Fans kept chanting “We Won’t Stop” today as the Orioles rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the lead.
They didn’t stop until the final out. The Orioles may not stop until late October.
Delmon Young’s pinch-hit, bases-loaded double in the eighth gave the Orioles a 7-6 victory over the Tigers in Game 2 of the American League Division Series before 48,058 at Camden Yards. They hold a 2-0 lead in games as the teams head to Detroit.
Young was 10-for-20 as a pinch-hitter during the regular season. He was just another veteran trying to make the club this spring after showing up at the January mini-camp in Sarasota.
Who knew that he’d become such an integral part of the team’s success?
“Nobody’s that smart, but Delmon Young has a good pedigree,” said manager Buck Showalter. “A lot of people forget he just turned 29. He had a lot of ‘want to.’ He wanted to re-establish himself and we had a good talk about we can provide opportunity, but he’s got to go jump through the door and bring the things that we’re in need of. And he has. He has.”
Young batted .302/.337/.442 with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 83 games during the regular season, but it’s his work off the bench that really gets him noticed.
That double, by the way, still counts despite how it came against the Tigers bullpen. He doesn’t get an asterisk.
What has made Young so good as a pinch-hitter this season?
“There’s a drill we do,” Showalter quipped.
“Who knows? You don’t know that. That’s Delmon. Guys like him, you never preclude them from accomplishing anything. It’s OK for me to say I don’t know. I don’t know. He keeps doing it and we keep giving him an opportunity. That’s pretty easy.
“I know conventionality, from what has happened in the past, things like that shouldn’t happen, but that’s why we play the game. They’re human beings and some of the baseball players in the world don’t always follow a pattern. It would be pretty boring if they did all the time.”
There’s nothing boring about Young coming off the bench, as he did today with Ryan Flaherty due up and Joakim Soria carrying a gas can - the same one Joba Chamberlain used today.
Young was 6-for-29 as a pinch-hitter before finding his niche this season. Showalter was asked again what told him that Young would be so good at it. He still wouldn’t take the credit or the bait.
“I’m not that good,” he replied. “I don’t know. We didn’t sign him to be a pinch‑hitter. We signed him to be a professional hitter that handled himself against left‑handed pitching well. The fit on our club initially when I told him about what was expected and what we needed him to do, he was all in.
“He came into camp in probably the best shape since I don’t know when. He’s just been engaged in the clubhouse. This guy likes to win, OK? As evidenced by his track record. He’s been around a lot.
“When you DH, you pinch‑hit four times, but there’s not a lot to hang your hat on that in the background. But you can hang your hat on a professional hitter.
“I know how we used to try to pitch to him and it was always carefully, because he’s a guy that’s going to let it rip. He’s going to not go home passively.”
The Orioles also liked Young’s postseason experience. He’s been in the playoffs six consecutive years with four different teams.
“He’s been in some big games for us during the season, too, and Delmon has always... he’s slashing it, letting it rip and he fits us well,” Showalter said.
“He doesn’t go around reading a lot of resumes and a lot of bubble gum cards. He goes up there and he works very hard. His work ethic and things he does to prepare, you know, it’s very hard to sit around and not know where the consistent at‑bats are coming. But he’s done the things that you need to do to give yourself a chance to be successful.
“You put your head on the pillow because he’s prepared. He’s a professional hitter. He’s worked hard. He’s running as good as he has in a long time. He’s defended well for us, and he’s done some good things in our clubhouse for us.”
Kevin Gausman pitched in his first playoff game today and retired nine of the first 10 Tigers he faced, striking out five and reaching 99 mph with his fastball. The first three batters reached in the eighth and he was done.
“He was good,” Showalter said. “A lot of times with young players like that, if you can put them into a come‑to‑the‑rescue mode where they have a margin, you know, the expectations are probably potentially lower than what he has. Kevin has high expectations. I mean, this is a Friday night pitcher in the SEC. Have you ever been to a Friday night game in the SEC in Baton Rouge? Obviously, there is more people, bigger stage, basically the volume is turned up. You’ve just got to remember to breathe it in.
