“O’s” Stands for October (Rays at Orioles; 09.17.23)

Roberto Carlo/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

BALTIMORE — The feel-good story that is the Baltimore Orioles will officially continue to have their tales told into the Major League Baseball postseason. After they put an exclamation point on their most dramatic victory to date in 2023, some of the young, hungry Birds let some of their true feelings out that have been pent up since the start of a season that some experts thought would not unfold the way it has.

Cedric Mullins’ sac fly in the 11th inning scored Adley Rutschman with the winning run as the Orioles defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 to split the four-game series between the top two teams in the American League East division and in the league overall. Though both teams had officially clinched a playoff spot just over a half hour before the game’s end due to the Texas Rangers’ loss in Cleveland, one was going to punctuate the accomplishment with a dramatic victory.

Baltimore did just that, after scoring a run in the eighth and ninth off Rays fiame-throwing closer Pete Fairbanks to tie the game before scoring a run in the 10th inning, on a two-out single by Rutschman, to match the run Tampa Bay scored in the top of the inning.

“This is awesome,” said Rutschman while inside of Baltimore’s champagne-and-beer-soaked clubhouse. “I didn’t know it was going to be like this. But this is great.”

Outside of the same people in the clubhouse, few thought the Orioles’ season would unfold the way it has, one which started with a 19-9 first month of the season, staying close with Tampa Bay who had gotten off to a 13-0 start and was the biggest story in baseball in the early going. Despite the lack of a true ace in the starting rotation, Baltimore held steady near the top of the American League East as rookie Gunnar Henderson and other young talents continued to prove early that they belonged in the bigs. One of their landmark moments came in St. Petersburg at the end of July, when the Orioles won three of four against the Rays to take over first place for the first time, and they have yet to cede their place atop the division since.

Baltimore’s breakout gained its most notoriety last season, when it surprised many to win 83 games, falling just three games shy of the final Wild Card spot, but some within the Orioles organization used some prognostications that predicted a regression from 2022 to keep the chip on their collective shoulder going into this season.

“We were disrespected, honestly, going into this year, just from where we were from projections, smart people thinking they know what the records are going to be at the end of the year,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I thought we were under-appreciated. Everybody thought that we were going to have a setback this year, and I wanted our players to be offended by that a little bit.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday afternoon’s contest, with all photos taken by New York City-area photographer Roberto Carlo. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 15 pictures in total.

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Tags : Baltimore OriolesMajor League BaseballMLB PostseasonTampa Bay Rays

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