Surprising contributors led unheralded club to first place

O's bid for World Series boosted by reserves, acquisitions

Surprising contributors led unheralded club to first place

BALTIMORE -- It was clear when the Orioles' season officially ended Wednesday night that the typically stoic manager Buck Showalter was trying to keep his emotions in check. He wasn't alone. Baltimore's surprising run to its first American League East pennant since 1997 and subsequent AL Division Series sweep had the team -- and its fans -- riding high before the Royals turned the tables with a four-game sweep in the AL Championship Series.

The end, as Showalter had often warned reporters, would be heartbreaking for every club but the last one standing. But for this group in particular, an Orioles team that had weathered the loss of a trio of All-Stars in Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis, it was devastatingly quick.

More

"I mean, this is ... like I said, there's going to be 29 disappointed teams when this season is over. And that's what makes it ... the emotion is there, like you all saw," said a misty-eyed Showalter following his team's elimination game. "I didn't wait around to see [the Royals' celebration]. I knew what it was going to be for them to accomplish a team, a city, a group of fans and an organization's hopes.

"It's just a testament to what a group of young men can do when everybody is pulling on the same rope. But my support and my love of our guys is unconditional. They didn't have to win a World Series for me to feel differently about them."

Yes, despite the painful end, there was a lot to like about this year's Orioles team. Predicted by many media outlets to finish last in the division and -- as Adam Jones pointed out -- by Sports Illustrated to be out of the race by June, the O's enjoyed defying the odds. So, before the 2014 season officially comes to a close with the World Series, let's look back one more time on how the Orioles got here.

Record: 96-66, first place in AL East

Defining moment: At 52-42, the Orioles opened the second half of the season with a daunting three-city, West Coast trip. And, after losing two of three to the A's, the O's took five of the remaining seven games with series wins over the Angels and Mariners. The impressive finish on an extra-innings win not only showed their character, but also helped them hold serve as the top team in the AL East. Baltimore went 17-8 in July, its best winning percentage of any month with at least five games, and followed that up with a 19-9 August to help outdistance the rest of the division.

What went right:The reserves. Despite key injuries, players such as Steve Pearce proved that the Orioles could get the job done anyway. Pearce had a career year, but he wasn't the only guy that helped, as rookie catcher Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley did an impressive job filling in for Wieters, and late-August trade acquisitions Alejandro De Aza and Kelly Johnson also added a boost ... Zach Britton went from fighting for a roster spot to becoming the team's closer, filling a void and preventing the ninth inning from becoming a source of worry during the regular season ... Right-hander Darren O'Day also had an All-Star regular season, carrying an ERA under 1.00 for most of the way ... Nelson Cruz became one of the biggest bargains in baseball, hitting 40 home runs and at times keeping the offense afloat ... The starting rotation after June 30, with help from new pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chit, turned things around and was among the best in the league the rest of the year ... Trade Deadline acquisition Andrew Miller, who will make big money this winter as a potential closer, was the dominant lefty the O's needed and he formed a formidable relief corps to help get the O's to the playoffs ... The Orioles locked up a key piece during the postseason run, signing shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-run extension ... Injured for the 2012 postseason, longest-tenured Oriole Nick Markakis played in 155 regular-season games, posting a .342 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot.

What went wrong: The Orioles were dealt their first big injury blow of the season in Wieters, who played in just 26 games before he was shut down and, after trying the rest-and-rehab route, elected to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery ... Machado, who missed the first month of the season rehabbing from offseason left knee surgery, underwent the same procedure on his right knee in late August, ending his season ... The Orioles lost their third All-Star in Davis, who was suspended for 25 games in mid-September for violating Major League Baseball's drug program ... Ubaldo Jimenez, who signed the organization's largest contract ever for a free-agent pitcher, went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA and was taken out of the starting rotation in August. Jimenez was also not on the ALCS roster.

Biggest surprise: Pearce. An inspirational story, Pearce made the team out of Spring Training, only to be designated for assignment on April 22 as the club needed to add a pitcher. Pearce turned down a waiver claim to become a free agent, re-signing with the O's in a move that paid off huge. Inserted into the starting lineup immediately, given an injury to Davis, Pearce had career highs in games played, home runs, RBIs and nearly every other offensive statistic. He was also named co-AL Player of the Week with Jones in June.

Hitter of the Year: Cruz. The slugger easily won the Most Valuable Oriole award by local media this season, and he continued his impressive run in the postseason. Cruz fit in immediately with teammates and hit a career high in home runs.

Pitcher of the Year: Britton. You can make quite the case for Opening Day starter Chris Tillman, who eclipsed the 200-inning mark, or Miller had he been with the team all year. Even setup man O'Day had quite the All-Star season. But perhaps no one exceeded expectations more than Britton, who was just trying to make the team this spring. When Tommy Hunter had some trouble in the ninth inning, Britton took over in May and was magnificent as the sinkerballer frequently induced inning-ending double plays and weak contact off of what opposing pitching coaches referred to as the "turbo sinker." Where would the Orioles have been without him this season?

Rookie of the Year: Jonathan Schoop. Sure, at times, it was a learning curve. But Schoop -- after an impressive spring -- consistently played good defense and that, along with Machado's injury, kept him in the lineup early on. The 23-year-old hit some big home runs and will only get better, an encouraging thought for Orioles fans.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Roberts hangs up cleats after 14 years in Majors

Second baseman spent majority of career with O's, played final year with Yanks

Roberts hangs up cleats after 14 years in Majors

Second baseman Brian Roberts is retiring, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The 37-year-old Roberts spent 13 of his 14 Major League seasons with the Orioles, the team that drafted him in 1999. He spent this past year with the Yankees, playing 91 games before being released in August.

More

"It was just kind of my time," Roberts told The Baltimore Sun. "There were numerous reasons that I felt like I couldn't play at a level that I was accustomed to and wanted to play at if I continued to play. I always said that I wasn't going to be the guy that tried to hang on as long as I could."

Roberts was a key cog in the Orioles' lineup for much of the 2000s before injuries derailed his career. He was a two-time All-Star with speed, totaling at least 40 doubles five times and stealing at least 20 bases seven straight years.

Roberts left the Orioles as a free agent after the 2013 season to sign with New York.

"I took, at the time, the best offer I had," Roberts told the Sun. "Do I wish in some ways that I had spent every day with the Orioles? Sure, that was a dream of mine for a long time. I don't think I ever shied away from making that pretty clear. It will always be the organization I feel like is home for me."

Roberts was a .276 career hitter with 97 home runs, 542 RBIs and 285 stolen bases.

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Offseason begins as Orioles pack bags

With postseason run over, Baltimore shifts gears

Offseason begins as Orioles pack bags

BALTIMORE -- While most of the baseball world watched in disbelief as Travis Ishikawa's walk-off home run on Thursday night sent the Giants to the World Series, Orioles manager Buck Showalter only found out from the sound of his son Nathan yelling in front of the TV.

"Watching it," Showalter said, "makes me ill."

More

Technically, baseball season still lasts at least another week. For the Orioles, it's over. The boxes and bags that filled the home clubhouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday afternoon were only a reminder of that.

For Showalter and the Orioles, the offseason is underway following a four-game sweep at the hands of the Royals in the American League Championship Series. And Showalter is already thinking about which unorthodox tactics he can use to assemble the best roster possible for when pitchers and catchers report in February.

"The good news is we have an extra spot on the 40-man roster," Showalter said.

Chris Davis, who has one game remaining on a 25-game suspension following the use of Adderall, won't count as part of that roster for the entire offseason, meaning the O's can protect an extra player from the Rule 5 Draft.

"That's the only good thing that came from those four games," Showalter said.

It isn't a surprise that Showalter and vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette already have some creative tactics for the winter in mind. They've earned a reputation for finding loopholes within roster rules during the past few seasons and built an AL East champion through those strategies. But after a successful season, the Oriole identity could be changing.

Suddenly, Baltimore enters a season with a surplus of starting pitching, a wealth of offensive talent and unfamiliar expectations. The Oriole brass typically likes to "out-opportunity" its competition when making pitches to free agents -- that's how Steve Pearce and Miguel Gonzalez became important pieces in 2014. In '15, Baltimore may be able to do more than that.

Duquette says to expect a payroll increase for next season, and the Orioles will have options for where to spend that. Wei-Yin Chen, Nick Markakis and Darren O'Day have team options. Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller are free agents. Many more are arbitration eligible or due for some sort of raise.

"We're going to put together the strongest team we can put together with the resources we have, but we have really good pieces already in place," Duquette said. "We have the opportunity for a lot of those people to return for next year."

Duquette plans to have player options figured out before the end of the World Series so the O's can dip into the free-agent market as soon as it opens.

Other than that, the biggest question that remains is how the coaching staffs will hold together. Showalter has expressed his desire to keep his Major League group together, but bench coach John Russell is being considered for the Twins' managerial opening and Showalter expects Russell to get a call from them at some point Friday. Duquette isn't sure yet what the future holds for his Minor League managers.

The only players left lingering at Camden Yards on Friday were Matt Wieters and T.J. McFarland. The rest had either packed up their lockers or were going to do that at some point in the near future.

McFarland, who had been left off the playoff roster, served as the players' impromptu spokesman as he prepared to head to Chicago for the offseason.

"Obviously, we wanted to continue, but it wasn't in the cards for us," McFarland said from an otherwise abandoned clubhouse. "Take a couple of weeks and relax a little bit and then 120 days, I think, we're already reporting."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Orioles swept in ALCS by relentless Royals

Kansas City takes lead in first, then rides pitching, defense to victory

Orioles swept in ALCS by relentless Royals

KANSAS CITY -- It was hard to absorb in the immediacy of the moment, the finality of the Orioles' season on Wednesday afternoon making it difficult to appreciate the team's whimsical -- and improbable -- run to the American League East title and AL Championship Series while missing a trio of All-Star players.

The Orioles had clung to the belief all series -- all season, really -- that they could defy the odds, and Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Royals in Game 4 of the ALCS was a stinging end to that mantra as the royal blue-clad crowd celebrated Kansas City's first trip to the World Series since 1985.

More

"As a team, we played our [butts] off to get in this position," center fielder Adam Jones said of an Orioles club that went 96-66 in the regular season. "We weren't expected to. According to Sports Illustrated, we were supposed to be out of it by June. We've been playing with house money for a long time.

"All the games were close and all the games were good. That's the beauty of baseball. Just, we fell a little bit short. It wasn't from the lack of effort."

A club that cruised past the Tigers in a three-game AL Division Series sweep had no answer for a red-hot Royals team that has yet to lose in eight postseason games. The O's bats -- held to one run on three hits in Tuesday's Game 3 loss -- were challenged again by Royals starter Jason Vargas, who allowed one run on two hits over 5 1/3 innings before Kansas City's lockdown relief corps took over. And the Royals' defense sparkled yet again, as it did all series.

Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez gave a gutsy 5 2/3-innings effort, but the Royals were able to squeak out two first-inning runs without a ball leaving the infield, epitomizing the way the series went for both clubs. The O's lost all four of the ALCS games by a total of six runs, as a speedy Royals club that has more infield hits this postseason than the rest of the teams combined continually put the ball in play and could seemingly do no wrong.

"My emotion is for the players and the organization and the fans, because I keep thinking about something I or we could have done differently. That's what you think about," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the somber end to his club's great run, which included his first managerial postseason series victory in the ALDS.

"But through it we got some good things done. We reminded the country what a great baseball city and city in general Baltimore is. ... I guarantee you, we'll do everything possible to try to give them and the organization and our fans this opportunity again. I can promise you that."

HOW IT HAPPENED

After Alcides Escobar reached on a first-inning infield single that took a bad hop on second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Gonzalez hit Nori Aoki with a pitch, and No. 3 hitter Lorenzo Cain shockingly dropped down the first sacrifice bunt of his career. It worked, with the runners advancing and Eric Hosmer then hitting into a fielder's choice that first baseman Steve Pearce fired home to try to get Escobar. But the ball got away from catcher Caleb Joseph and no one covered home plate, allowing both Escobar and Aoki to score to put the O's behind immediately.

