Orioles clinch playoff berth while flying to Tampa

It took 15 years and one really bizarre day, but the Orioles are heading back to the playoffs.

The Angels lost to the Rangers tonight in Game 2 of their doubleheader 8-7, which thrust the Orioles into the postseason for the first time since 1997.

Joe Nathan, who blew the save in Game 1, stranded the tying run on first base, allowing the Rangers and Yankees to also clinch playoff berths.

Mike Napoli drove in six runs against his former team. He should receive a muffin basket from the Orioles.

The Orioles couldn’t celebrate on their home field this afternoon and they couldn’t do it at their team hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., because their charter was forced to make an emergency landing in Jacksonville due to smoke coming out of the kitchen area believed to be caused by a small fire.

As manager Buck Showalter keeps reminding reporters, the club’s only focus is on winning the American League East. Qualifying for the playoffs is one step, but it’s not the end of the journey.

The Orioles begin a three-game series at Tropicana Field Monday night. They remain tied with the Yankees for the division lead after both teams won today.

The Orioles would host the Yankees in a one-game playoff, most likely on Thursday, if they finished tied atop the standings. They split 18 games against each other this season, but the Orioles have the better division record.

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