“Orioles Classics” #TBT: Temporarily derailing the Rays

The winter solstice is upon us, bringing more darkness than most of us would like as we witness the shortest days of the year. But look on the bright side: Beginning Tuesday, they start getting longer again.

Shoot, before you know it, it’ll be mid-February and pitchers and catchers will be checking in at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, Fla. We hope.

Especially given the current surge in the ongoing pandemic, it can be difficult to keep the winter doldrums from creeping into your outlook. So remember (this reminder is as much for me as it is for you) to stay as physically active as you can, practice gratitude and keep in mind that there are brighter days ahead.

One way to do the latter is to tune in to “Orioles Classics” on MASN and enjoy not just the excitement of winning baseball but also the recollections of green grass, warm and sunny days, and the camaraderie of a Camden Yards crowd, for which we’ve gained a new appreciation in 2020, and which we hope to experience once again in the coming new year.

Thursday, Dec. 17 - 2 p.m. - The Rays won the 2020 sprint in the American League East this year and carried that momentum all the way to the World Series. But they hit a rough patch in the early going of the truncated season, a five-game losing streak that began in Atlanta and culminated in a sweep at Camden Yards. On Aug. 1, the Orioles won in the 11th inning, prevailing against a couple of former Birds, Rays relievers Oliver Drake and Chaz Roe. With Bryan Holaday starting the home half on second base per this season’s extra-inning wrinkle, a sacrifice bunt from Pedro Severino and a Pat Valaika single were all it took to secure a 5-4 victory. A socially distanced on-field celebration ensued.

Friday, Dec. 18 - 11 a.m. - Folks of a certain age (yours truly, f’rinstance) remember the exploits of “professional amateur” George Plimpton, who would take on jobs - often in the realm of sports - for which he had little or no formal training and write about those experiences. His 1966 book, “Paper Lion,” chronicled his time posing as a backup quarterback in the training camp of the Detroit Lions, and he later worked out with the Baltimore Colts as well. Orioles infielder/outfielder Stevie Wilkerson had a Plimpton-esque experience when manager Brandon Hyde sent him to the mound on July 25, 2019 in the 16th inning against the Angels with the O’s up 10-8. Unlike Plimpton, however, Wilkerson actually enjoyed a documented measure of success well outside his comfort zone, retiring the Halos in order to become the first position player ever to record a major league save.

Saturday, Dec. 19 - 11:30 p.m. - Chris Davis led off the sixth inning with a home run that tied the score at 2-2 as the Orioles took on the Red Sox on Sept. 17, 2013. That dinger, his 51st of the year, gave Davis a new Orioles record, which he’d extend to 53 before the season was over. That club mark stands to this day. Danny Valencia tripled to lead off the top of the ninth and Matt Wieters’ sac fly brought him home. Jim Johnson got the save in the O’s 3-2 win.

Wednesday, Dec. 23 - 6 p.m. - The modern game often seems to come down to which team can pile up the most home runs. But here’s a pitchers’ duel in which the longball didn’t play a role at all. It happened at Oriole Park on Sept. 1, 2017 with the Blue Jays in town. Kevin Gausman started for the O’s and spread five hits over six innings of work while striking out eight. Jays right-hander Joe Biagini, meanwhile, fanned 10 over seven innings and allowed just five hits. Both bullpens kept the opposing offense at bay into the 13th. But when Aaron Loup started his second inning of work, things started to go south for the guys from up north. Manny Machado led off with a single, and his buddy Jonathan Schoop doubled to give the Birds a 1-0 victory.

Wednesday, Dec. 23 - 11:30 p.m. - With the Orioles trailing the White Sox 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth with one out and two on base, skipper Buck Showalter brought Davis and his left-handed bat off the bench to pinch-hit for Delmon Young against right-hander Ronald Belisario. The textbook move also happened to be the right one in this case, as Davis, with the count full, homered for a 6-4 walk-off victory. Brad Brach’s two innings of work were good enough for a win and Adam Jones recorded two RBIs.

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