“Kevin presented himself real well. And we thought he could be a weapon for us in the bullpen in the playoffs because with their lineup, you’re going to have some challenges pitching to them. Worked out good.”
Wei-Yin Chen also retired nine of the first 10 batters, but he allowed two home runs and five runs overall in the fourth inning. He never recorded the final out.
“Wei‑Yin was real good for three innings, as good as you want to see and flattened out there in the end,” Showalter said. “Plus, those guys are great hitters. I don’t care who you pitch, whether it’s (Chris) Tillman or whatever.
“Of course, Brad Brach, we knew when he came in there was a W somewhere. He snaked out a few of them. What would that make him, 8‑1 for the year? He should be a starting pitcher.”
The Tigers’ starters should never leave the game. The Orioles have scored 12 runs in the eighth inning while building their 2-0 series lead.
Why are they so good in the eighth?
“I don’t know,” Showalter replied. “If I knew that... another one I don’t know. I guess there is that sense of finality. You always wished you could bottle this level of concentration for everybody, because it’s every pitch, it’s every defensive positioning. You never take off. If you take any pitch off, you know in the back of your mind it could be that pitch. But if we knew that, we would move it to another inning and make it less stressful on all of us, huh? I sure would.
“But if you figure it out, let me know.”
Gausman and J.J. Hardy sat together at the podium following Game 2. Gausman especially seemed to enjoy it. Here’s how it went:
What was the feeling there in the eighth inning today when you guys saw Joba coming into the game?
Hardy: “I think it all started when we got a baserunner. When Jonesy got on base, you started to feel the momentum shifting a little bit. And Steve Pearce getting a big hit there, just kind of a good feeling, and, like, we were starting to see, you know, a chance there.”
Kevin, can you describe how you were feeling your first postseason game coming into that situation?
Gausman: “A little anxious, definitely. Once I started warming up, I felt pretty good right away. Usually it takes me a good amount to get loose, but, you know, two throws and I was ready to go, ready to get in there. But, yeah, I felt good once I got in the game. Just tried to establish the fastball in and go from there.”
J.J., when you guys signed Delmon, he didn’t have much of a track record as a pinch‑hitter. He’s 10‑for‑20 in the regular season and then today. How incredible is that for you to see a guy do it at that kind of a clip?
Hardy: “It’s been fun to watch this year. I saw him in 2010 in Minnesota the whole year, and he’s always been a good hitter. But pinch‑hitting, we look at each other in the dugout after he gets a big hit, and we’re like, ‘How does he do that?’ After not seeing a live pitch for five or six days and then just come in and hit a pitch like that down the line, it’s unbelievable.”
Both of you, J.J., you’re usually involved in them, and, Kevin, you were on the mound when that occurred, that double play in the fifth inning after you scored a run. Do you see many double plays like that?
Hardy: “With Flaherty diving? I actually dove for that ball, too, so I didn’t get to see how good Schoopy turned it. Ryan Flaherty made a great turn, showed a lot of range and Schoopy with his quick release, impressive.”
Gausman: “I didn’t dive, so I saw it all. But it was incredible. Right when he dove, I thought maybe, all right, we’ll get the lead runner and with Schoopy’s arm, I feel like we always have a chance. So it was a pretty big play for us.
You guys are 2‑0 going into Detroit. How much of a lift is that and do you feel like you have the confidence going in?
Hardy: “It’s nice, but at the same time, we’ve got to stay focused and take care of business. Just because we’re up two games doesn’t mean the series is over. So we’ve got to stay focused.”
Gausman: “That was pretty good.”
Kevin, when Buck came and got you, did you think you were sort of out of gas at that point in time, mid‑50s in pitches?
Gausman: “No, you know, I think it was just a matchup thing. I think Brad coming in, I think he has a better slider than me and I think he was going for him for that reason. Brad has been great for us all year and continues to be, so, yeah, I felt good. I’ve been a starter the whole year, so 50‑some pitches is usually about fifth, sixth inning, hopefully.”