THE MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Sixth inning slips away

The Orioles brought the tying run within 90 feet, but couldn't push Schoop across as Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera did what Kansas City's bullpen has done all October: shut opponents down.

Schoop worked a leadoff walk, and Vargas exited in favor of Herrera after Nick Markakis' strikeout. Herrera retired Pearce on a popout, then Jones muscled a single into right field to put runners on the corners, but Nelson Cruz lined a ball at second baseman Omar Infante.

"They don't do anything wrong," Cruz said of the Royals' fantastic defense the whole series. "They don't miss any plays. Everything they did was right."

Gonzalez does his part

The right-hander, who hadn't pitched in a game since Sept. 28, gave the Orioles their best start of the series. Gonzalez held the Royals to two runs, one earned, on four hits over 5 2/3 innings, exiting in favor of right-hander Darren O'Day after striking out Mike Moustakas.

Gonzalez, who struck out four, battled all afternoon and kept the Royals off the board after the first.

"It's really tough to swallow, honestly," Gonzalez said of taking the Orioles' final loss. "It could have gone either way. We could have had a couple wins, but we didn't. Everything, they did the little things. It just went their way."

Flash goes yard

Ryan Flaherty halved the deficit, sending a shot hugging the right-field line for a homer to lead off the third inning.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS

The Orioles had gone 20 straight postseason series without being swept, including the 1944 World Series appearance by the Orioles' franchise predecessor, the St. Louis Browns.

The Royals are the first team to start a single postseason with eight straight wins. The 1976 Reds and 2007 Rockies held the previous record with seven straight wins to start a postseason (the Reds needed only seven victories to win the World Series).

Gonzalez certainly pitched well enough to win. Baltimore was 67-18 this year when any starter allowed two or fewer runs and 2-0 in the postseason before the ALCS Game 3 and 4 losses to the Royals.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

O's prospect Davies sharp in Fall League win

Orioles' righty Davies collects 7 K's over four innings in win for Glendale

O's prospect Davies sharp in Fall League win

A few more games like the ones Steven Moya has been having in the Arizona Fall League, and the young right fielder just may find himself helping solve some of his big league club's problems.

The Tigers, potentially in need of outfield help -- particularly of the left-handed-hitting variety -- are surely liking what they've seen from the 23-year-old Moya, who stayed hot on Saturday night with a 2-for-4 performance for Glendale.

More

Moya, who hit his first home run of the Arizona Fall League in the third inning, scored three runs in the Desert Dogs' 9-4 victory. He is batting .303 this fall, with four multi-hit games in the eight he's played.

Box score

"It feels good," said Moya, who is considered by MLB.com's Prospect Watch to be the Tigers' No. 7 prospect. "I'm not really not trying to hit home runs, but it still feels good. The first one feels really good."

Zach Davies (Orioles No. 8 prospect) -- who scattered two hits across four innings, striking out seven and walking two -- earned the victory. Glendale's Scott Schebler (Dodgers No. 9) went 3-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs, while Surprise's Jesse Winker (Reds No. 2) went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI in the losing effort, all while improving his average in Arizona to .417.

Moya spent all 133 games of his 2014 Minor League season with the Tigers' Double-A affiliate in Erie, where he hit .276 with 33 doubles, 35 home runs and 105 RBIs. He had his first Major League stint late in the season with the Tigers, appearing in 11 games and batting .375 (3-for-8) with two strikeouts.

The strikeouts, Moya said, are something he's focusing on this fall.

"Just recognizing pitches and getting better at recognition of the strike zone is what I'm working on right now," Moya said. "Just cutting down on strikeouts. That's about it."

Moya said he's confident he can make a prolonged stay with the Tigers as early as next season, saying "for sure" he can help the big league club as soon as 2015.

If his performances against some of the game's best young talent in Arizona is any indication, he may be right.

"Everybody here is good, every pitcher is good," Moya said. "This is the best staff from every team. And it's good because everybody out there in the big leagues is good, too. So if I'm facing the best staffs here, I should be able to do it there, too."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Showalter proud of O's run despite painful ending

Trip to World Series stays on bucket list for longtime manager

Showalter proud of O's run despite painful ending

KANSAS CITY -- Buck Showalter left Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night extremely proud of his team, yet shy of the World Series appearance that has eluded him in all 16 seasons of a fine managerial career.

But Showalter, 58, hardly looked or sounded like a man nearing the end. He is the manager of an Orioles team headed in a clear upward direction, and one that appears fully capable of getting to the World Series in the next few years.

More

"It's just a testament to what a group of young men can do when everybody is pulling on the same rope," Showalter said. "But my support and my love of our guys is unconditional. They didn't have to win a World Series for me to feel differently about them."

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

Since coming to Baltimore during the 2010 season, Showalter has had a lot to do with the resurrection of a tradition-laden franchise that had fallen on hard times for a long period.

As his team suffered a fourth straight agonizing loss to bow out of the American League Championship Series, Showalter didn't wish to reflect on the individual sting of missing the World Series. Instead, he selflessly spoke of the regret he felt for his players.

"You know, I'm not saying this because supposedly it's the right thing to say," Showalter said. "My emotion is for the players and the organization and the fans, because I keep thinking about something I or we could have done differently. That's what you think about."

When the Orioles upended the Tigers in the Division Series round, it marked the first postseason series victory of Showalter's career.

"It's surprising, I never knew that he never won a series," said Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce. "But I love Buck as a manager. He makes you give everything you've got there on the field. He's a great manager. It was fun playing for him."

Showalter was all-in with this Baltimore team, marveling at the way they won 96 games despite the loss of key pieces like Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. His players never made any excuses, and neither did Showalter.

"But if you care, like our people care, it hurts. And that's why I know how much it hurts those guys," Showalter said.

Though he managed in three other communities (New York, Phoenix, Dallas/Arlington) before coming to Baltimore, his connection to his current baseball home is obvious.

"Our fans, they've been there through thick and thin for us in Baltimore," Showalter said. "The support of the ownership has been there. We really feel bad about disappointing them and not being able to get over the hump and roll the dice again."

It can also be said that Showalter didn't quite get over the hump again. He managed the Yankees in 1995 to a 2-0 lead in the Division Series, only to watch Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. lead the Mariners in a monumental comeback. Under Joe Torre, New York would win the World Series the following year in what turned out to be the birth of a dynasty.

Showalter also helped put together a winner in Arizona, leading the D-backs in '99, but he was out of the picture by the time Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling led that franchise to glory in '01.

However, Showalter's imprint is all over this Baltimore team, and it's hard to imagine he won't continue being a part of it for the foreseeable future.

"I enjoy playing for him; everyone in here does," said Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. "He's a great manager and a great communicator. Everyone respects him. He's fun to play for. We're all happy for him and looking forward to doing it again."

The energetic Showalter expects to regroup within days, and help the front office and ownership plot the next steps that are necessary.

"So we'll start all over again," Showalter said. "I know Dan [Duquette] and I will get ready, get moving to figure out a way to get back here again."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Orioles faced wrong team at wrong time

Baltimore had a great season, but Royals are on a magical run

Orioles faced wrong team at wrong time

KANSAS CITY -- In the end, they were extras, background artists in this postseason's made-for-Hollywood story. You'll see them in whatever DVD or Blu-ray highlight film comes out of this Royals' ride. They'll be the guys in orange and black, circumvented by circumstance, foiled by flair, mystified by magic.

Don't blame the Orioles for losing this American League Championship Series. Just acknowledge that timing is everything, and they, like the Angels and A's before them, were simply on the wrong side of history.

More

Four games, decided by a six-run differential. An extra-innings loss in Game 1, a ninth-inning defeat in Game 2 and then 2-1 close calls here at Kauffman Stadium in Games 3 and 4. Along the way, there was Alex Gordon crashing into the wall, Lorenzo Cain diving across the outfield grass, Mike Moustakas crashing into the dugout suites and bloops, blasts and devastating dribblers galore.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

Have you ever played a video game at the highest difficulty level, and the machine makes it known that there is absolutely, positively no way you are winning? That's how it felt to be a member of the O's this past week. This organization waited 17 years to get here, only to have the even-longer-suffering Royals steal the show.

"It's not anything we didn't do, it's what they did do," O's center fielder Adam Jones said. "They played flawless baseball. We can't do nothing about that."

Well, maybe not nothing. O's starters Chris Tillman and Bud Norris didn't execute particularly well in Games 1 and 2, and that put a stress on the much-leaned-upon bullpen (the eight freebies -- seven walks and a hit by pitch -- issued by O's pitchers in Game 1 also loomed large). In Games 3 and 4, the change in scenery seemed to have the expected impact on the O's boom-or-bust offense, with the Royals' keep-it-in-the-park pitching staff. Even though the O's free-swinging tendencies are well-established at this point, there were probably multiple at-bats they'd like to have back.

"You need to play a complete game to win a game in the playoffs," O's executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "Good pitching, good defense and timely hitting. That's the combination."

A combination the O's never uncovered in these four games.

Again, though, to watch this series was to see a defensive clinic by these Royals. The very notion of "gap hits" or "hitting it to the hole" was virtually non-existent. There were times in which it seemed the Royals had 18 guys on the field, not nine.

"You saw how close the games were," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "It's more a testament of what they did. And they were playing great defensively."

Markakis on ALCS loss

In the end, it would be understandable, given the details and the deficit, if the O's started to press in Games 3 and 4. The Royals' lone runs in the finale came across on a ground ball to first, for crying out loud. Steve Pearce fired home, only to see the ball pop out of Caleb Joseph's mitt, allowing two runs to streak home. The Royals had set that inning up when Cain bunted the runners over. How often do you see that from a No. 3 hitter? And more to the point, who didn't expect it to work for a Royals team suddenly blessed by the baseball gods?

So really, by the end, there was not much the O's could do, and there was even less they could say. This was their fate, it seemed, and it shouldn't take anything away from the magic they made in front of the members of Birdland this summer and fall.

By now, the storyline -- the overcoming of injuries to Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, as well as the regression and suspension of Chris Davis (who, by the way, still has one more game to serve on that suspension, as a result of the two postseason series sweeps) -- is well-established. If 2012 was the return to relevance for Baltimore baseball, 2014 was the ascendance to elite status. It was well-deserved for a fan base that, when inspired, creates one of the singular atmospheres in the sport.

"We reminded the country what a great baseball city -- and city in general -- Baltimore is," Showalter said. "I feel good about that. Some people kind of know our secret, so to speak. So there's a lot of positive things there."

It might have been a down year for the AL East as a whole, but 96 wins is 96 wins, and the O's -- with a lineup that can mash, a deep and durable pitching staff and a clean defensive effort -- were a team that could match up against anyone at any time.

Just not the Royals in October.

Because in case you haven't noticed, nobody matches up against them.

The O's are in good position to get back to this point. What that'll mean in real time, exactly, is anybody's guess. There are questions hanging over this organization, what with three of their lynchpins -- right fielder Nick Markakis, designated hitter Nelson Cruz and lockdown reliever Andrew Miller -- all possibly entering free agency (the O's have a $17.5 million mutual option on Markakis that could be difficult to justify).

Cruz on ALCS sweep

Miller's worth was particularly evident on this postseason stage, as he was a difference-maker out of the Baltimore bullpen with strikeout stuff. Cruz was the only Major Leaguer to hit 40 home runs this season, so it's a safe bet he can command well north of the $8 million discount deal the O's got on him this year, as well as the price of the qualifying offer the O's are sure to extend. And Markakis is valued enough in the clubhouse that Jones -- often pointed to as the face of this franchise -- goes out of his way to call Markakis the real heart and soul of the ballclub.

So we'll see. The business side can be brutal, but the O's already made a wise move in extending J.J. Hardy at a time when productive shortstops are rare currency and the Yankees were sure to come calling.

One other cloud hanging over Baltimore: How well will Wieters recover from a Tommy John procedure that doesn't have nearly as high a success rate with catchers as it does for pitchers.

