The roster has been a challenge for the Orioles this season with key players lost to injuries and a suspension. The schedule has been a challenge with a multitude of starting times and some brutal travel.
Being down two games to none in the American League Championship Series and heading to Kansas City? Just another challenge for the Orioles.
Adversity takes on many appearances.
“It’s another challenge in our face,” said center fielder Adam Jones following a 6-4 loss in Game 2 before 46,912 at Camden Yards. “That’s how we’re going to look at it. That’s how you’ve got to look at it.
“We’ve been a pretty good road team the last couple years, so let’s go to K.C. and have some fun and play the game.”
The Orioles must win at least two of the three games in order to bring the series back to Baltimore.
“I don’t think anybody’s here panicking under pressure,” Jones said. “We just want to get the job done. That’s all.”
The Orioles haven’t held a lead in the first two games and they no longer hold home-field advantage.
“You just want to hear your fans,” Jones said. “You want to hear them stand up and cheer for you. I don’t think we’re trying to put any pressure on them. We just want to hear them cheer for us.”
And when the Orioles can’t make it happen after the final out?
“Part of the game,” Jones said. “You’ve got to take failure with success, and that’s why a lot of major league players stick around a long time, because they know how to understand and handle success and they know and understand how to handle failure.”
The Orioles squandered a great opportunity in the seventh after loading the bases with one out on an error, walk and single. Steve Pearce and J.J. Hardy flied out.
A turning point?
“No, I don’t think so,” Jones said. “We had a great situation there and it didn’t happen. OK. Come back and do it again and do it again.
“We put ourselves in good situations. I’ve said this a long time. Put yourself in a situation to do something. That’s all you can do.”
The Royals keep making spectacular plays in the outfield. They come as advertised.
“We made some plays today also defensively that kept the runners off bases and stuff,” Jones said. “They play defense, we play defense. That’s why we’re both here in the ALCS, because we both have those intangibles.”
Lorenzo Cain made a diving catch while playing center field, and he ran down another ball near the line after moving to right.
“I expected him to make one in left field before the game was over,” said manager Buck Showalter, maintaining his sense of humor.
Just another challenge. Just more adversity to overcome.
“Well, Kansas City has faced challenges. It’s what teams do at this level,” Showalter said.
“You’ve got to win four games. You’ve got to keep from losing more than three. And that’s obviously oversimplifying it. But you look at teams that compete during the course of the season, they compete on the road, too. So, got a lot of confidence in our guys that you can see this time of year what a sharp, razor-thin line there is between the two. You’ve got to earn everything, every inning, every at‑bat. Like I said last night, you can’t bottle the concentration level and everything that goes into these games. Humanly you couldn’t do it for the 200 games we play a year.
“You see at this time of year guys are firing and you’re getting the best from everybody. I was proud of us battling back. Their seventh, eighth and ninth, obviously they run some good arms out there. Shouldn’t feel like they’re picking on us. They’ve been doing that most all season.
“We did some good things pitching well, too. Brad (Brach) was really good and so was Andrew (Miller), and Darren (O’Day) threw the ball well. The swing and bunt and the bunt and ground ball down the first base line, a ground ball into left field. Zach (Britton) threw the ball good. After slipping around on the mound a little bit last night, he got back in step. Those are all good signs for us. We just ended up on the wrong side of the ninth inning.”
Bud Norris is the only Orioles starter to get into the sixth inning in the postseason, and it happened in Game 3 of the Division Series in Detroit. Chris Tillman and Norris each worked 4 1/3 innings in the first two games of the ALCS, making them the first Orioles starters to go 4 1/3 innings or less in consecutive postseason starts since Jim Palmer (1 1/3) and Doyle Alexander (3 2/3) against the Athletics in the 1973 ALCS.
Those two games were played on Oct. 10 and 11 - same as this year.
The starters obviously need to provide more length despite the Orioles having one of the top bullpens in the majors.
“You’d like to,” Showalter said. “It always the tempo of the game. But like I said, it’s such a grind every out you get. And obviously these two games are operating at a high level, making you earn everything.
“I like to think we’ve done the same. We had some people out there, and they made some really good pitches on us, that we get the ... I think the flare off (Eric) Hosmer early in the game hurt. Made a really good pitch there. We’ve had some of those, too. But hopefully if our guys stay true to what they’ve been doing this year, they’ll get rewarded for it.”
Asked if he’s surprised that his club hasn’t held a lead yet, Showalter replied, “Not at all. Not really. We’ve had a tie. I would like to kiss my sister, but she’s not here right now, one of the three. But you brought it up. Let me think about it. What do you think? I don’t know.
“You’ve got to get to a tie when you’re behind before you can take the lead. Like we said kind of last night, you see sometimes you spend so much energy and concentration trying to get back to that point, it’s hard to take that next step. But I think about a hundred percent of that is what they’re doing, not what we’re not doing.”
Showalter decided to let Britton pitch to Alcides Escobar with one out in the ninth inning and first base open, rather than issue an intentional walk. Jarrod Dyson was on deck, followed by Lorenzo Cain, who ended up with four hits today.
Escobar doubled down the right field line to break the tie, Dyson reached on an error and Cain delivered an RBI single.
Showalter has to respect the Royals’ speed and ability to manufacture runs. He could manage differently against the Tigers.
“I could go over about a hundred decisions Ned (Yost) and I and all the guys have to make, and the players more importantly have to make. What pitch to throw, what to look for as a hitter. There’s so many things,” Showalter said.
“It can be kind of maddening if you let it, but you trust your instincts and know your guys. I’m really proud of Zach. Threw the ball really well. We had some ground balls find some holes, and got to keep grinding and some of those things will ... We’ve had some fortunate things happen to us, too.”
Nelson Cruz singled in his last two at-bats and has multiple hits in six consecutive playoff games dating to 2012, a new postseason record. He also set the record by doing it in the first five games of the postseason.
Cruz’s 20 career RBIs in the ALCS move him into a 10th-place tie with Reggie Jackson and Jim Edmonds. Bernie Williams holds the record with 33.
Jones collected his first postseason extra-base hit with a home run in the third inning. It came in his 44th career at-bat in his 11th game. Among Orioles batters, only Andy Etchebarren went longer to start his postseason career, needing 18 games.