BALTIMORE — The Orioles made baseball relevant in Baltimore again, shedding the stigma of 14 consecutive losing seasons with a wildly successful run that vastly exceeded all realistic expectations.
Baltimore stayed in contention for the AL East crown until the final day, reached the postseason, won its wild-card game and pushed the New York Yankees to the brink in the division series before losing 3-1 on Friday night in the deciding fifth game.
After the sting of elimination fades, the Orioles will savor their 93-69 season and remember the scene at Camden Yards when two consecutive sellout crowds cheered the home team’s first appearance in the playoffs since 1997.
“The feeling, with the crowd screaming and waving the towels, you couldn’t hear yourself think,” first baseman Mark Reynolds said.
Following four successive last-place finishes, Baltimore turned it around in 2012. Unfortunately, the Orioles still weren’t good enough to displace New York atop the AL East. Not only did the Yankees win the division, they bounced Baltimore from the playoffs.
But a shift occurred along the way. Buck Showalter’s young Orioles gave the aging Yankees – with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Eric Chavez and Alex Rodriguez – all they could handle.
“It is not goodbye to this group, it is, ‘See ya later,’ ” Showalter said. “They have a very well-deserved rest. They were good teammates and people that our city and organization can be proud of. And we’ll see them again.”
Jim Johnson led the majors with 51 saves and was a big reason why Baltimore went 29-9 in one-run games. Few other Orioles were among the league leaders, and it didn’t matter because no one had to carry the burden of producing in every game.