All of these matters must be considered in the coming months, and the good news there is that Duquette and his staff -- one that blends both the new-school methodologies with the old-school scouting backbone -- have established themselves as some of the best in the business at working both the meat and the margins of a roster.

And then there's Showalter, who is still chasing that elusive World Series prize. This O's team gave him his first postseason series win, which is a milepost of one sort. But the real measure of the man is the way his players respond to him, speak glowingly about him and, most of all, trust him. Showalter has really built something special in that O's clubhouse, and though he'll never lose his famous eye for detail and penchant for preparation, he's old and experienced enough to know how to enjoy the little things.

He enjoyed this O's team as much as any he's been around, and that's really the gist of this story. The O's took no pleasure in being relegated to this background role on the ALCS stage, but the ride to get here was certainly sweet, and the future looks pretty bright, too.

"If you care, like our people care, it hurts," Showalter said. "And that's why I know how much it hurts those guys."

The O's were bit players in what has become the best story in baseball. But even that role beats watching at home.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Orioles give their best in being bested by Royals

Baltimore battles tooth and nail, but comes up short in four-game ALCS

Orioles give their best in being bested by Royals

KANSAS CITY -- A sweep in a postseason series typically means that one team dominated another. Then there was the 2014 American League Championship Series, in which all four games hung in the balance until the final pitch.

It is no exaggeration to say that Baltimore came "O" so close to winning all four games, only to lose them all to the World Series-bound Royals.

More

The Orioles were hardly outclassed. They went toe to toe with the Royals in all four games, only to come up short to a team that is the first ever to start a postseason with eight straight wins.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

"It's not like something we didn't do; it was more of what they did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "And it wasn't like somebody wanted it more than somebody else. It's just you saw how close the games were. And it's more a testament of what they did. And they were playing great defensively."

Here were the final scores: Game 1, Royals 8, Orioles 6 (10 innings); Game 2, Royals 6, Orioles 4 (tied going into the ninth); Game 3, Royals 2, Orioles 1; Game 4, Royals 2, Orioles 1.

"They played good baseball," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "You can't surgarcoat what they did. They played really, really good baseball and they deserved to go to the World Series. I'm not saying we don't. We just didn't win. This team that we have is unbelievable. It's been an unbelievable year."

If only the Orioles could have gotten the elusive big hit in one or two of the games, a classic LCS could have emerged.

Instead, it turned into a frustrating one for a Baltimore team that won 96 games to win the AL East by 12 games, and then swept a perennial contending Tigers squad in the Division Series.

The breaks of the game usually even out over a long season. But not always over a short series in the postseason, as the Orioles found out all too cruelly.

Video: Britton gets an out

"Maybe we get a broken bat here or we make a pitch and one of those balls, instead of landing in no man's land, it's hit a little bit harder at somebody. That's the reality," O's lefty reliever Andrew Miller said. "That's baseball. They won four games. A seven-game series is supposed to even out that kind of thing. I feel like we played our tails off, but they beat us four games. That's the way it goes."

That doesn't make it any less agonizing.

"It could have been totally different," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "They played good. Like I said earlier, We didn't play bad. They played better. The games were close."

The last one held true to form, as the Royals scored two runs on one infield grounder, when Steve Pearce's throw home couldn't be handled by catcher Caleb Joseph.

Back came the Orioles on a solo shot by Ryan Flaherty.

Video: Flaherty's solo homer

Baltimore seemed on the cusp of a comeback numerous times, but never more than when it put two on with two out in the sixth with the ever-dangerous Nelson Cruz at the plate.

Facing Kelvin Herrera, Cruz hit a bullet that would have been a game-tying single if it had gone two to three feet to the left or right. Instead, it was right in a spot where second baseman Omar Infante could snare it on one knee.

Video: Cruz lines out

"I hit it pretty good," Cruz said. "It was right at Infante. That's baseball. Sometimes it goes your way; sometimes it doesn't."

At the moment, everything is going the Royals' way, and now the Orioles will have to watch the World Series on television.

"Every game was close," Cruz said. "They don't do anything wrong. They don't miss any plays. Everything they did was right."

Forgive the Orioles if they will see web gems in their sleep over the first few nights of the offseason. Alex Gordon made the spectacular play in Game 4, lunging at the wall to rob Hardy at the start of the fifth inning.

"All the games were close and all the games were good," Jones said. "That's the beauty of baseball. Just, we fell a little bit short. It wasn't from the lack of effort. The Royals played a little better baseball. It's not anything we didn't do. It's what they did do.

"They played flawless baseball. They pitched, they played defense and they had their timely hits. You tip your cap. It's the game of baseball. You have to respect the due process of the game. If you don't, you probably won't be here too long."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Cruz, Miller to enter free agency as O's season ends

Slugger wants to return, likely seeking multiyear deal; lefty may close elsewhere

Cruz, Miller to enter free agency as O's season ends

KANSAS CITY -- The Orioles' season officially ended Wednesday, and with it, the immediacy of free agency looms for a Baltimore club that will look to build on a 96-win season and its first American League Championship Series appearance in 17 years.

There are also some tough decisions to make. Having already locked up shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $40 million contract extension, the Orioles have two key players set to file for free agency in outfielder Nelson Cruz and reliever Andrew Miller. There's also the inevitable case of Nick Markakis, who has a $17.5 million mutual option for 2015 that the club will decline in hopes of working out a more affordable multiyear deal.

More

"I don't know. You never know," Markakis said of his future. "Baseball is a funny game and anything can happen. Take some time off and see where that ball goes."

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

Markakis, who will get a $2 million buyout when the option is declined, would become a free agent for the first time in his career. However, there remains optimism on both sides that the Orioles can get a deal done with their longest-tenured active player.

Cruz and Miller look to be much tougher cases. Cruz, signed to a one-year, $8 million bargain deal that paid off handsomely, will be one of the jewels of this year's free-agent crop and early indications are that his camp is seeking a four- or five-year deal. Cruz wanted a multiyear deal last winter, but when his stock dropped, he ended up in Baltimore. The O's explored preliminary extension talks around the All-Star break, but those fizzled. While the Orioles will be one of many teams interested, it's unlikely they'd commit to the 34-year-old for that length of a contract.

"I want to come back," Cruz said. "But we will wait and see what happens."

Cruz, coming off a 40-homer season, praised the organization Wednesday, and there's a chance the two sides can get something done. If this past offseason showed Cruz anything, it's that waiting things out isn't always the best move. Still, expect the slugger, who recently switched agencies, to file for free agency and the bidding wars to start soon after.

Video: O'Day induces groundout

Miller, a Trade Deadline acquisition from the Red Sox, was dominant for the Orioles and is expected to price himself out of Baltimore and land a multiyear deal as a closer. As a setup man to Zach Britton, Miller was arguably the O's most dominant reliever.

The Orioles have two club options that look to be no-brainers for next season in lefty starter Wei-Yin Chen ($4.75 million) and reliever Darren O'Day ($4.25 million), who were both key components of this year's club. Catcher Nick Hundley, acquired in an in-season trade with the Padres, has a $5 million option with no buyout that the O's are unlikely to elect, though they would like to keep him in the organization if possible.

"I think we as a team, as a franchise, we put together a little run of success here," O'Day said. I hope we had the resources to bring some of these guys back. These are the guys who got us there. There's some smart guys up there [in the front office]. They will figure it out."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Orioles praise Royals' strong performance in ALCS sweep

Baltimore players cite Kansas City's ability to find ways to win in tight series

Orioles praise Royals' strong performance in ALCS sweep

KANSAS CITY -- The Orioles will have plenty of time to reflect on a memorable season that came to a sudden end in the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night. But one thing was clear after a 2-1 loss in Game 4 at Kauffman Stadium: the O's had nothing but respect for the way the Royals played throughout the four-game sweep.

"They made great plays when they needed them," said right fielder Nick Markakis. "They kept us out of big innings. Pitching and defense they say wins, and they did a good job of both this series."

More

The Orioles were flying high coming into the ALCS after sweeping the Tigers in the AL Division Series. But the Royals hadn't lost a game either, and Kansas City became the first team to win eight straight to open a single postseason.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

For rookie catcher Caleb Joseph, it seemed as if the Royals could do no wrong.

"If we score five runs, they're probably going to come back and do something crazy and hit a bases-empty grand slam," he said. "It's how it's been for them. Missed opportunities for us, but they took advantage of every hit, every home run. They did it all. They're on some kind of streak."

It's not like the Orioles were completely overmatched. Baltimore fell in extra innings in Game 1. Less than 24 hours later, the Birds were tied heading into the ninth inning and lost Game 2, 6-4. Both games at Kauffman Stadium were 2-1 affairs.

"We played a good team," said infielder Ryan Flaherty. "We got outplayed for four games. It's not what we did; it's more what they did. They played great baseball. The found a way to score runs."

The Orioles had one of the top bullpens in the AL. But the Royals' 'pen is arguably the best in baseball. Against the formidable back-end trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, the O's managed 10 baserunners and one run over 14 2/3 innings, with 14 strikeouts. Holland saved all four games.

"It's a special group they have over there," said left-handed reliever Andrew Miller. "Those guys pitched their tails off. "

Video: Showalter on series-ending loss

To Baltimore hitters, the only thing better than Kansas City's arms might have been their gloves. It seemed as if every hard-hit ball resulted in an out.

"Them boys made some plays over there, on everybody," said No. 3 hitter Adam Jones. "Tip your cap to them."

Of all the Royals' defensive highlights, the one the Orioles and many fans are likely never to forget was third baseman Mike Moustakas diving headfirst into the seats to catch Jones' foul popup in Game 3. Outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain, the ALCS MVP, also made dazzling plays to rob Baltimore of a number of hits.

"Gordon and Moustakas played great defense," said second baseman Jonathan Schoop. "You can't take that away from them. What else can you do?"

Video: Britton ends the threat

And it wasn't just the Royals' defense and pitching that earned the Orioles' respect. Closer Zach Britton said Kansas City put together tougher at-bats than when they clubs met in the regular season.

"They fouled pitches off and they put the ball in play," Britton said. "They put the ball in play and they made you make mistakes. They were flawless the way they played defensively. Offensively, they got guys over and they got them in. That's what you have to do to be successful in the postseason."

The Orioles are one of 29 teams that will end the season in disappointment. For now, the Royals play on. Kansas City is going to its first World Series since 1985. It's a special accomplishment for any franchise, and the O's understand that.

"I congratulate them," said manager Buck Showalter. "[Royals manager] Ned [Yost] did a great job, and the whole organization. They get a chance to represent the American League in the World Series and we wish them well."

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Oct. 15 Buck Showalter postgame interview

Oct. 15 Buck Showalter postgame interview

Q. How long does it take for the disappointment to kind of fade for you to be able to sit back and appreciate what you guys accomplished this year?

BUCK SHOWALTER:  Probably, I don't know, I'll let you know when it fades. What do you think? I don't know. It's disappointing and frustrating ‑‑ not frustrating, but disappointing for our guys and our fans. It's not something ‑‑ it's not like something we didn't do; it was more of what they did. And it wasn't like somebody wanted it more than somebody else.

More

It's just ‑‑ you saw how close the games were. And it's more a testament of what they did. And they were playing great defensively. I congratulate them. Ned did a great job, and the whole organization. They get a chance to represent the American League in the World Series, and we wish them well.

But through it we got some good things done. We reminded the country what a great baseball city and city in general Baltimore is. I feel good about that. Some people kind of know our secret, so to speak. So there's a lot of positive things there.

But it's kind of shallow. There's so many things that during the year, it's just an unspoken word, a look at each other, there's a real respect for each other. And like I just told them, the game's not always fair. Someone's going to be extremely disappointed. It's our guys. When you put that much time and effort into something, then it's done, so close.

I guarantee you, we'll do everything possible to try to give them and the organization and our fans this opportunity again. I can promise you that.

Q. How tough is it to digest, like you said, the fact that all these games were close, that all of them were decided by two or fewer runs?

