BALTIMORE (AP) — 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 straight 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 as top dog in the AL East. Not only did the Yankees win the division, they bounced Baltimore from the playoffs.
But a seismic 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."
Rookies Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez pitched brilliantly in the ALDS. First-year players Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado hit home runs in Game 3. Another rookie pitcher, Steve Johnson, contributed significantly during the regular season and Baltimore improved its 2011 record by 24 games despite getting little help from young arms Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta.
Dan Duquette, in his first year as executive vice president of baseball operations, did an exceptional job of adding key players along the way. Joe Saunders, Jim Thome, Nate McLouth and Lew Ford all played a part in the successful run, even though none of them were on the 40-man roster when the season began.