For the first time in seven years, the Orioles aren’t packing their bags and heading their separate ways after the last game of the regular season.
Instead, they’ll stay right here in Baltimore and wait five anxious days until they get to take the field again.
The Orioles, the winners of the American League East and owners of the best record in the league, will skip the wild-card round and begin their postseason in the AL Division Series on Saturday. They will play the winner of the Tampa Bay vs. Texas series. The wild-card round begins Tuesday and is a best-of-three series.
For the Orioles, that extra rest can be a good thing or a bad thing. No doubt the pitchers need it, but five days?
“I don’t know about five days,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
It’s the schedule they have, though, and there’s no turning back now. They will take Monday off and have scheduled workouts the remainder of the week, utilizing simulated games and live batting practice to keep their players fresh.
To combat the long break, the Orioles decided to send out Kyle Bradish, their expected Game 1 starter, for the season finale instead of playing a straight bullpen game. They wanted Bradish to go through his normal pregame routine and get out any last kinks before the postseason. He pitched two innings — akin to what he would have done in a between-start side session — in the Orioles’ 6-1 loss to the Red Sox.
“He threw the ball great,” Hyde said. “Happy with the amount of pitches he threw, and he felt good.”
No matter what happens in the postseason, this regular season will be remembered as one of the best in team history. They won 101 games, their fifth most ever and their highest since 1979.
“Only a couple teams won 100 games this year, and we are one of these,” Hyde said. “I’m really proud of how we played for six months.
The Orioles have the likely rookie of the year in Gunnar Henderson and a Cy Young candidate in Bradish, who ends the regular season with a 2.83 ERA, the first Orioles player with an ERA under 3.00 since Mike Mussina in 1992.
“Obviously still have work to do, but just the regular season was very fun,” Bradish said. “I don’t care to look too much into stats but fun season.”
This year also marked the year the fans returned to Camden Yards, the team drawing 1,936,798 people, its most since 2017. It will add to that total next weekend, with the Orioles hosting the first two games of the ALDS. The series will then switch to the away team for Games 3 and 4 and then back to Baltimore, if needed, for Game 5. All times are to be determined.
The Orioles have decisions to make — who will be their Game 1 starter? Which two players will they remove from the active roster? They will wait to set their playoff roster, though, until they know who their opponent is. They intend to carry a taxi squad of replacement players with at least a third catcher and extra pitchers on it.
At the end of Sunday’s game, the players came out of the dugout to wave to the fans. Most years, this has been their final thank you. This time, it was just an acknowledgment of their support during the regular season.
It wasn’t a goodbye. The Orioles have at least two home games left.
For now, all they can do is be patient and wait until the wild-card round is finish. Then, postseason baseball will return to Camden Yards for the first time since 2016.