ARLINGTON, Texas — They trudged off the field, these Orioles. They sat in the dugout, took their swings and manned their defensive positions for hours suspecting what would come at the end of this, but when it came it still brought the knee-rattling knowledge that a season loved by so many was lost.

Baltimore’s magical run ended Tuesday night with a dud.

After 91 straight series without being swept, the Orioles lost the first three games of the American League Division Series. After a 101-win season, they recorded nothing but losses in October, when it mattered most.

It ended because of shortcomings in so many areas — from a pitching staff that crumbled to a lineup that had nothing left — and it resulted in the Orioles dragging their cleats as they left the field at Globe Life Field after a 7-1 defeat. They stared out from the dugout, the kind of unseeing stares that accompany moments like this, when hope vanishes.

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“We didn’t expect to lose,” Austin Hays said. “We really did show up today thinking we were gonna win, we were gonna move on, we were going to win three in a row.”

Even as Orioles players tried to make sense of it, the Texas Rangers spilled out onto the turf, a juxtaposition of emotions so perfectly captured this time of year.

The Rangers earned that exuberance based on a high-flying offense and a pitching staff that did enough to hold down the Orioles in Games 1 and 3. In Game 2, the Texas offense made the most of Baltimore’s disastrous pitching display. All told, the Rangers romped in the ALDS, ousting the No. 1 seed in the American League in a thorough demolition.

The scowls on the faces of these Orioles were so different than any expression they wore this year.

Orioles players and coaches watch as the Texas Rangers celebrate their three-game sweep of the ALDS. (Ulysses Muñoz)

This had been a team of joy. A young team, with bright eyes and fearlessness and sprinkler celebrations on second base. A bright team that envisioned many more champagne celebrations in the coming weeks.

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But on Tuesday night it looked entirely like an inexperienced team that learned the harsh reality of October baseball.

“It’s a really good group of guys, and that adds a little bit of stink to it, too, because we knew that we have something special,” right-hander Kyle Gibson said, “and we want to capitalize on it whenever you can.”

They learned it from a team that built its core in a very different manner than Baltimore has. Texas went out and spent, attracting high-level names who are proven at this level and on this stage. There’s no doubt there will come a time when Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and the Orioles’ other young, homegrown stars will be postseason veterans, but they’ll have to work to get there.

On the other side, there was Corey Seager, one of the many high-paid assets acquired in recent years for these very moments. He’s already a World Series MVP and, as he was serenaded by “MVP” chants, he throttled a change-up from right-hander Dean Kremer that traveled 455 feet in the first inning.

That early home run set the tone for Kremer’s outing, which was clouded by worry for his family.

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A day before he took the mound for the most important start of his major league career, the Israeli-American citizen said there was no hesitation to take the ball, but his family in Israel would inevitably be on his mind. In an Instagram story regarding the Israel-Hamas war, Kremer posted in Hebrew: “My heart just got ripped out.”

He pitched, as ever, with his Star of David necklace around his neck. But his start was short-lived, and he didn’t make it out of the second inning. Texas scored six runs against Kremer, including a two-out, two-run double from Mitch Garver after Baltimore opted to intentionally walk Seager to load the bases. Shortly after, Adolis García blasted a three-run homer.

“I don’t know that anyone in this game has ever dealt with what he had to deal with today,” Gibson said of Kremer. “Feel for him. He has so much on his mind right now. What he did today, like I said, you find me another example of somebody who’s went through what he’s gone through the last five days.”

The short start from Kremer was the second in two games for Baltimore. Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez also lasted just 1 2/3 innings on Sunday with five runs against him. With both, the Orioles were in an early hole and their pitching staff was immediately under pressure to cover extensive innings.

This time, manager Brandon Hyde turned to his best relievers earlier. He said there would be “all hands on deck” for this game, and he proved it when he inserted Gibson — the presumptive Game 4 starter. But there would be no Game 4 without a win Tuesday, so Hyde rolled the dice.

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There still won’t be a Game 4, but not because Gibson or any other reliever was particularly leaky. Gibson allowed a solo homer from Nathaniel Lowe in the sixth, but that was the final breakthrough in a game that felt long over by the time 27 outs were recorded.

The Orioles scored once, dominated for the most part by Nathan Eovaldi. The right-hander, another significant addition ahead of the 2022 season when he signed a two-year, $34-million contract, earned a curtain call after his seven innings.

“They pitched really well,” Ryan Mountcastle said. “Hats off to Eovaldi tonight, and some of their other guys. They got timely hits. It is what it is.”

Eovaldi held down an offense that lacked the punch it showed late in Sunday’s loss. Henderson broke through with an RBI single, and Ryan O’Hearn — starting for the first time this postseason — recorded his first knock since Sept. 22. But Cedric Mullins finished the season on a 2-for-48 slide, and only thrice a runner advanced beyond first base Tuesday night.

All that was left, then, were the unseeing stares. The unseeing stares and the cleat-dragging trudge to the dugout steps and the clubhouse beyond, to the hotel and to the plane and to Baltimore.

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Once there, this 101-win team will disperse. Many of them will return next year. Some won’t. All of them, though, will think of what could’ve been in this American League Division Series — a three-game collapse that ends what was otherwise a magical run.

It ended before any of them would have imagined. They never knew any better.

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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