BUCK SHOWALTER:  That's part of it. But whether it's one or a hundred, it still has the same sting. And just like Detroit felt, just like Oakland felt.

I mean, this is ‑‑ like I said, there's going to be 29 disappointed teams when this season is over. And that's what makes it ‑‑ the emotion is there, like you all saw. I didn't wait around to see it. I knew what it was going to be for them, to accomplish, a team, a city, a group of fans and an organization's hopes.

It's just a testament to what a group of young men can do when everybody is pulling on the same rope. But ‑‑ my support and my love of our guys is unconditional. They didn't have to win a World Series for me to feel differently about them.

Q. You're always good about talking about your feelings for your players, city, fans, organization. How do you feel right now? You've pursued trying to get to this point and further a whole professional life.

BUCK SHOWALTER:  You know, I'm not saying this because supposedly it's the right thing to say. My emotion is for the players and the organization and the fans, because I keep thinking about something I or we could have done differently. That's what you think about.

But if you care, like our people care, it hurts. And that's why I know how much it hurts those guys. And our fans. They've been there through thick and thin for us in Baltimore. The support of the ownership has been there. Really feel bad about disappointing them, and not be able to get over the hump and roll the dice again.

You see how close the margin is. We pitched so well again today. Miggy was solid, Darren got a big out, Andrew and Zach, just the two runs they scored, they hit a ball out of the infield. Some of that was self‑inflicted. Steve made a good choice, because where Caleb has to set up nowadays, it makes it tougher to tag outs.

Q. Can anything your team went through in the series help you guys get back to this point?

BUCK SHOWALTER:  You know, there's so many roads to cross to get here. And it's not always ‑‑ it's not always health. The things that we overcame on paper, we didn't look at it like that. We said, Okay, this is why we do this.

And to answer your question, it can't hurt. But it's about players and talent and it's not ‑‑ it's about players, and doing the right thing consistently over a long period of time. And holding themselves to a high standard on and off the field. There's so many things that have to happen for you to get a chance at this.

So we'll start all over again. I know Dan and I will get ready, get moving to figure out a way to get back here again.

Less

Gonzalez shows no rust during solid Game 4 effort

Gonzalez shows no rust during solid Game 4 effort

KANSAS CITY -- Miguel Gonzalez delivered a solid start in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night, but like just about everything else for the Orioles in this series, things didn't quite go as planned.

Pitching for the first time in 16 days, Gonzalez went 5 2/3 innings to give the O's their longest outing by a starting pitcher in the ALCS. But the end result was the same, as Baltimore fell to the Royals, 2-1, at Kauffman Stadium to complete a four-game sweep that eliminated Baltimore from the postseason.

More

Gonzalez allowed two runs (one earned) in a wacky first inning in which the only ball that left the infield was the final out.

"The first inning was a tough one to swallow," said Gonzalez, who allowed four hits, struck out four and walked four.

It all started with an infield single by leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar that took a bad hop near second base. Gonzalez then tried to go inside on his first pitch to Nori Aoki, but the ball got away and hit him in the leg. A sacrifice bunt advanced the runners. After that, Eric Hosmer grounded to first baseman Steve Pearce, who threw home. Catcher Caleb Joseph couldn't hold on to the ball as he attempted to tag Escobar, and the ball scooted to the backstop allowing Aoki to score as well. Suddenly, Gonzalez and the O's were down, 2-0.

Joseph said the inning was a reflection of a series that did not go the way the Orioles wanted.

"Today is a perfect example of what happened," Joseph said. "They didn't get a ball out of the infield and they scored two runs. It cost us the game."

Gonzalez settled in after the first and allowed just one base runner to reach scoring position. 

"Miggy was solid," said manager Buck Showalter.

But just like in Game 3, the Orioles managed only one run and thus could not capitalize on a solid outing from their starter. Gonzalez pitched well enough to give Baltimore a chance to extend the series, but the club headed home earlier than they'd hoped.

"It's really tough to swallow, honestly," said Gonzalez, who won 10 games and posted a career-low 3.23 ERA in the regular season. "It could have gone either way. We could have had a couple wins, but we didn't."

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Davis' suspension will linger to Opening Day 2015

Davis' suspension will linger to Opening Day 2015

KANSAS CITY -- Orioles first baseman Chris Davis will finish out his 25-game suspension by missing Opening Day next season.

Davis, who was with the team at Kauffman Stadium, declined to speak to a group of reporters following Baltimore's season-ending 2-1 loss to the Royals in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday.

More

"I don't think so, guys," Davis said as he walked past several media members. "I still got one game left."

The suspension, for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program, caused Davis to miss the final 17 regular-season games, leaving him with eight games to serve. The O's three-game sweep of the Tigers in the American League Division Series and four-game sweep at the hands of the Royals in the ALCS means the All-Star slugger has one more game to go.

Davis, who was working out at the team's spring facility in Sarasota, Fla., in the event the Orioles made it to the World Series, has not spoken to the media since issuing a statement through the MLB Players Association shortly after the news broke.

"I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans," the statement said. "I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately."

Davis, who led the Majors in home runs a season ago, hit 26 homers with 72 RBIs in 127 games this year, but he batted just .196 with a Major League-leading 173 strikeouts.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Orioles-Royals, ALCS Game 4: Did you know?

Orioles-Royals, ALCS Game 4: Did you know?

The Royals clinched their first World Series berth in 29 years on Wednesday as they finished off their American League Championship Series sweep of the Orioles with a 2-1 victory in Game 4 at Kauffman Stadium.

Not only did the win send the Royals to the Fall Classic, but it was already the 14th one-run game league-wide this postseason, setting a new single-postseason record.

More

That wasn't the only record set in the ALCS. Here's a look at some of those other records, as well as the historical World Series success (or lack thereof) of teams coming off a sweep.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

• The Royals are the first team ever to start a postseason with eight straight victories. They're also just the second team with an eight-game winning streak at any point within a single postseason, joining the 2004 Red Sox. That Red Sox team famously won four straight after falling behind the Yankees, 3-0, in the ALCS then swept the World Series.

• The Royals have won 11 straight postseason games overall, tied for the second-longest streak of all-time. They are just one win shy of the all-time record, a mark reached by the Yankees on two separate occasions. The Yanks won 12 straight from 1932-37 and again from 1998-99. The Giants saw a 10-game postseason winning streak snapped earlier this month, in Game 3 of their National League Division Series against the Nationals.

• Not all the numbers, however, rest in the Royals' favor. Of the six previous teams to record a sweep in the LCS since it became a best-of-seven series, five went on to lose the World Series -- with three then being swept themselves. The 1995 Braves are the only team to sweep the LCS then go on to win the World Series. They swept four games from the Reds then defeated the Indians in six games.

• The Royals are also just the second team to sweep both the Division Series and LCS, joining the 2007 Rockies. That Rockies team was swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.

• Despite the sweep, Royals starter Jason Vargas was the first starting pitcher this series to earn a victory. The Royals became just the fourth team since the ALCS became a best-of-seven series in 1985 to advance to the World Series despite getting no more than one win from a starter during the ALCS. The 1988 A's also had just one starter earn a victory in their ALCS triumph, while the 2011 Rangers and 1997 Indians both advanced despite not getting a single win out of their starters.

Video: Vargas fans six

• The Royals also set a new postseason record for fewest innings pitched by the starters of a winning team in a best-of-seven series. They combined to pitch 21 innings, one out fewer than the previous record-low of 21 1/3 innings by that same 1988 A's team.

• Royals closer Greg Holland notched a save in all four games of the ALCS, joining Dennis Eckersley from that '88 A's club as the only pitchers with four saves in an LCS. Only one other pitcher, John Wetteland (Yankees) in the 1996 World Series, saved all four of his team's victories in a best-of-seven series.

• The Royals improved to 75-1 this year, including 3-0 in the postseason, when leading after seven innings.

Video: Holland, Royals complete sweep

• Making that all the more impressive is the fact that the Orioles scored 12 runs in the eighth inning in their AL Division Series victory over the Tigers. They didn't score a single eighth-inning run over their four ALCS losses to the Royals.

Lorenzo Cain, who was named the ALCS MVP, made the most of his first career sacrifice bunt on Wednesday. Cain's first-inning bunt not only helped set up the Royals' only two runs, but it was also the first sacrifice bunt by a No. 3 hitter the first inning of a postseason game since Steve Garvey dropped one down in 1984.

• This marked the first time the Orioles were swept out of the postseason in franchise history. They had played in 20 postseason series previously without ever being swept.

• Orioles third baseman Ryan Flaherty hit his second career postseason homer in the Game 4 loss, both of which have come out of the No. 8 spot. Flaherty's other such homer came in Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS against Hiroki Kuroda and the Yankees. Throughout franchise history, the Orioles' No. 8 hitters have hit nine postseason HRs. Their Nos. 5 and 6 hitters have hit that same number.

Video: Flaherty's solo homer

• The home run was also the first one Flaherty hit on the road this season. Each of his seven regular-season homers came at Orioles Park at Camden Yards. His last road home run prior to Wednesday was hit on June 23, 2013 at Toronto.

Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Guthrie apologizes to Orioles, fans for T-shirt

After Game 3 win, Royals righty wore shirt that read 'These O's Ain't Royal'

Guthrie apologizes to Orioles, fans for T-shirt

KANSAS CITY -- Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie made a surprise appearance in the interview room on Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series from Kauffman Stadium, to apologize for the T-shirt he wore on the same dais about 14 hours earlier.

After the Royals' Game 3 win on Tuesday night, Guthrie donned a shirt that read "These O's Ain't Royal," a reference to a provocative hip-hop song and a statement that angered fans of an Orioles team down 3-0 in the best-of-seven series.

More

Guthrie, who pitched for the Orioles from 2007-11, said the shirt was sent by a fan and he "used a lack of judgment in putting that shirt on after the game."

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

 

"So I wanted to apologize," Guthrie added. "I've already apologized to a number of people, because there's no intention on my part ever to offend. If you know me, I'm not a person that likes confrontation. I'm not a person that wants to go out there and get anybody angry with me or my squad."

Guthrie said the shirt "will be sent to the garbage, because that's probably where it belongs at this point."

The 35-year-old right-hander pitched five innings of one-run ball in his postseason debut in Game 3, then put the shirt on postgame, never changed and went into the interview room "with no incentive of inciting anything."

"There was no intention to call the attention to the other team, friends and former teammates, certainly not the organization and most definitely not their fans," Guthrie said, adding that he was "pretty unaware" the shirt was in reference to a song by rapper Chris Brown entitled "Loyal."

"I know there's a rhyme and that's where the shirt came from," Guthrie said. "That's what looked to me, quote-unquote, clever. And unfortunately, clever is not a good situation here."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter dismissed it while addressing Orioles beat reporters, saying, "It's not a topic of conversation. I would have picked a better song, though."

Guthrie also apologized via his Twitter account, @TheRealJGuts, and said he reached out to some of his close friends on the Orioles, though he didn't provide names.

"They accepted," Guthrie said.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman, who received an apologetic text from Guthrie on Wednesday morning, said "we've got more important things to worry about than the fashion of the other team. I think we've got to focus on winning, and that's first and foremost right now."

Guthrie established himself as a fan favorite in his four-year stint in Baltimore, winning 47 games and posting a 4.12 ERA on teams that didn't reach 70 victories. On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, several of those same fans reached out via Twitter and were "very upset," Guthrie said.

"If you see a Jeremy Guthrie interview, I'm always wearing some shirt, whether it's 'The Hunt For Blue October,' a Facebook thumbs up, Stark Industries, a number of shirts that are just sent to us," Guthrie added. "I find them fun, and [Tuesday] I was blinded to the fact that what I thought was fun was going to be offensive."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Dyson not concerned over Flaherty incident ahead of Game 4

Royals outfielder downplays comments made after Game 3

Dyson not concerned over Flaherty incident ahead of Game 4

KANSAS CITY -- Jarrod Dyson's mouth often runs as fast as his legs, so his comments regarding Orioles third baseman Ryan Flaherty's supposed knee drop in Tuesday's Game 3 remained a hot topic Wednesday, though he downplayed them when asked about the incident again.

