Looking ahead to the coming week’s “Orioles Classics,” I couldn’t help but think of Jim Mora’s most famous moment.
Mora, then head coach of the Indianapolis (grr!) Colts, spoke with reporters following a 2001 loss that dropped the team to 4-6. One of those reporters asked Mora about the Colts’ chances at making the National Football League playoffs that season, triggering the coach’s now legendary reaction.
“Playoffs? Don’t talk about ... playoffs?” Mora screeched incredulously, his voice rising an octave as his frustrations boiled over. “I just hope we can win a game.”
As my mind’s ear replayed Mora’s delightfully peevish rant, I wanted to say, “Why yes, coach, MASN has plenty of playoffs in store for viewers this week. Thanks for asking.”
To wit, we’ve got a doubleheader of Orioles postseason action from 2012, the triple dip of the 2014 American League Division Series against the Tigers and the whole 1983 ALDS against the White Sox coming your way over the next seven days. You’ll also be able to catch some victories of more recent vintage.
So dig your playoff pennant out of the attic and turn your couch into a bleacher seat for “Orioles Classics.”
Thursday, June 11 - noon - The Orioles secured a wild card berth on the very last day of the 2016 season, topping the Yankees in the Bronx. Matt Wieters homered twice to drive in four runs and Kevin Gausman earned a victory with 7 1/3 strong innings. Zack Britton gave up two singles in the bottom of the eighth, the resulting run charged to Gausman, but his uneventful ninth locked up the 5-2 win. Lefty Richard Bleier retired the side in order for the Yanks in the top of the ninth. The following year, he would become an Oriole.
Thursday, June 11 - 7 p.m. - The O’s closed the book on a forgettable season in a memorable way on Sept. 30, 2018. That was the day that longtime skipper Buck Showalter and longtime face of the franchise Adam Jones made their last appearances in Orioles uniforms. The club had chosen not to renew either of their contracts as a 115-loss season concluded, and 25,000 fans showed up to see an otherwise meaningless game and bid farewell. That the home team actually beat the mighty Houston Astros 4-0 - Jonathan Villar, Trey Mancini and Renato Núñez each went 2-for-4 that day - was just icing on the bittersweet cake.
Friday, June 12 - 4:30 p.m. - To get to the 2012 ALDS to face the Yankees, the Orioles first had to travel to Arlington, Texas, for a wild card game and get past the Rangers, who that year were at or near the top of the AL in runs, hits, average and most other offensive categories. But the Rangers would score just one run at home on Oct. 5, 2012, on a double play grounder in the first inning. Starter Joe Saunders and relievers Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz and Jim Johnson kept the Rangers in check the rest of the way, while the O’s scratched out single runs in the first, sixth and seventh before tacking on a pair in the ninth. Orioles infielder Robert Andino doubled to produce the only extra-base hit for either side in the Birds’ 5-1 playoff victory.
Friday, June 12 - 8 p.m. - The Orioles drew even with the Yankees in Game 2 of the 2012 ALDS with a 3-2 win at Camden Yards. Lefties Wei-Yin Chen and Andy Pettitte started for the O’s and Yanks, respectively, and both turned in solid, if not dominating outings. Robinson Canó doubled off Chen in the first to give the visitors an early lead. In the third, Chris Davis singled with the bases loaded to put the Orioles up 2-1. Mark Reynolds’ RBI single in the sixth added some insurance that came in handy when Eduardo Núñez led off the top of the seventh with a double and Derek Jeter singled to bring him home. After Chen departed with one out in the seventh, O’Day, Matusz and Johnson once more shut the door.
Saturday, June 13 - 10:30 a.m. - Strikeout artist Max Scherzer went eight strong innings at Camden Yards on May 31, 2013 and the Tigers seemed to have things in hand when José Valverde relieved him in the ninth with a 5-3 lead. Valverde got up 0-2 on Nick Markakis before the stoic O’s right fielder yanked the next pitch over the right field wall to lead off the final frame. Jones and Davis followed with singles, but a pair of popups later, the Orioles were on the brink of losing. That’s when Chris Dickerson had one of the more memorable at-bats of his journeyman career, tagging a three-run homer to give the Orioles a walk-off win.
