Playing meaningful baseball late in the season is invaluable to the Orioles

TORONTO – For the past three or four weeks, Robinson Chirinos has talked even more than usual. The 38-year-old catcher is one of three players from the Orioles clubhouse to have appeared in a major post-season game. He knows what it’s like to feel the pressure, the impact of every decision on the Diamond, and he wants to make sure the roster full of rookies understands it too.

Last week, in particular, he presented his perspective to a group of players in a meeting.

“When you hate losing, and you know what it’s like to win games and reach season after season, you will never be the same,” Chirinos said. “You’re going to do whatever it takes to get into the post season and play for the World Series.”

Baltimore remain on the outside looking at the final wild-card spot. Making a late comeback against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, the Orioles (76-69) placed themselves within striking distance, four games behind the Seattle Mariners with 17 games to go.

Each game will be big, with key moments in what feels like the playoffs before October officially arrives. Take for example Sunday, when Catcher Adley Ratschmann stepped to the plate with bases loaded in the ninth inning and no dismissals, He has played in All-American games and won a College World Series with Oregon State, but against the close of Jordan Romano at the Rogers Center, Rutschman faced what may have been the greatest moment of his career so far.

He went ahead, came up with a two-run single. Later, he said that he tried to ignore the circumstances, resting as much as he could. But as left-hander DL Hall said before the game, high school tournaments and showcases don’t compare to a major league playoff race.

“Nothing can prepare you for here,” Hall said.

That is, until you experience it.

No matter how the rest of the season unfolds for Baltimore — falling short or fulfilling even your wildest dreams — the experience of playing a meaningful game in September sets the organization up for future success. In Sunday’s comeback win, five rookies played a key role, including Felix Bautista, against All-Star Caliber Hitters.

In the following season, as the Orioles aim to increase the pressure on established American League East clubs, the core group of players will have already gone through the pressure of post-season playoffs.

Right-handed Jake Reid said, “Just the experience, I don’t think you can put any value on it by getting these guys involved in the big games early in their careers.” “It’s going to set them up for even more success in the future. … It’s huge. I think it’s scary for other teams in the league to have a core group of youngsters like this in this team.

Apart from the Chirinos, the only other players with post-season experience are first baseman Jesus Aguilar and second baseman Rugged Smell. Between these three, he has played 42 playoff games – including seven World Series when the Chirinos played for the Houston Astros in 2019.

That knowledge base is useful. Despite being the youngest player in baseball, Gunnar Henderson, who played an important role for Baltimore, said he relies on those veterans for advice. The Chirinos have served as the protectors of the Rutsmans. The pitching staff turns to right-hander Jordan Lyles, who, despite not pitching in the postseason, played for the Milwaukee Brewers during the 2018 season, which ended in the National League Championship Series.

It was a similar approach, with Baltimore in the mix for a wild-card spot to outfielder Austin Hayes when he was promoted in 2017. As he tried to find his footing, he credited Manny Machado and Adam Jones as the figures who led the picks of the first MLB season to coincide with a playoff push.

In 2017, however, the Orioles parted ways. Hayes recalls how difficult it was to experience a team slide from playoff contention. This season could still end differently.

“The idea of ​​just playing the meaningful game that matters at the end of the year, you’re basically fighting for your life every day. I mean that’s what you want as a baseball player,” Hayes said. You want meaningful play. You want to play in games that will take you to the next level. So it’s definitely worthwhile for us right now to be able to go through this, just play a game that counts every single day. Just trying to get to that next step.”

That next phase could come as soon as next season. After the trade deadline, when the Orioles parted ways with first baseman Trey Mancini and close Jorge Lopez, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said, “It’s liftoff from here.”

They will arrive at the launchpad with an advantage, having experienced the ups and downs of a postseason chase, no matter how this season resolves.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be in one place. I’ve learned that over the years,” Reid said. “But I know that wherever I am in five years, this team will be a problem.”

The Orioles returned to Camden Yards for a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers before facing the Gauntlet to end the season. Following the Tigers, the AL-leading Houston Astros arrived for game four. Then the Baltimore AL would end the regular season with three series against former foes: the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto.

By the end of this the post-season picture will be clear. To reach October, the Orioles will have to go through some of baseball’s best teams.

For the first time this season, manager Brandon Hyde started four rookies in the same lineup on Saturday: Ratshman, Henderson, Teryn Vavra and Kyle Stowers. All four of them produced against the Blue Jays. On the ninth Sunday, Stowers’s pinch-hit single helped him make a comeback. Rutschmann scored four, Henderson scored three and Vavra scored one.

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There are plenty of promising signs for Baltimore this season. But the rookie who performs at a high level in a big chain is up.

Clutch hitting was spotty this week, as it has been through much of September. Leaving a 3-for-9 performance with the runners in the scoring position on Sunday, the Orioles scored .210 and moved to runners-scoring position since September 1 – the sixth lowest point in the Majors.

High-A Aberdeen began their maiden South Atlantic League Championship Series on Sunday, losing 5-3 to Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Ironbirds will host the Bowling Green at Leidos Field in Ripken Stadium on Tuesday, and if necessary, Game 3 will be played in Aberdeen on Wednesday.

Tigers @ Orioles

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