By Bob Elliott
DETROIT _ Each night at Camden Yards in Baltimore fans hold up a sign “Orioles Magic.”
The roots of Orioles Magic go back to a walk-off homer by Doug DeCinces in 1979 as the O’s reached the World Series losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
We saw that sign a few times this week in Baltimore.
You’ll see it next week too.
Manager Buck Showalter putting the winning run on in the bottom of the ninth with an intentional walk? And getting a game-ending double play.
Orioles Magic … of course.
Nelson Cruz going the other way with a David Price change up into the first row for a two-run homer?
More Oriole Magic.
Pinning three losses on three former Cy Young award winners, you know the Detroit Tigers rotation everyone had pegged as going to the World Series?
Has to be Oriole Magic.
“If you tell me before the series that we would sweep them I wouldn’t believe you,” said Cruz, after the Orioles eliminated Detroit 2-1 Sunday before 43,013 fans at Comerica Park to sweep the best-of-five American League Division Series. The O’s advance to the AL Championship Series, their first since 1997.
“This was one hurdle,” said Adam Jones, 3-for-36 (.083) in post-season before singling up the middle off Price so he could score on the Cruz homer. “It doesn’t matter who is on the mound, due process will happen.”
Against three former Cy Young award winners, the O’s scored 10 times in 20 1/3 innings (4.43 ERA) thanks to four homers against Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Price, who was outstanding Sunday, save for the Cruz blow.
“Our starters have been beating guys who won awards all season,” said Zach Britton who survived a nervy ninth.
Starter Bud Norris and reliever Andrew Miller allowed two Tiger hits — an Al Avila double in the second and a broken-bat bloop by Don Kelly in the third — over the first eight.
Britton allowed back-to-back doubles to Victor Martinez (1-2 pitch) and J.D. Martinez (0-2) opening off the ninth and making it verr-rry interesting as the Tigers had the tying run on second with none out.
“The problem was I got ahead and tried to overthrow,” Britton said after being sprayed with Chandon sparking champagne from Yountville, Calif. “I told myself: slow down, make a good pitch, don’t panic, get a ground ball.”
After giving himself all those marching orders, Britton faced Bryan Holaday, who took over for catcher Avila when he took a foul ball to the mask. The back-up catcher was asked to bunt but struck out.
Showalter had Nick Castellanos walked and later admitted he had hesitation.
“Nobody’s that smart,” he told reporters. “We needed a little karma, to change the way the inning was going. We had a lot of faith in Zach.”
Miller admitted the O’s in the dugout were managing along with their manager.
“You know you never want to put the potential winning run on,” said Miller, a former No. 1 pick of the Tigers. “All of us were sitting there second guessing.”
Tiger manager Brad Ausmus went to Hernan Perez — five at-bats this season– to pinch hit for Andrew Romine. Kelly started in centre ahead of injured Rajai Davis.
“(The intentional walk) didn’t surprise me, Buck has been doing this a long time,” said Ausmus. “I don’t think he could do anything that would shock me. He would rather face the hitters after Castellanos than Castellanos.”
Perez bounced into a 5-4-3 double play.
Cue the bubbles.
“The thing about Buck is all of his moves seem to work out,” said Miller. “I’ve played for a lot of managers and coaches. He’s the sharpest.”
Miller is a free agent after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox.
Season over … for the Tigers.
In Game: Only four times did Norris pitched longer than 6 1/3 scoreless innings — and the stakes were not as high — pitching seven against the Yankees in September, the Angels in July and the Blue Jays in April, along with eight scoreless against Boston in June … O’s second baseman Jonathan Schoop had a busy second inning. With Don Kelly on second shortstop J.J. Hardy fielded Torii Hunter’s grounder, caught Kelly too far off the base and fired to Schoop, who dropped the ball. Not to worry, Kelly was out so far, Schoop blocked his path and made the tag … Two pitches later Miguel Cabrera bounced to short but Hardy threw past a diving Schoop into right setting up a second-and-third, two out situation. It took Norris 10 pitches to pop up Victor Martinez … Romine bunted past the pitcher with two out and a man on third in the second. Schoop charged the ball and flipped the ball with his glove to get Romine on a bang-bang play. Ausmus asked for a replay but the big umpires in New York said that first base ump Jim Wolf had it right. A safe call and Avila would have scored from third on the play.
One from the room: Congratulations on your first series win as a manager in the post season, a reporter asked said to Showalter.
“Really?” replied the two-time manager of the year, “I got one at (double-A) Albany. They’re all relevant.”