rays in a see-saw match that went 11 innings. With the O’s trailing 3-0 in the sixth, Cruz belted an 0-2 pitch from Jeremy Hellickson over the wall in left-center to cut the deficit to a single run. The Birds were down two in the ninth when Cruz came to the plate with the bases juiced. His triple would clear them to put the O’s up by one. Britton came on in the home half to go for the save, but the Rays scratched out the equalizer, with Evan Longoria coming around to score after he’d reached on Ryan Flaherty’s throwing error. Cruz untied the game in the top of the 11th, driving home Nick Hundley and himself on a shot to left-center to complete a 4-for-5, seven-RBI afternoon. Lefty Andrew Miller notched the save, striking out the first two batters, hitting Sean Rodriguez with a pitch and then fanning Logan Forsythe to end it.
Tuesday, Dec. 25, noon - The man who famously considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth was at least lucky enough to avoid an injury serious enough to keep him from playing an astonishing 2,130 games in a row. For decades, baseball people considered Lou Gehrig’s major league consecutive-games mark untouchable. But in the mid-1990s one Calvin Edwin Ripken Jr. started creeping up on it. On Sept. 5, 1995, the Orioles hosted the Angels for the second of a three-game series, and the O’s shortstop played in his 2,130th straight game. The Birds cruised to an 8-0 victory, and 46,000 fans witnessed history at Camden Yards. They also tested the endurance of their lungs. Four of the five batters that Angels starter Brian Anderson faced in the bottom of the second took him over the wall. Brady Anderson homered for a second time in the fourth. Then in the seventh, Ripken ripped a pitch from Mark Holzemer to left for yet another home run.
Tuesday, Dec. 25, 11:30 p.m. - Even as the Iron Horse’s record was fading in Ripken’s rear-view mirror, we all knew that his own streak had to end sometime. Sometime came on Sept. 20, 1998. As the fourth-place Orioles were preparing to take on the Yankees in their final home game of the season, Ripken let manager Ray Miller know that he was ready to take a night off. After the O’s had taken the field to start the game with Ryan Minor at third instead of the Iron Man, the significance of the moment became clear and the fans joined the Yankees in spontaneous applause. Roberto Alomar went 3-for-4, but the Birds lost 5-4. Minor went 1-for-4 with a single.
Wednesday, Dec. 26, 12:30 p.m. - Sunday doubleheaders aren’t so unusual, but Sunday, May 6, 2012 was a little different. That’s when the Orioles and Red Sox played an unintentional almost doubleheader, doing battle for 17 innings at Fenway Park. J.J. Hardy had a day, going 5-for-8 with two home runs. Jones and second baseman Robert Andino went deep, too. Designated hitter Chris Davis, meanwhile, went 0-for-8 and struck out five times. Yet one could make a credible case for Davis as the game’s MVP. With both bullpens exhausted, O’s manager Buck Showalter and Bosox skipper Bobby Valentine had to call on position players to pitch. Davis, who had pitched in high school and college, showed that he still had stuff, going two scoreless innings while striking out two batters. Reserve outfielder (and former Oriole) Darnell McDonald, brought in to pinch-run for DH David Ortiz in the eighth took the mound for the Sox in the top of the 17th, walking two before giving up Jones’ three-run homer.