"I don't know what he was doing, I guess he was just playing baseball," Dyson said of Flaherty on Wednesday. "I ain't worried about it."

More

The episode occurred in the sixth inning of Kansas City's 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, right before Dyson scurried home on Billy Butler's go-ahead sacrifice fly.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

The Royals' pinch-runner was seen diving back to third base on a pickoff attempt and, after the game, told CBSSports.com that he believed Flaherty deliberately "put a knee down" on him while attempting the tag.

Moreover, he suggested to the website that perhaps the move was retaliation for his earlier remarks stating he didn't think the series would return to Baltimore for a Game 6.

But Dyson was none too concerned by it Wednesday, before the start of a potential series-clinching Game 4.

"I guess he was just trying to block me out right there," Dyson said. "If he beat me to the bag, he had every right to drop the knee, I guess. It's baseball, I wasn't mad about it."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter confirmed what was speculated, that nothing was intentional.

"So intentionally drawn up that way, let's have a meeting and say we're going to do that? Of course not," Showalter said. "No, it's not that consequential. It's funny how imagination runs rampant this time of year."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Winning four games starts with winning one for O's

Looking to match the '04 Red Sox, Baltimore needs a Game 4 victory to stay alive in ALCS

Winning four games starts with winning one for O's

KANSAS CITY -- By narrowly losing three straight tense contests in the American League Championship Series, the Orioles have left themselves with no choice but to reel off their eighth four-game winning streak of 2014.

If they fall short of that, the goal of giving the city of Baltimore its first World Series since 1983 will be history.

More

Instead, the Orioles will try to make history and join the 2004 Red Sox as the only other baseball team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.

"The Orioles are equally as talented and equally as capable to do what we did in 2004," former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez tweeted on Tuesday night.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

Orioles outfielder Adam Jones remembers full well what Boston's beloved "Idiots" did a decade ago.

"It's been done before so it gives you a chance," Jones said. "We've won four games before. Obviously not in this situation, but we've won four games in a row. We've got to start [Wednesday], start in the first inning, get some runs across that board."

Here are four things the Orioles need to do to pull off the biggest four-game winning streak in club history.

Win Game 4

Look it up. The toughest obstacle for teams trying to overcome a 3-0 deficit is simply avoiding the sweep.

There have been five previous occasions when a team held a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. The 2004 Red Sox were the only team that won Game 4. And look at how that turned out.

If the Orioles can simply win Game 4, perhaps momentum can take a sharp turn.

"You always feel like the momentum can change," manager Buck Showalter said. "If we can get one under your belt and get a few things to work our way and make some things happen, we feel like we can get it spinning the other way. Otherwise, we shouldn't show up tomorrow."

In the NLCS, two of the four teams with 3-0 leads pulled out a sweep.

Jump out first, and add on

Not only did the Orioles take a 1-0 lead in the second inning of Game 3, but it was the first time the Royals trailed in the entire series.

Video: Hardy doubles in a run

The problem is that Baltimore didn't add on, even as it ran Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie's pitch count up to 84 through four innings.

By not extending the lead, the Royals were able to turn the tables with one in the fourth and one in the sixth, and then turn the game over to their lethal bullpen.

The bullpen is also a strength for Baltimore, but Showalter hasn't been able to set up his relievers in the order he'd like.

"They've got a real good bullpen," Jones said. "They're just as good as advertised with [Kelvin] Herrera, [Wade] Davis and [Greg] Holland, but we've still had opportunities against them. It's not like they're just going to go out and shut everybody down. We've had opportunities. It's just we've been unable to come through."

The best way for Baltimore to solve this problem? Play with a comfortable lead.

Pitch-to-pitch focus

The old cliché of taking one day at a time becomes even more simplified in the predicament the Orioles are in.

When the Red Sox produced their epic comeback in '04, Jason Varitek spread the message throughout the clubhouse that the team had to simplify the game to each pitch. He implored the players to try to win every pitch and every inning, and the results would take care of themselves.

It's when a team takes a broader view -- thinking about having to win four games in a row -- that it can be overwhelming.

"We're not looking at it like that," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "We've got to come out tomorrow and win, and just take it one day at a time. It's tough to look at it in the long haul."

Ride the big guns

While the Royals are the masters of creating havoc with their legs, the Orioles are capable of changing games with their power. Jones and Nelson Cruz, the team's two most impactful hitters, went a combined 0-for-8 in Game 3.

If one of those players can get into a groove, much like David Ortiz did during Boston's 2004 comeback, the tone of the series could change.

"Yeah, it's tough," Cruz said. "We can't get it done with three hits. The offense has to do a better job, has to find a way to score runs, get hits, and we haven't been able to do it. We had to win four games since the series starts. So hopefully we can do it tomorrow."

Video: Cruz on Game 3 loss

Jones sounded loose as he spoke to the media following Game 3, and he didn't think his team would put undue pressure on itself. In fact, maybe much of the pressure is off now.

"It's going to be just like we normally are. We're going to be having some fun, playing some cards and getting ready for a big league game," Jones said. "Score more runs than them. We've just got to win. We're down 3-0. Got to win. It's no ifs, ands or buts. It's 'do' at this point."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Orioles on the brink with Game 3 loss to Royals

Baltimore hasn't been able to slow down KC, which leads ALCS 3-0

Orioles on the brink with Game 3 loss to Royals

KANSAS CITY -- The Orioles finally took their first lead of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night and looked poised to take some of the momentum back from the Royals, who held a commanding series lead after two games. But Baltimore never got that far, wasting several early chances and again falling victim to dazzling defense and a Kansas City club that never stops putting the ball in play in a 2-1 Game 3 loss that puts the O's on the brink of elimination.

The O's, who swept the Tigers in the AL Division Series, continue to be baffled by a speedy Royals team and will have to do the near-impossible in winning four consecutive games to advance to the World Series. It can be done, but once again the Orioles find themselves backed into a corner by a red-hot Royals club seemingly incapable of doing anything wrong.

More

"It's hard to take advantage of mistakes when they aren't making any," first baseman Steve Pearce said of a Royals team that has gone 7-0 so far this postseason. "[Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas] did a great job, made some great plays. The one [catch] he had over the railing was amazing. And plays like that, killing rallies. It's something where we can't get anything started. On top of their pitching. They have really good pitching. So it's been a frustrating series so far."

Kansas City, which has trailed in just two innings of the first 28 in the ALCS, used a standout bullpen to ensure Billy Butler's sixth-inning sacrifice fly held up as the final tally. The Orioles, who mustered three hits, had just one baserunner after Nick Markakis' third-inning single as the offense -- which scored on a pair of second-inning doubles by Pearce and J.J. Hardy -- had no answer for the three-headed monster of relievers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

The Orioles have come close -- so close -- in each contest, with two or fewer runs deciding each of the series' first three games. And now they'll be tasked with trying to become just the second team in baseball history to turn the tables after being down 3-0 in a best-of-seven postseason series.

"You never imagine coming out and getting down 0-3, but we had our backs against the wall all year kind of with a lot of injuries," said Ryan Flaherty, who is playing third base in place of injured Manny Machado. "This is no time to quit now."

HOW IT HAPPENED

In true Royals fashion, Kansas City got some well-placed hits -- including a pair of broken-bat singles -- before tying the game at 1 on a fourth-inning groundout. Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen, who was cruising along, allowed a leadoff single to Nori Aoki in the sixth inning and, after striking out Lorenzo Cain, exited when Eric Hosmer's hit put runners on the corners.

"You get a three-hopper in the four-hole, you can't really do anything about that," catcher Nick Hundley said of Hosmer's single into right field. "Two feet one way, two feet the other way it's a double play."

Right-hander Kevin Gausman, who replaced Chen, surrendered a sacrifice fly to Butler for the decisive tally, which plated pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson.

THE MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Wasted chances off Guthrie

Pearce and Hardy's doubles put the O's up early, but they weren't able to do any further damage off Guthrie, stranding a pair of runners later in the inning and Markakis after a leadoff single the following frame. The Orioles worked their former teammate to multiple double-digit pitch at-bats, but didn't have a baserunner after Flaherty's two-out walk in the fourth.

"We can't get it done with three hits," O's designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. "The offense has to do a better job, has to find a way to score runs, get hits and we haven't been able to do it."

The Orioles saw just 44 pitches over the final four innings as the Royals' bullpen retired all 12 batters it faced.

Royals' ridiculous defense:

Kansas City's defensive wizardry was on full display again in Game 3. Moustakas, who robbed Pearce of a hit with a diving grab in the fourth inning, retired Adam Jones on one of the best foul popup catches you'll ever see. Moustakas made a perfectly timed leap into the left-field field boxes to record the first out of the sixth inning.

"They made a lot of good defensive plays. Probably the difference in the series so far," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We've played good defensively, too. But they turned a lot of hits into outs and foul balls that would have been an at-bat."

Chen gives the O's a chance:

The lefty gave the Orioles a chance, keeping them in the game over 5 1/3 innings to mark Baltimore's longest start of the series. Chen allowed seven hits and was charged with two runs, including Butler's sac fly after he departed, in the 80-pitch outing.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS

This is the 10th time in 58 LCS since the inception of the best-of-seven series that a team holds a 3-0 lead, including the sixth in the AL. The only team that forced a Game 7, and advanced, was the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

The Royals have won 10 straight postseason games, which is the longest active streak in the Majors. It's also tied for third on baseball's all-time list.

Following Flaherty's fourth-inning walk, the Royals retired 16 consecutive Orioles -- with a reliever (Jason Frasor) taking the win for the sixth time in Kansas City's seven playoff wins this year.

NEXT GAME

Game 4 of the ALCS will take place in Kansas City today at 4 p.m. ET (watch on TBS) with Miguel Gonzalez making his first playoff start this year and taking the mound for the first time since Sept. 28. He will be opposed by the Royals' Jason Vargas in the potential clinching game.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

In tight spot, Orioles focused on getting first win

Baltimore, down 3-0 in ALCS, believes one victory can turn things around

In tight spot, Orioles focused on getting first win

KANSAS CITY -- This will be perhaps manager Buck Showalter's toughest test. After cruising to a 96-win season, an American League East title and a sweep of the Tigers in the AL Division Series, Showalter's Orioles are down 3-0 to the Royals in the AL Championship Series.

"If we can get one under your belt and get a few things to work our way and make some things [happen], we feel like we can get it spinning the other way," Showalter said following Tuesday's 2-1 loss. Otherwise we shouldn't show up tomorrow.

More

"I know what our guys in our locker room feel like. They know they're up against some good competition. But always one more opportunity away, which is tomorrow."

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

The Orioles didn't appear particularly downtrodden following their third consecutive loss, preaching that one win has the potential to turn everything around. Still, they are trying to reach pretty esteemed territory. In the 58 LCS since the best-of-seven series was adopted, only the 2004 Red Sox have come back to force a Game 7 and advance to the World Series. Game 4 is today at 4 p.m. ET (watch on TBS).

"It's a great challenge for us. That's why it's a seven-game series," catcher Nick Hundley said. "These guys are playing hot, they're closely contested games that didn't go [in] our favor. But at the same time we have a chance to go out tomorrow and win. That's all we care about."

"It's been done before so it gives you a chance," said center fielder Adam Jones. "We've won four games before. Obviously not in this situation but we've won four games [in a row]."

And the Orioles will do their best to approach it like a regular-season win streak. The O's had seven win streaks of at least four games this season and have been in every game this series, losing twice by two runs before Tuesday's one-run defeat.

"It's tough," designated hitter Nelson Cruz said of the position the O's are in. "We can't get it done with three hits. The offense has to do a better job, has to find a way to score runs, get hits and we haven't been able to do it. We had to win four games since the series starts. So, hopefully we can do it tomorrow."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Chen gives O's a chance

Lefty allows two runs in 5 1/3 innings, but hard luck haunts him

Chen gives O's a chance

KANSAS CITY -- Wei-Yin Chen gave the Orioles a chance to win their first game of the American League Championship Series, but the left-hander was the victim of some hard luck and bad breaks on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Chen allowed two runs on seven hits -- all singles -- over 5 1/3 innings, the deepest a Baltimore starter has pitched in the ALCS, but the O's didn't provide much run support in a 2-1 loss to the Royals in Game 3.

