Orioles celebrating their victory over the Rangers Oct.5.
On Oct. 5, the Baltimore Orioles proved the word "fluke" has no business being applied to their ball club. This team is for real.
The Baltimore Orioles have proved the doubters wrong this season. After securing a wild-card spot last week, they defeated a very good Texas Rangers club in MLB's first set of one-game wild-card elimination games.
Do these resilient Orioles have what it takes to defeat this veteran New York Yankees team in the ALDS?
The answer is yes.
In 17 games this season against the Yankees, the Orioles were able to collect nine wins. They know this Yankees team very well after spending the majority of September trying to keep pace with them in the division.
Now, they will have to keep pace on a larger stage with much more at stake.
The series, which begins Sunday night at 6 p.m. ET at Camden Yards in Baltimore, is what Orioles fans have been waiting for since their last playoff appearance in 1997.
Here are three reasons why the Baltimore Orioles have a chance to advance to the ALCS.
Showalter managing the Wild Card game against the Rangers Oct. 5.
In the one-game playoff against the Texas Rangers, Buck Showalter decided to pitch Joe Saunders, a decision that left most baseball fans puzzled. Saunders was 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in six starts pitching in Arlington, Texas, prior to Friday’s game.
Obviously Showalter knew something the average fan didn’t.
Saunders held the high-powered Texas offense to an impressive one run and six hits in 5.2 innings pitched. The bullpen did a nice job keeping Texas at bay for the last three innings.
It wasn't just Showalter's choice of pitchers that got the O's the victory Friday, either.
Showalter's decision to pinch-run Robert Andino for Ryan Flaherty in the seventh inning resulted in Andino moving from first to third base on a Manny Machado sacrifice fly and a wild pitch from Derek Holland. Andino was then able to score on a McLouth single to shallow left. Andino would later collect a double and another run scored.
Moves like this have defined Showalter's managerial style this season. He always seems to make the right moves at the right time to get the desired result.
His counterpart in the series, Joe Girardi, has faced criticism from fans and the media this season for his managerial style. Girardi has become known by the New York media for compiling all this information into a binder.
Girardi is undoubtedly an intelligent baseball mind,—intelligent enough to win a World Series—but his experience doesn't even touch Showalter’s. Showalter's binder-less managing style is a product of having enough experience to become familiar with more than just the numbers.
Showalter is a two-time Manager of the Year, an ex-ESPN baseball analyst and was a senior adviser to baseball operations for the Cleveland Indians in 2006. He is competing for MLB's AL Manager of the Year award with the Oakland Athletics' Bob Melvin, and Showalter has the upper hand in this managerial matchup.
Hammel dealing a four-seamer in a game against the Yankees Sept. 6.
The Orioles starting rotation has been a mess all season.
Jason Hammel was injured for most of the second half, and Jake Arrieta, 26, has yet to prove himself as a Major League pitcher.
Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz had their chance at some starts early in the year, but were unable to get it done.
After a tumultuous and disheveled regular-season rotation, the stars have aligned for this Baltimore Orioles pitching staff just in time for the postseason. All questions have been answered, as the O's finally have a stable, dangerous rotation.
Now healthy, Hammel put up an 8-6 record with a 3.43 ERA before he was placed on the disabled list after the All-Star break. He is set to face CC Sabathia in the first game of the ALDS Sunday night.
Lefty Wei-Yin Chen has pitched reasonably well this season, owning a 12-11 record with a 4.02 ERA. In four starts against the Yankees this year, Chen held New York to three or fewer runs in three of those starts.
Twenty-four-year-old Chris Tillman has been the biggest success in this Orioles rotation since his call-up in early July.
In 15 starts Tillman has gone 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA. He is one of the hottest pitchers coming into October, going 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA in the month of September. Other than Sabathia, the Yankees don’t have a player in their rotation with the ability to shut the door on the opposition like Tillman.
Miguel Gonzalez has been phenomenal since earning a sport in the rotation in July. In a game at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 31, he struck out nine Bombers through seven innings in a dominant performance. If Gonzalez can contain his emotions, he’s capable of another masterful performance against the Yankees.
As we witnessed on Friday, Saunders was a crucial midseason pickup for the Orioles. Since coming over from the Diamondbacks in late August, he has gone 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA. If necessary, Saunders will be on the mound for Game 5 of the ALDS.
Yes, this Orioles rotation has one player above the 10-win mark, but that doesn't mean you should write them off. Their ERAs and numbers against the Yankees this season are proof that this series won't be easy for New York.
Machado with a web gem against the Red Sox Sept. 30.
Nobody has been a better team this year than the Baltimore Orioles. Nobody has done more with less than Buck Showalter.
And, nobody has revitalized a city like Baltimore.
The Orioles' success is a product of a formula that consists of team chemistry, great management on the field and in the front office, and consistent motivation provided by those who continually doubted their club.
The Orioles have ignored the fact they have one of the lower payrolls in baseball. This series they'll be matched up with the Yankees, a team whose payroll exceeds the Orioles' by roughly $120 million.
The Orioles will tell you they're focused on the game at hand, but playing a team of overpaid superstars will definitely increase motivation heading into the series. Center fielder Adam Jones told USA Today:
We're not in awe of them. We just know that they're going to be prepared.
This game is going to be a battle between a monetary power and a little-brother-like squad that's reliant on team chemistry for victories. Should be a great series.