The NCAA football playoff matchups are set, and the Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Clemson and Alabama teams are x-ing and o-ing in preparation over the long layoff that follows the end of the regular season. The Maryland grid squad has a new coach. The NFL playoff picture is becoming clearer, though it’s by no means settled, certainly not where the Ravens are concerned.
Especially at this time of year, you hear the term “sudden death” more commonly in the context of football. But it happens in baseball too, and over the next several days you will see on MASN three different instances when the Orioles scored instant wins. You’ll also enjoy a pair of marathons in which the O’s crossed the finish line first, plus one of the sweetest endings to a baseball season you’ve ever seen.
Thursday, Dec. 13, 11 a.m. - It was a Thursday afternoon getaway game, with the Birds set to go on a West Coast swing and the Rays headed up to New York. So, naturally, the Sept. 13, 2012 series finale at Camden Yards went 14 innings. With Jeremy Hellickson on the hill for the visitors and lefty Wei-Yin Chen starting for the O’s, the hitters for both teams we boxed in early. With the O’s up 2-1, Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings walked to lead off the eighth. A passed ball sent Jennings to second before Ben Zobrist singled to bring him home and knot the score at 2-2. There it stayed for another five innings. With the game grinding on, Rays manager Joe Maddon pressed Chris Archer into service for a rare relief appearance. The right-hander got through 3 2/3 innings of work without incident before allowing a walk to Adam Jones, a single from Endy Chavez and Manny Machado’s game-ending RBI single. The Orioles’ win - their 81st of the year - officially put an end to the team’s streak of 14 straight losing seasons. It was also the second walk-off win over the Rays in as many games.
Thursday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m. - On May 9, 2017, the Orioles hosted the Nationals for the finale of the Camden Yards half of the regional rivals’ home-and-home series. The season was still young and both teams were riding high. The Nats were leading the National League East (and would go on to win it). The O’s came into the contest with a 21-10 record and a five-game winning streak, including a victory over the Nats in the series opener. That run was in jeopardy when the Birds came to bat in the ninth, trailing 4-2. But Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy had back-to-back RBIs to send the game to extra innings. After Jones and Machado each singled with one out in the 12th, the Nats walked Chris Davis intentionally to maximize the possibility of a forceout or an inning-ending double play. No dice, Nats. Mark Trumbo’s single to left field bagged the 5-4 victory.
Sunday, Dec. 16, 2:30 p.m. - Except, perhaps, for Oct. 9, 1966 or Oct. 15, 1970, Oct. 16, 1983 marks the happiest day in the life of an Orioles fan. The majority of the crowd on hand for the game that day was subdued, but that was more than OK with the guys in gray and their supporters. The O’s on that date nailed down their third World Series title with a 5-0 victory over the Phillies at Veterans Stadium. Scott McGregor pitched the whole thing for the Birds, allowing the Phils just five hits and no runs. Eddie Murray and series MVP Rick Dempsey homered. Sophomore shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. snared a liner off the bat of Garry Maddox in the ninth and the jubilation began.
Monday, Dec. 17, 7 p.m. - Of the charismatic you’ll heard it said, “He really knows how to make an entrance.” Making an exit with a flourish, however, can be even more dramatic. Case in point: Aug. 18, 2017, when the Orioles, just off a 10-game West Coast road trip, welcomed the L.A. Angels to Camden Yards. Trailing 7-5 in the ninth, the O’s loaded the bases with one out. Machado, who had had two home runs already that night, whacked Kenyan Middleton’s 0-1 pitch for a walk-off grand slam.
Wednesday, Dec. 19, 12:30 p.m. - Chen delivered a serviceable outing on Sept. 7, 2013, when the O’s hosted the White Sox, striking out eight while allowing two runs on six hits over six innings. Chisox starter Hector Santiago, however, was just as good over five, and both bullpens held, sending the game to extras tied 2-2. Tommy Hunter coughed up a Conor Gillaspie home run in the 10th, but the O’s got to work in the bottom half against Sox closer Addison Reed. Nick Markakis singled to send Chris Dickerson (pinch-running for Henry Urrutia, who had singled) to third. Nate McLouth struck out, but Markakis swiped second, setting up two in scoring position for O’s catcher Matt Wieters, who singled for the walk-off win.