More

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

Of the seven hits Chen surrendered, two were infield singles by Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. The final pitch Chen made resulted in a single by Eric Hosmer through the right side of the infield, putting the go-ahead run on third base with one out in the sixth.

"Tough luck, made a couple of really good pitches on Cain and Hosmer, and didn't get much to show for it," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "He didn't give up one hard-hit ball. ... Just not a lot offensively."

Catcher Nick Hundley offered a similar analysis.

"A couple broken-bat hits, a couple bleeders and he gave up a couple runs," Hundley said. "Obviously, it's the game. They got one more run than we did. So come out tomorrow and try to get it done, but proud of the way Wei-Yin pitched for sure."

Chen struck out four against one walk. He consistently located his fastball and stayed out of the middle of the plate. On most nights, that's enough to win.

Showalter stuck with Chen to open the sixth, rather than turning to his deep bullpen. Chen allowed a leadoff single to Nori Aoki, then struck out Cain. But Hosmer's grounder found a hole and that was it for Chen. Kevin Gausman relieved him and allowed a sacrifice fly, which proved to be the difference in the game.

"In that at-bat, the pitch that Aoki got a hit was a little bit kind of a mistake," Chen said. "After that I didn't think about it too much. It was just one guy on base. I was trying to get the next guy out. Today lefties didn't really hit me well. I got a couple balls hit hard, but some of the balls weren't hard, they were well placed."

In the regular season, Chen might have been allowed the opportunity to work out of the jam. But he understood Showalter's decision to go to the bullpen.

Video: Chen keeps it tied

"I'm not upset about my performance because this is the playoffs and Buck has his plan," Chen said. "I just tried to do my job and unfortunately we lost again. That's what matters."

Given the way Chen pitched on Tuesday, the Orioles are confident he could deliver a strong outing if the series extends and the lefty gets another start.

"He's thrown the ball great all year for us," Hundley said. "We love it. He won 16 games. We love having him out there. He's a fiery competitor. We hope he gets another chance."

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

KC's 3-0 ALCS lead doesn't tell the whole story

KC's 3-0 ALCS lead doesn't tell the whole story

KANSAS CITY -- Jarrod Dyson stood in front of his locker in Kauffman Stadium's home clubhouse on Tuesday evening, having raced down the third-base line to score the deciding run in the Royals' 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, and offered a more measured version of the chest-thumping speeches that have stamped his reputation this month.

The Royals have pinned the Orioles against the wall, owning a commanding 3-0 series lead heading into Wednesday's Game 4 at The K, a 4 p.m. ET contest on TBS that could punch an entrance ticket for the World Series. But this ALCS has been anything but lopsided, with Kansas City on the fortunate side of bounces that could have changed the outcomes of all three games.

More

"We're just playing unbelievable baseball," Dyson said. "I don't think anybody expected us to play this good. But we expect ourselves to play good. It feels better to be up 3-0 than down three, I'll tell you that."

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video
In the near-silent Baltimore clubhouse, the Orioles seemed to be figuring out how they could have landed in this situation. Other than Steve Pearce and J.J. Hardy's back-to-back doubles in the second inning, the bats were silent in Game 3, as Royals pitchers retired the final 16 Baltimore hitters.

But that hasn't been a consistent theme in this series. Game 1 in Baltimore was a taut extra-inning affair, deadlocked at five runs apiece from the sixth inning on, and so it might have taken just one big blow -- or a few of those flare hits that the Royals seem to keep collecting like '85 Topps cards -- to bust it open.

"They've just been a hit ahead of us right now, the first three games of this series," Baltimore's Ryan Flaherty said. "It's baseball. That's the way the balls bounce sometimes. We didn't come out and imagine being down 0-3, but we've had our backs against the wall all year. Just another reason to fight."

Even in the 10th inning of Game 1, after Kansas City scored three times, the Orioles kept at it; Delmon Young knocked a run-scoring single off closer Greg Holland to bring the potential winning run to the plate before Nick Markakis grounded out.

"We came back in Game 1 and tied it up and ended up losing; obviously a tough pill to swallow," Kevin Gausman said. "We still feel like we're playing pretty good baseball, we've just got to play a little bit better than they're playing."

The Orioles put up similar fight in Game 2, knotting the game twice in front of their raucous crowd but unable to push ahead -- including wasting a bases-loaded, one-out chance in the seventh -- before Kansas City shattered the tie with two runs in the ninth.

"We've played three really good games; just fell short in each of the games," Adam Jones said. "Now we have a good idea of what the uphill battle is."

The Orioles could go crazy playing the "what if?" game, and in manager Buck Showalter's worst-case scenario, that's probably how he would spend some of the winter. Here in K.C., maybe if Mike Moustakas doesn't tumble over the dugout railing with a sensational catch, Adam Jones would've put the next pitch into the fountains.

Or who knows what might have happened if Lorenzo Cain hadn't completed what he called his longest run for a fly ball in recent memory, chasing down Flaherty's deep and wind-aided second-inning drive to right-center field?

"It's been a lot of exciting games," Cain said. "Every game has been close and nail-biting, but we've come out on top, that's the biggest thing. We have to continue to fight and continue to find ways to win, and hopefully we can win tomorrow."

For all the couldas and wouldas, there are a few glaring numbers that have made the difference: The Royals outhomered the O's 4-1 at hitter-friendly Camden Yards, and Baltimore's starters taxed the bullpen by recording just 13 outs in each of the first two contests.

"Such close games," Showalter said. "They've pitched us a little bit better. Not much."

The three-headed monster of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Holland is a difference-maker, and the Orioles have left 24 men on base in the series -- 10 in each of the first two games. Baltimore has owned a lead for just two innings in the series -- the second and third innings of Game 3. Nevertheless ...

Somewhere out there, the members of the 2004 Red Sox are nodding their heads with the knowledge that this is no longer something that's unheard of. Those lucky breaks can still start to show up, but for the Orioles' sake, it'd better happen within the next 24 hours.

"It's been done before," Jones said, "so it gives you a chance."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Orioles running out of time to silence Royals

Dyson's comments regarding ALCS not going back to Baltimore loom heading to Game 4

Orioles running out of time to silence Royals

KANSAS CITY -- Everything Jarrod Dyson said prior to Game 3 -- about this American League Championship Series not going back to Baltimore and about the Orioles having to embrace their fate as second fiddles, should they go down 3-0 -- is on the verge of proving prescient.

For the O's, that's the annoyance served as a side dish to their adversity. The only thing worse than having your October opponent talk so much smack is not being able to make him eat his words.

More

It's not as if the Orioles are playing brutal baseball in this series (although, even by the standards of their hack-tastic ways, there were some poor at-bats over the course of the 2-1 loss they sustained in Game 3 at Kauffman Stadium). It's just become abundantly clear that in energy and execution and, yes, good fortune, the Royals have been just a bit better.

And in a series with a run differential of five, that little bit, clearly, goes a long way.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

"I wish I didn't have so much stake in it," manager Buck Showalter said. "I'd probably enjoy watching both teams play more than I do."

The O's have not had much to enjoy, obviously. They find themselves in a situation 33 other teams have faced in a best-of-seven series. Twenty-seven of those clubs wound up getting swept. Only the 2004 Red Sox went on to win four straight to take the series (or even three straight to force a Game 7).

Which brings us to the rewind of what, exactly, Dyson -- the Royals' fourth outfielder and pinch-running specialist -- said.

"I'll just tell you this, man," he said between Games 2 and 3. "If we win Game 3, it's going to be hard for [the O's] to look themselves in the mirror and say, 'We can win the next four.' … It can be done, but not everybody's going to be on the same page. There's going to be some people ready to go home. There's going to be people not cheering in the dugout. Just like if it was vice versa on this side, it might be the same way."

Those would be strong words from a starter, let alone a dude coming in off the bench, and they were particularly bold in the context of a sport in which status and seniority, and decorum and deference to the game, and to the people who play it is considered paramount.

The O's did well to brush aside those comments publicly, but they were more irked by them than they let on -- and understandably so. Still, Dyson wasn't totally incorrect. Nobody's expecting the O's to mail this thing in, but if they're discouraged by recent developments (and does any moment sum up this series quite as well as Mike Moustakas going heels-up over the rail to rob Adam Jones?), that, too, is understandable. Their postgame body language did not necessarily match the defiance of their postgame words.

Video: Moustakas' pair of catches

Jones: "It's been done before, so it gives you a chance. We've won four games before. Obviously not in this situation, but we've won four games."

Nelson Cruz: "We had to win four games since the series started. So hopefully we can do it."

J.J. Hardy: "We've got to take it one day at a time. Come out [Wednesday] and win and go from there."

Nick Hundley: "It's a great challenge for us."

Now that I've fulfilled my reporter's obligation to relay that stuff, let's state the obvious: It's hard to feel all that optimistic about the O's ability to outrun history given the way they let Game 3 -- a game in which Wei-Yin Chen and Kevin Gausman were excellent -- get away.

Video: O's pitch well, but lose Game 3

The Orioles created but did not capitalize upon opportunities against Guthrie, who needed 94 pitches to get through five innings and walked away relatively unscathed. Sure, they took advantage of a Kauffman Stadium outfield with the largest square footage of any in the bigs when Steve Pearce and Hardy ripped consecutive doubles in the second to put the first run on the board, and Ryan Flaherty's ensuing walk gave them the opportunity for the breakout inning they've been looking for all series. But Hundley's deep fly to center died in the spacious Kauffman confines, and Jonathan Schoop's groundout let Guthrie off the hook.

Video: Hardy doubles in a run

In fact, that began a stretch in which the Royals retired 23 of the final 25 O's batters who came to the plate. Jones struck me as the main offender, seeing just 10 pitches in his four at-bats on the night, which for him concluded with a first-pitch popup against Greg Holland in the ninth. The Orioles committed what at this point can only be described as the cardinal sin of falling behind before Royals manager Ned Yost summoned his rested behemoth of a bullpen. The inability to string a big inning together against Guthrie -- a guy with a 1.303 WHIP in the regular season -- was, ultimately, devastating.

"We've put together good at-bats," Jones said. "We leave it all on the field, so we don't have any excuses."

Video: Jones on being down 3-0 in ALCS

No excuses and, unfortunately, not a whole lot of hope, either. This has been an incredible season for the O's, and they might have a better claim to the old cliché of "overcoming adversity" than anybody who advanced to October. But they've been little more than bit players in this series, in this Royals' ascendance. Some of that is their fault (Chris Tillman and Bud Norris did not give them needed length in Games 1 and 2, and the bats were frustratingly flat in Game 3), but much of it is not. It has simply been three frustrating nights for a club unable to match its opponent's unbelievable untouchability.

In keeping with proper baseball decorum, Dyson might have been wrong to say what he said. But he still might have been right, all the same.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Gausman pitching like grizzled veteran in ALCS

O's rookie righty has allowed just one hit in 4 1/3 innings of relief

Gausman pitching like grizzled veteran in ALCS

KANSAS CITY -- The American League Championship Series has not turned out how the Orioles envisioned it would, but Baltimore is finding out it has a blossoming young star in rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman.

Gausman retired all eight batters he faced Tuesday night in relief of starter Wei-Yin Chen. But like Chen, the 23-year-old was the victim of some tough luck as the O's lost Game 3 of the ALCS to the Royals, 2-1, at Kauffman Stadium.

More

The rookie entered in a tough spot, with the tying run on third with one out in the sixth inning and the game tied, 1-1. Gausman fired a 98-mph fastball in on the hands of veteran Billy Butler, who managed to lift a fly ball to left that was just deep enough to score the speedy Jarrod Dyson.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

"He executed the pitch and Billy Butler got it in the air," said catcher Nick Hundley. "You have got to give him credit because we executed the pitch we wanted to throw and he got enough to get it out there a little bit. Gausman threw the ball great to give us a chance and keep it at one run."

