BALTIMORE — Orioles rookie third baseman Manny Machado was a 4-year-old when Baltimore and the New York Yankees last met in the postseason.
In case the kid needs a quick history lesson, left-hander David Wells won a game for Baltimore, Cecil Fielder and Darryl Strawberry homered for the Yankees, and a youngster named Jeffrey Maier stuck his glove in the middle of the whole thing.
The 1996 AL championship series was a lifetime ago for many Orioles fans and a rather meaningless event for Machado, now 20.
The teams resume their rivalry Sunday night in Game 1 of the AL division series. It will be Baltimore’s first home postseason game since 1997.
Jeter and Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, who won the decisive fifth game of that series and is expected to start in Game 2 on Monday night, have been to many playoff series since. In this one, they enter as part of a team that went 14-4 down the stretch to finish with the AL’s best record.
And the Orioles? They’re just happy to play at this time of year.
After their abrupt exit from the postseason in 1996, the Orioles returned in 1997. Fourteen consecutive losing seasons followed before they put together a 93-69 record this year. Baltimore beat the Texas Rangers Friday night in the wild-card round.
The Yankees’ first-game starter will be ace CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA). The big left-hander came into the season 16-2 versus the Orioles and 10-1 in Baltimore, but that was against the old Orioles. This year, he went 0-2 in three starts at Camden Yards.
New York comes in as the favorite, but that means nothing to the Orioles.
“The Rangers were the consensus favorite to win the American League, and for us to come out of nowhere was pretty awesome,” reliever Darren O’Day said. “We were picked to finish in the basement in the AL East. The only guys who believed in us were the guys in our clubhouse. We just kept playing.”
And so, the Orioles will keep playing well into October.
“People thought we’d be making tee times right now,” O’Day said.