Saturday, June 13 - 8 p.m. - The Orioles got the first of two straight walk-off victories over the Athletics on Aug. 14, 2015. Manny Machado struck the final blow in a seesaw battle with a two-run homer that gave the Birds an 8-6 win in the 13th. Davis and Jones also homered in the game, the latter totaling four RBIs on the night.
Sunday, June 14 - noon - Machado made the Angels wish they’d stayed in Anaheim on Aug. 18, 2017. That’s the night the O’s third baseman homered three times, the third being a grand slam in the ninth that turned a 7-5 deficit into a 9-7 walk-off win for the Orioles.
Monday, June 15 - 9 a.m. - The Orioles got the 2014 ALDS off to a rousing start with a 12-3 beatdown of the Tigers at Camden Yards. The Birds never trailed Game 1, but they were ahead by just one run heading into the bottom of the eighth. But then they erupted for eight runs, tormenting Detroit relievers Joba Chamberlain, Joakim Soria and Phil Coke. Jonathan Schoop and Alejandro de Aza each doubled to drive in two runs apiece. Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer off Scherzer in the first.
Monday, June 15 - 1:30 p.m. - The Birds were behind 6-3 before rallying to take a one-run lead in the eighth in Game 2 of the 2014 ALDS, with Steve Pearce’s single and Delmon Young’s bases-loaded double doing the damage. Britton retired the Tigers in order in the ninth to send the series to Detroit with the O’s in the catbird’s seat.
Monday, June 15 - 6 p.m. - The Tigers and Orioles followed up the two slugfests in Baltimore with a pretty good pitchers’ duel in Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS. O’s starter Bud Norris surrendered just two hits in his 6 1/3 innings of work, while Detroit’s David Price scattered five hits over eight innings, allowing two Orioles runs on a Cruz homer. Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back doubles off Britton to start the home ninth, but the lefty held on to a 2-1 lead to send the O’s to the AL Championship Series.
Wednesday, June 17 - 9:30 a.m. - LaMarr Hoyt notched an impressive complete-game win over the Orioles at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 5, 1983, giving the White Sox Game 1 of the ALCS. But just barely. O’s southpaw Scott McGregor gave up just two runs over 6 2/3 innings, one of those runs scoring on a double play grounder off the bat of Ron Kittle. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth with two out, Dan Ford doubled, then made way for pinch-runner Tito Landrum. Landrum scored on Cal Ripken Jr.’s base hit, but Eddie Murray grounded out to end it with the Orioles at the short end of a 2-1 game.
Wednesday, June 17 - 12:30 p.m. - Mike Boddicker turned in a beauty in Game 2 of the 1983 ALCS, striking out 14 and shutting out the White Sox on five hits while giving the bullpen a day off. Ripken, Ken Singleton and Gary Roenicke each doubled off Floyd Bannister in the 4-0 win that brought the O’s even with the Chisox in the series. Roenicke also had a two-run homer that gave the Birds some breathing room in the sixth.
Wednesday, June 17 - 4:30 p.m. - The White Sox probably liked their chances after splitting the first two games of the 1983 ALCS in Baltimore, but the Orioles took a lot of air out of Comiskey Park in Game 3. Cleanup hitter Murray’s three-run homer in the first inning would ultimately prove more than enough to outperform the Sox offense, which had its hands full of Mike Flanagan and Sammy Stewart that night, but the O’s weren’t done scoring by a longshot. Jim Dwyer, Al Bumbry, John Lowenstein and Ripken all doubled in an 11-1 shellacking of the home team.
Wednesday, June 17 - 7 p.m. - The Orioles and White Sox went nine full innings without crossing the plate once in Game 4 of the 1983 ALCS. Chicago starter Britt Burns continued to pitch into the 10th inning, but Landrum homered with one out to end Burns’ day. Reliever Salomé Barojas, however, couldn’t hold the line. Ripken, Murray and Roenicke singled in succession to put another run on the board, and Murray came home on Benny Ayala’s sac fly off Juan Agosto. Maryland native and sometime Oriole Harold Baines singled with one out in the bottom of the 10th for the Sox, but Tippy Martinez then struck out Greg Luzinski and Tom Paciorek. The O’s had punched their ticket to the World Series.