Baseball can be a cruel game, as good pitches don't necessarily yield favorable results.

"Obviously it's frustrating," said Gausman, the fourth overall pick out of Louisiana State in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. "But Chen pitched a great game and I tried to be the stopper when I came in. There's some things I can't control. They just played a little bit better today. When I came in, all Butler had to do was hit a deep fly ball and he did it on a pretty tough pitch. That's just baseball for you."

Gausman didn't allow another ball out of the infield until the final out in the eighth. In 4 1/3 innings over two appearances in the ALCS, the right-hander has allowed just one hit.

"Really proud of Gaus tonight," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "It was pretty impressive. He's had two really good outings for us."

Video: O's pitch well, but lose Game 3

Though the Orioles lost Game 3, they learned Gausman is up to the task should he find himself on the mound again in a close game this October -- perhaps even as a starter in a potential sixth or seventh game, should the series go that far.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Orioles-Royals, Game 3: Did you know?

Orioles-Royals, Game 3: Did you know?

The Royals moved within one win of a World Series berth on Tuesday night with a 2-1 triumph over the Orioles in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

From yet another Royals player coming through with a late-game, go-ahead RBI to another dominating performance by the Kansas City bullpen, Tuesday's game had plenty of interesting facts and figures.

More

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

Here is a look at some of the more intriguing ones to come out of Game 3:

• The Royals are the 34th team to take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. Of the previous 33 teams to do so, 27 went on to complete the sweep in Game 4. Three others finished off the series in five games and two did so in six. The only series to make it to a Game 7 after one team led 3-0 was the 2004 ALCS, in which the Red Sox rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the rival Yankees in seven games.

• The Royals' 2-1 victory in Game 3 marked the 13th one-run game this postseason, already matching the single-season postseason record. There is still a minimum of seven more games -- and a maximum of 15 -- to be played this postseason.

• Kansas City on Tuesday night became the first American League team to win seven straight games to start a single postseason. Only two NL teams -- the 2007 Rockies and 1976 Reds -- have accomplished the feat. No team has ever won eight in a row to start a postseason run.

• The Royals have now won 10 straight postseason games, dating back to their last appearance in 1985. The 10-game run is good for the longest active streak in the Majors and is tied for the third-longest overall in postseason history, just two wins shy of the all-time record held by the Yankees.

• With his sixth-inning RBI sacrifice fly, designated hitter Billy Butler became the sixth different Royals player this postseason with a go-ahead RBI in the sixth inning or later. All other teams combined have just 10 players with at least one RBI beyond the sixth inning. The Royals' six such RBIs are also as many or more than four franchises -- the Rockies, Nationals, Marlins and Brewers -- have in their histories.

Video: Butler's go-ahead sac fly

• The Royals' bullpen dominated yet again in Game 3, this time to the tune of throwing four perfect innings. The 2011 Cardinals are the only other team whose bullpen tossed at least four innings in a postseason game without allowing a baserunner. They did so against the Brewers in Game 3 of the NLCS.

• That type of relief work is a major reason why the Royals are now 74-1, including the postseason, when leading after seven innings. They are 35-0 in those situations when playing at home.

• Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie made the most of his first career postseason start, allowing just one run and three hits over five innings. Guthrie had made 248 regular-season starts without ever pitching in the postseason, the fourth-highest total among active pitchers.

Video: Guthrie holds Orioles to one run

• Together, the bullpen and Guthrie combined to tie the Royals' franchise record for fewest hits allowed in a postseason game. Strangely enough, the only other time they held their opponent to three hits was actually in a loss. Despite allowing just three hits in Game 3 of the 1984 ALCS, the Royals were swept out of the postseason with a 1-0 loss to the Tigers.

Video: Herrera strikes out Hundley

• The lone run allowed by Guthrie on Tuesday night came in the only early-game inning that he had pitched well in all season. Guthrie was tagged for a run on back-to-back doubles in the second inning, a frame in which he posted a 2.53 ERA during the regular season. He allowed just nine earned runs in the second inning over his 32 starts. As for the other early-game innings, Guthrie had a 5.06 ERA in the first, a 5.68 ERA in the third and a 5.52 mark in the fourth.

Video: Hardy's RBI double

• Guthrie and Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy engaged in a 14-pitch battle in the top of the fourth inning, with Hardy ultimately grounding out after fouling off eight two-strike pitches. It marked the longest at-bat of Hardy's career, easily more than his previous high of 12 pitches. For Guthrie, the 14 pitches matched his career-high for one at-bat. He also tossed 14 pitches to then-White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham on Aug. 8, 2011. Beckham ultimately flied out.

• The 14-pitch showdown also tied for the fourth-longest postseason at-bat since they started tracking such data in 1974. Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler also worked a 14-pitch at-bat against Orioles starter Chris Tillman in Game 1 of the AL Division Series earlier this postseason. Prior to that, however, no postseason at-bat had lasted 14 or more pitches since 2004 when Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon worked a playoff-record 16 pitches out of Yankees pitcher Jon Lieber in Game 2 of the ALCS.

• The Orioles lost Game 3 despite holding their first lead of the series. Hardy's RBI double in the second inning staked the Orioles to a 1-0 lead, but the Royals rallied to tie it in the fourth before taking a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. That's the first time this series the Royals have had to play from behind, though they are still yet to trail at all on the road this entire postseason.

Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Bullpens carrying survivors through postseason

Bullpens carrying survivors through postseason

KANSAS CITY -- They didn't play Game 3 of the American League Championship Series here Monday, and Royals manager Ned Yost and Orioles skipper Buck Showalter and their respective staffs spent the hours after the postponement became official re-thinking their rotation alignments, in light of the extra off day.

More meaningfully, though, the delay provided another 24 hours of rest for the relievers these men rely upon so heavily. And that brings us to a key point of this postseason.

More

There have been 20 playoff games played so far, and only six of them have seen one or both starting pitchers record an out in the eighth inning. In fact, Madison Bumgarner alone is responsible for three of the 13 times a starter has lasted at least seven innings.

Really, take Bumgarner out of the picture (and the Cardinals probably wish they could), and you can make the argument that, contrary to what we've been groomed to think, October has not been all about aces at all.

Whether it's Clayton Kershaw losing both of his starts for the Dodgers or Adam Wainwright posting an 8.00 ERA in two starts for the Cardinals or Jon Lester giving up six runs in the AL Wild Card Game or Detroit's Max Scherzer surrendering five runs in his lone start against the O's in the ALDS or the guy they call "Big Game" James putting up a big ERA (5.63) in three outings for the Royals, the aces' impact has been mostly negative.

Meanwhile, the guys following them have been thrust into the limelight, for better or worse. Thirteen of the 20 games have been decided by one run or in extra innings, so October has been all about the depth and dependability of the 'pens. Only four of the 20 games have seen what turned out to be the winning run scored prior to the seventh inning.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

To some, this is not exactly an unforeseen development.

"The game has really changed," said Royals general manager Dayton Moore, "to the point where, if you don't or can't match up late, it's really hard to win."

Moore's club can match up with anybody right now. The arrival and quick adaptation of recent Draft pick Brandon Finnegan has given Yost a left-handed look to complement the three-headed, right-handed beast of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera.

The Royals weren't able to outlast the Tigers in the AL Central standings this season, but they keep living to see another day because their relievers, who have been credited with five of their six wins, have a 2.30 ERA and .204 average against. The Tigers, on the other hand, are done because their relievers had a 9.64 ERA and .348 average against in 4 2/3 innings.

The Tigers, much like the Dodgers, could not match up, which is why they've been marched out.

The matchup game might sometimes slow the pace to a crawl, but it has had a profound impact on how the late innings play out, both here and in the regular season. Collectively, MLB hitters had a .256/.314/.395 slash line against starting pitchers this season, and those sluggish stats are illustrative of the era in which we live. But batters were especially feeble against bullpens, registering just a .242/.314/.368 slash.

What those numbers tell us is that the once-popular position of trying to run up a starters' pitch count in order to get to the bullpen is, in most cases, outdated. It's certainly notable that the four clubs that advanced to this LCS stage all ranked in the lower half among MLB's 30 teams in walk rate. The Cardinals were 15th, while the Giants (20), Orioles (27) and Royals (30) all finished in the bottom tier.

• Video: Showalter on the O's bullpen loss

"Hitting is controlled aggression," O's GM Dan Duquette said. "We have some aggressive hitters."

The aggressive moves made by the A's and Tigers at the Trade Deadline to assemble what looked to be otherworldly rotations were, at the time, thought to be the keys to those clubs' October advancement. But now that the A's were ousted in the Wild Card round and the Tigers started three Cy Young winners -- Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price -- in succession in the Division Series and lost all three games, the view of those trades is considerably different.

Put it this way: Which July trade acquisition has had the most meaningful impact on his club's bottom line -- Lester, Price or O's reliever Andrew Miller?

Well, by now, we know the answer to that one. And we're also seeing a sort of shift in expectation in this postseason environment.

Showalter was asked the other day if "length" from a starter is more or less important in the postseason, and his answer, as is usually the case with Buck, was interesting. He said it's always important to have your starter go "deep" into the game, but then he added an asterisk to that remark.

"I think what's changed over the years is what's considered deep in a ballgame," he said. "Deep in a ballgame now is the sixth inning. I know that makes a lot of the veteran older players cringe, but that's just the way it is."

That's certainly the way it's been in October.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

De Aza plays role of unexpected hero for Orioles

Outfielder is 4-for-10 with three runs, RBI in ALCS

De Aza plays role of unexpected hero for Orioles

KANSAS CITY -- On the eve of the American League Championship Series, Brady Anderson, Orioles vice president of baseball operations, said the postseason is "the time you get unexpected heroes." He might as well have been talking about outfielder Alejandro De Aza.

De Aza sparked the Orioles in their first postseason game, delivering a pair of doubles in an eight-run eighth inning to beat the Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. In two ALCS games against the Royals, he's 4-for-10 with three runs scored and an RBI.

More

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

De Aza just keeps rising to the occasion in his first crack at October baseball after seven seasons in the Major Leagues. And it's just what the Orioles need heading into Game 3 at Kauffman Stadium.

"He's hungry," said Dan Duquette, executive vice president of baseball operations. "He's never been in the playoffs before. So he's making the most of his opportunity. He's doing great."

De Aza has done nothing but produce since coming over from the White Sox in a trade for two prospects on Aug. 30. He had a hit in his first at-bat and opened his O's career with an eight-game hitting streak, the franchise's longest such streak since 2005, when Eric Byrnes hit in 11 straight games after joining the Birds.

Just as important, De Aza was an upgrade in left field down the stretch, and the O's went 14-6 in games in which he played. That went a long way toward helping Baltimore win its first AL East crown since 1997.

"He's been great since Day 1," said Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz. "He's capitalized. He's gotten a lot of clutch hits when we've needed them the most. He's been huge for us since the trade."

Duquette made several trades to bolster the roster this season. The deal to get De Aza might have been lost in the shuffle, but not anymore.

"He's done a good job," Duquette said. "He's got a little speed, he's got some power and he's a good, solid, professional player."

Postseason experience is a big talking point each October. But not every player falls into that box, Anderson says. De Aza is the latest example.

"I always like looking at numbers and statistics, I have my whole life, and there's a lot of talk about playoff experience ... I never found that playoff experience means much," Anderson said last week at Camden Yards. "When you look through the numbers, there's some veterans that struggle year in and year out in the playoffs and you'd think the team would be able to rely on them. And I think the playoffs are the time you get unexpected heroes.

"But I remember hearing about a lot of playoff experience when I was about to go into my first playoffs. I didn't know, so I couldn't comment, but it was not really that big a transition for me. I was swinging well when the season ended. I went into the playoffs swinging well."

