DETROIT - No matter where a series shifts in the playoffs, the Orioles are going to remain the same.
They will continue to be aggressive at the plate, regardless of the situation. And they make no apologies for it.
“You just let it go, man,” said center fielder Adam Jones before heading outside to take his swings in batting practice. “You’ve seen us all year. We tee high and let it fly. That’s been our motto. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes we look crazy for six, seven innings, but it’s helped us get to this point, so we’re not going to change.”
Delmon Young came out hacking, as usual, against reliever Joakim Soria in the eighth inning of Game 2 of American League Division Series. Summoned as the pinch-hitter for Ryan Flaherty with the bases loaded, Young wasted no time in lining a three-run double into left field that wiped out the Tigers’ 6-4 lead and put them on the brink of elimination.
“The first pitch he sees, he likes it and he swung at it,” Jones said. “He could have sat there and taken a third ball, but that’s our approach. If you like it, fire them hips and swing the bat.”
No wonder it’s so hard for opposing pitchers to set up a hitter.
“Exactly,” Jones said. “I think that’s the part we like. They know we’re hacking, so they might try to nibble or might try to get out of their comfort zone instead of just pounding the zone. And that’s the thing with the Detroit starters. They pound the zone, so it makes no sense to get down 0-1, 0-2 with these guys. It makes no sense to me at all or anybody in here.”
It’s the Tigers who are down 0-2 in the series, which must ease at least some of the pressure on the Orioles.
“It helps,” Jones said, “but we’ve still got a lot more in this series to go. Until you see series win, the job’s not done.”
Jones said there’s no pressure on the Orioles to win after they lost in five games to the Yankees in the 2012 ALDS.
“We weren’t supposed to be here,” Jones said. “Everybody said we were supposed to finish last in our division, so we’re playing with house money.
“There’s no pressure on us. You’re just playing baseball. Having some fun while doing it.”
And building confidence along the way. Not that it’s ever been lacking on this club.
“It just comes with the territory,” Jones said. “We’ve got some guys in here who have been in some winning situations and they brought their winning situations here. It’s contagious. We want to succeed and we pull for each other. It’s not a selfish team. We want to win and we don’t care who does it.”
Young made it happen Friday afternoon, collecting his 11th pinch hit in 21 opportunities. Comes up cold off the bench and immediately smokes a line drive to left field. Doing it Delmon style.
This is a guy who’s always in attack mode, who’s always looking to mash the ball. Situational hitting isn’t for him. In Young’s world, the situation always calls for a home run.
“Did you hear his answers?” Jones asked. “That’s Delmon. He was trying to hit a grand slam and hit the ball off the foul pole every swing. True. That’s what he tries to do. That’s telling him to get the head out.”
It’s not the type of approach that coaches routinely teach their young hitters.
“There are a lot of approaches that don’t work for everybody,” Jones said. “Everybody’s different in this game. We all want Miguel Cabrera’s approach, or Victor (Martinez’s), but we can’t have it. We have to take our own approach and that’s his approach. He’s always been a guy who, if you throw a strike and he’s right there, he’s going to swing at it.
“Camden Yards, that’s the loudest I’ve ever heard it when Delmon got that hit, and it’s going to be a different environment here. It’s going to be very loud for them, it’s going to be cold. Still got to play baseball.”
Jones was a big part of the yesterday’s rally. Joba Chamberlain hit Jones with one out. Nelson Cruz singled and Jones scored on Steve Pearce’s single. J.J. Hardy walked to load the bases and Young cleared them.
“He was just trying to come in and one ran in, and I’m not moving,” Jones said. “It’s the postseason. It’s OK. It will heal in the off-season.
“That’s all we need is something. I said we’re a bloop and a blast away from anything, so when I got hit and Nelson got the hit and Pearce comes up with a great at-bat and gets a hit, we’re right in the game. And it just fed off each other. J.J. with a great at-bat and Delmon with the hit. We just feed off each other.”
The Orioles keep devouring the Tigers’ beleaguered bullpen. They’ve had an insatiable appetite for it, scoring 11 runs (10 earned) in 3 2/3 innings.
“Our bullpen is really strong,” Jones said. “Theirs is good too. It’s just we’ve grinded out the at-bats against them and just made them throw a lot of pitches. We’ve put them in our hitters counts and made them pay for ourselves grinding out and getting into those hitters counts.
“Not saying they’re struggling. We’re just having good at-bats and putting the ball in play and making it tough for them.”
The strategy is simple enough. Get the former Cy Young Award winners out of the game and force Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to sift through his bullpen.
The leash on left-hander David Price figures to be a long one. It could wrap around Comerica Park and Ford Field.
“It’s always part of the plan to get these kinds of starters out of the game,” Jones said. “You know their histories. They throw a lot of pitches and they go deep in the games. That’s why they are who they are. And you know it’s going to be hard to get the ball out of Price’s hands, so that’s going to be our main mission, to get him out of the game.”
One big swing at a time.