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Party Like It’s 2014: Orioles Clinch AL East

The Baltimore Orioles celebrate on the field after winning the AL East in 2014

The Orioles win their 100th game of the season to clinch the top seed in the American League in honor of Brooks Robinson.

In the middle of a week of mourning, the Baltimore Orioles are celebrating. On Thursday the O’s clinched their first division title in nine years by defeating the Boston Red Sox 2-0. Playing in the toughest division in sports, the Birds surpassed preseason expectations and earned first place with a balanced roster of talented youngsters and overlooked veterans.

OF Anthony Santander gave the Birds the lead quickly, blasting a home run over Mount Walltimore in the first inning. This was a special moment for Tony Taters as one of the holdovers from the rebuild years. The Orioles did nothing else off an effective SP Chris Sale, but pinch hitters came through in the eighth. 2B Adam Frazier drew a leadoff walk and OF Heston Kjerstad had his first signature moment as a Major Leaguer. The rookie dropped a bloop double into shallow center, and a miscue by OF Ceddanne Rafaela allowed Frazier to score.

The Orioles needed a full team effort, and SP Dean Kremer set the tone with 5 1/3 scoreless innings. Tiring down the stretch run, he brought his best stuff to his final regular season start. His pitchers were clearly moving more than usual, and his command of cutters and changeups was pristine. Kremer struck out eight and walked one.

RP DL Hall was even better, retiring all five batters he faced. Entering in the sixth, he put out a first-and-third fire and then shut down the Sox in the seventh. RP Yennier Cano did what he has done all season, getting strikeouts and groundballs. He got two outs sandwiched around a chopper for a single. RP Cionel Perez put an exclamation mark on the eighth: after a stolen base, the lefty barehanded a throw from 1B Ryan Mountcastle to pump up the enthusiastic crowd.

What would be more fitting of the 2023 Orioles than an unsung hero finishing the job. After two rough months of struggles and a demotion, RP Tyler Wells came back to the big club as a reliever prepared to help however he can. After pitching last night, Wells shut down the Red Sox in order to record his first save in two years. The O’s have now allowed three total runs in their last five games.

Immortal #5

The celebration comes amid an otherwise somber week in Baltimore and the baseball world at large. Hall-of-Famer and team legend 3B Brooks Robinson died at the 86 on Tuesday. Tributes from around the league and Birdland immediately poured in for the wonderful player and person. Every single one, from teammates to recent players to broadcasters to fans emphasized how kind and generous Brooks was. He always made time for others, even people he had never met before.

The man from Arkansas played textbook defense at third base. Robinson played at the hot corner more than anyone in MLB history, and for good reason. He was so fundamentally sound that he was in position to make any play. The MVP of the 1970 World Series, Robinson made web gem after web gem and hit .429 with two home runs. Cincinnati Reds Manager Sparky Anderson noted that “we lost the World Series because we made one fundamental mistake. We kept hitting the ball to Brooks.” In Game One, Robinson set the standard for third basemen making a throw across the length of the infield:

Robinson did not earn election on the first ballot just because he was an outstanding defender. 16 consecutive Gold Gloves is astonishing, and his highlight reel backs up the awards, but he was no slouch at the plate, either. The 1964 MVP, Brooks made 18 All-Star teams, hit 268 home runs, and had two seasons with 100+ RBIs. Before SS Cal Ripken Jr. and OF Adam Jones, Robinson went out there every day, and he led the league in games played five times.

The Orioles are highlighting #5 around Camden Yards. There is a banner hanging off the rail yard, a number poignantly painted next to third base, and a ribbon around the circle of his retired #5 in the stands. The team is hosting a public memorial Monday morning to honor Mr. Oriole.

Who They are Playing For

While the 2023 Orioles are a thoroughly contemporary team built on analytics, the club’s past is always inspiring the present. Regardless of age or state of birth, fans and players are keenly aware of the franchise’s best years. The Oriole way of the ’60s and ’70s, the Why Not? Birds from 1989, back-to-back playoffs bids in 1996 and 1997, five winning years from 2012-2016, these turnaround Orioles are next in line. 100 wins is a rare and remarkable feat, and the best may be yet to come.

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