De Aza has done the same.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Miller showcasing dominant repertoire for Orioles

Lefty missed out on postseason in 2013, a free agent this winter

Miller showcasing dominant repertoire for Orioles

KANSAS CITY -- The Red Sox were on their way to the World Series last year, and Andrew Miller was recovering from a broken left foot. The big lefty was so desperate to contribute that he tried to convince the team he could get himself healthy enough to pitch after a three-month layoff.

Miller was thanked for showing such initiative, but told to go back to being a supportive teammate. So as one of the tallest cheerleaders in baseball history, Miller took it all in from the dugout as the Red Sox dispatched of the Cardinals in six games.

More

As gratifying as all that was, particularly the World Series ring he collected a few months later, the best days of Andrew Miller's career are happening right now. The trade that sent Miller to the Orioles on July 31 set him up to get all the coveted October opportunities he missed a year ago.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

And Miller isn't just pitching in big games for Baltimore, but he's turned into an almost unhittable beast.

Though the Orioles lost the first two games to the Royals in the American League Championship Series, Miller came up big in both of them. His slider has been a lethal weapon, sending hitters back to the dugout with nothing to do but mutter.

"It's been a ton of fun," said Miller. "I know the last two games haven't really gone our way, but it's quite the experience. I never really knew what to expect, but it's been as much fun as I've ever had pitching in these games. I feel like, just what's on the line and the excitement and the buzz around the stadiums is just really incredible. It just makes me thirsty for more I guess."

For the final two months of the regular season, Miller posted a 1.35 ERA for the O's, punching out 34 batters in just 20 innings.

"Huge," slugger Nelson Cruz said of the addition of Miller. "He's been unbelievable. He's one of the reasons why we won the division by a large amount of games. Once he came over from Boston, it was almost a sure thing every time he came to the mound that it would be 1-2-3, and he could get out of any jam, no matter the situation."

Of the five games Baltimore has played in this postseason, Miller has pitched in four of them. Over 6 1/3 innings, he allowed one hit and one walk while striking out seven.

The satisfaction Miller feels these days reminds him of how tough it was to watch last year.

"You get pretty fed up," said Miller. "You guys saw me on my scooter and the boot, and whatnot. It gets pretty tough when you can't help and contribute. I love baseball, but watching it from the sidelines isn't the best thing in the world."

At the age of 29, Miller is finally tasting the success that was forecasted for him many years ago, when the Tigers made him the sixth overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft.

In December of 2007, Miller was shipped to the Marlins in the deal that sent megastar Miguel Cabrera to Detroit.

By the end of 2010, the Marlins flat-out gave up on Miller and traded him to the Red Sox for Dustin Richardson, a lefty who never threw another pitch in the Majors after that deal.

After some more maddening inconsistency in his first year in Boston, Miller became a reliever in 2012. That move turned out to change his pitching life.

"I feel I've improved every time out as a reliever," Miller said. "I feel like I've started to get better and better at this role, which was new to me only a couple of years ago. I feel like I'm improving and getting better. But certainly no complaints on how I'm throwing the ball right now."

Miller also won't complain about the long road it took him to get to this point.

"I think the people that have the smooth rises to success in the Major Leagues are the outliers," said Miller. "I'm just happy that I've started to find my way. ... I hoped I was going to win 500 games and be a starting pitcher and make all the money in the world, but the fact that as I've gotten older and wiser, that I can contribute to good teams is all I ask for.

"I feel like I'm starting to accomplish that. It's a lot of fun to pitch well in this game. It's not a lot of fun to pitch poorly. To have to grind it out and stick it through to get to this point is certainly rewarding and hope it can get better."

This offseason, Miller will become a free agent and will make significant money, whether he continues as a setup man or some team tabs him to be a closer.

"I'm trying to ignore the whole free agency right now," said Miller. "Unfortunately, it keeps popping up. Well, it's fortunate I guess. But for me right now, I'm focused on the Royals. Ultimately, I have enough on my plate."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Jones unflappable in face of Orioles' ALCS deficit

Center fielder demonstrates leadership with on-field play

Jones unflappable in face of Orioles' ALCS deficit

KANSAS CITY -- Somebody had to say it, and leave it to Adam Jones to be the one to say it in a way that was equal parts sarcastic, sage and straight to the point.

His Orioles are down 2-0 in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series against an abundantly confident Royals club, so somebody asked Jones the all-too-typical question if it might be time for him, as a team leader, to call a team meeting.

More

"We're grown men," Jones said, good-naturedly but purposefully. "We're not little kids who need to sit in a circle and play Duck, Duck, Goose."

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

This is Jones' role here in this O's clubhouse, in case you haven't caught on. Media magnet, sound bite supplier, pulse provider.

The O's are up against it, no doubt. And maybe, in their heart of hearts, some of these Birds are a bit befuddled and a bit discouraged by just how well the Royals have executed and just how unflappable they've been in the late innings of two tight games. But you're obviously not going to get a shred of such a stance from Jones.

"I have confidence in every person in this clubhouse," he said. "[Whether it's] on the roster, non-roster, strength guy, we brought our cook with us. I have confidence in every person who took that team flight."

When Buck Showalter joined the O's in July 2010, this is exactly the sort of thing he wanted to see from Jones. He knew -- as anybody with two working eyes would -- that Jones had the talent to be the focal point of this ballclub. What was still undetermined at that point was whether Jones had the other qualities of a captain-type. Jones attended Showalter's first press conference, stood off to the side, introduced himself (as if he needed an introduction) afterward, and tried to make small talk.

"Let's have some fun," the center fielder said.


Related video: Jones on ALCS Game 2 loss

"Time to go to work," the skipper replied.

And from that day forward, the work has been earnest, the relationship special. In terms of earnestness, leadership and preparation, Jones is the embodiment of the Showalter ideal. And if you've got him on your ballclub, you've got one of the game's best and most consistent all-around players, whether the nation at large recognizes that fact or not.

But now here we are in the thick of October, with the O's trying to overcome a historic hurdle (no club has ever lost the first two LCS games at home and recovered to win it), and Jones, save for one beautiful swing on a belt-high Yordano Ventura fastball, has not been the dynamic middle-of-the-order presence you'd expect him to be.

Now, some of this is unavoidable. The postseason is all about not letting the big boys beat you, and the advanced scouting, the quality of the opposition and the magnitude of the moment all come into play.

"Guys are going to go with their best," Jones said. "You can scout and scout and scout, but the guy on the mound is going to give you the best he's got. At this point, strengths are going to go against strengths."

Jones is 5-for-21 in this October (7-for-47 in his postseason career), with just that one extra-base hit to show for his efforts. While the home run off Ventura didn't spur the O's to victory in Game 2, perhaps it's a precursor to a consistent spurt of production from Jones, when his team needs it most. Then again, the homer was followed two innings later by a brutal at-bat in which Jones struck out on three pitches with two men aboard against Kelvin Herrera in a moment when the Royals reliever was having uncharacteristic trouble finding the strike zone.

So the O's can certainly get more from Jones than they've received so far -- and that, in fact, might be their biggest source of upside as they look to climb out of this hole they've dug themselves. Jones talked the other day about hitters getting into trouble when they try to do more than they're capable of in the midst of a slump. There are probably times this postseason when he's been guilty of doing just that, chasing pitches he can't reasonably work with, swinging big when the situation calls for small, etc.

"What I do in the regular season, I think I need to cut back a little bit more in the postseason, the aggression in the regular season," he said. "I think it intensifies when the postseason comes on, the strike zone is smaller. Every pitch is that much more important. And you've got to lock in better. It's the same game, it's just the focus has to be stronger."

Only five qualified hitters in the Majors took a lower percentage of pitches than Jones (44.5) did this season, so he knows all about aggression. But he also knows about production. Each of the last four seasons, he's hit at least 25 homers, driven in at least 80 runs and had an adjusted OPS+ over 110. Only one other player can say that, and his name is Miguel Cabrera.

So at a time when the O's already have Nelson Cruz putting himself in the postseason pantheon, they have statistical reason to suspect Jones might have some better swings in store in the next couple of days. They know he's prepared, and they know he can impact this series with his glove (witness the great diving grab he made to rob Nori Aoki of extra bases in Game 2) and his legs. These are not small points at a time when the O's need to cling to every ounce of optimism.


Related video: Jones makes diving catch

"He knows this is his time," general manager Dan Duquette said. "OK, here's your center fielder. He plays ball every day, OK? He's got a great arm. He can steal a base. And he's got home-run power. That's pretty good."

Back in Baltimore, they've got those statues in the Camden Yards picnic plaza. Six of them. Frank and Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.

Showalter pointed them out to Jones one day recently and made an astute observation:

"You don't get one of those for being a good guy."

Jones is a good guy, no doubt. And he's certainly a good quote. But he understands the bottom line here.

"In this game of baseball," he said, "being good people doesn't mean nothing. You've got to win."

The O's are down 2-0. As Showalter would say, time to go to work.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

When pressure's on, O's Cruz shines brightest

Slugger one of best playoff performers of his era

When pressure's on, O's Cruz shines brightest

KANSAS CITY -- Nobody ever wants to be down 2-0 in a postseason series. But if that is going to be your fate, it sure doesn't hurt to have Nelson Cruz on your side.

The Orioles slugger has put teams on his back before at this time of year, and if he can do it again in the American League Championship Series, perhaps Cruz will finally get the notice he deserves as one of the best pressure players of this era.

More

Consider that Cruz has 16 home runs in 159 postseason plate appearances, tying him with Carlos Beltran for ninth on the all-time list. However, Beltran has that number in 219 plate appearances.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

 

The eight players in history who have more home runs in the postseason than Cruz all had more than 200 plate appearances.

Nobody in the last decade has received more notice than his heroics this time of year than David Ortiz, one of Cruz's mentors. Yet Big Papi himself has 17 playoff homers, just one more than Cruz, and that's in 357 plate appearances.

"The man steps up," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said of Cruz. "I don't know why. This is my first time seeing him. He's just big in those situations."

The first reason is comfort. Though some people get unnerved by being on the big stage, it makes Cruz feel at home.

"Yeah, no doubt," said Cruz. "I think winter ball helps. Every game in winter ball is very intense. I think that helped me to be comfortable."

Another reason is focus. If some players can start to think about extraneous pressure when playing in these games, Cruz is able to zone in on each pitch.

"I can't explain it," Cruz said. "I guess the way you prepare for every game, it makes a difference. You know that every pitch is important and every play is important. You focus a little bit better than the regular season."

There is just one time Cruz remembers being nervous on the playoff stage. It was Oct. 6, 2010, under the roof of Tropicana Field. It was the first postseason game of his career. Oh, by the way, Cruz hit a home run that day to lead the Rangers to victory over the Rays.

Cruz's RBI double

"My first at-bat, probably I was nervous as I could ever be," Cruz said. "My second at-bat, it was like, this is just another game and I tried to relax and realize it's a baseball game. I've played so many games that one more isn't going to make a difference. Just go and relax and play your game."

When the Orioles swept the Tigers in the AL Division Series, they were powered by two home runs from Cruz, who had a career regular season, belting 40 homers.

Though they lost nailbiters to the Royals in the first two games of this series, Cruz was there raking, producing multi-hit games on both occasions.

And if they are to turn the tables and send the series back to Baltimore, Cruz is likely going to have something to say about it.

It isn't just power that Cruz produces at this time of year. He is a career .306 hitter in the postseason, to go along with 34 RBIs and a 1.059 OPS.

Cruz's career regular-season numbers? A .268 average and an .829 OPS.

Once, Cruz's friend Ortiz told him a clear path to success in October.

"One of the things David told me was that if one or two players get hot in that situation, it can take you a long way," said Cruz. "It's obvious what they did last year. He said, 'You just need one or two players to get hot and they can take over a whole team."'

Cruz resonated with quiet confidence as he held court at his locker on Sunday night.

"If we're trying to win, we have to play the same way we've played all year long," said Cruz of Tuesday's Game 3 (8 p.m. ET, TBS). "There should be reason to be concerned, yes, but I don't think it's a reason to be worried about this. The main thing for us to stay focused and take all the positive things we've done the first two games and bring it to the table again."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less