Home Magical run ends for Baltimore Orioles, who now look to build off surprise 2023 season

Magical run ends for Baltimore Orioles, who now look to build off surprise 2023 season

Chris Graham
baltimore orioles
(© quiggyt4 – Shutterstock)

Tough way for Baltimore to go out, after a 101-win regular season, but playoff baseball is a different beast.

“We have a lot of guys who have never been to the postseason before. So, this hurts, and it’s OK to hurt. It’s OK to have this kind of fuel your fire in the offseason,” O’s manager Brandon Hyde told reporters after the 7-1 loss to Texas on Tuesday night that ended what was a magical 2023 season for Baltimore fans.

Nobody expected the Orioles, who lost 110 games just two seasons ago, to win the American League East going into the season, or after Tampa Bay started 13-0.

To win 101 games with a young roster that should only get better next year and down the road is a gift for the O’s franchise, though it can be hard to process that right now.

“It’s going to take a while for us to get over this a little bit, but I think our guys will come in hunting and hungry in spring training,” Hyde said. “The guys coming back, especially the young guys, know what this feels like, knowing what it tastes like, and it sucks. If they did soak it in a little bit, they’re going to be better for it down the road.”

The Rangers completed a three-game sweep in the Division Series round at home, after winning both games in Baltimore over the weekend.

The Orioles were only competitive in the opener, Game 1, a frustrating 3-2 loss in which Baltimore never could get the big hit with runners on base.

Games 2 and 3 were frustrating for different reasons. Starting pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer couldn’t get out of the second inning, allowing Texas to get out to an early 9-2 lead in what turned into an 11-8 win in Game 2, and a 6-0 second-inning lead in the clincher.

Pitching will be an offseason priority for GM Mike Elias, both in the starting rotation and on the back end, with elite closer Felix Bautista on the shelf for 2024 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

The everyday lineup is an obvious strength. Rookie of the Year favorite Gunnar Henderson, a shortstop/third baseman was 6-for-12 in the ALDS, and catcher Adley Rutschman are the building blocks, with core guys under team control including first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, shortstop Jorge Mateo, third baseman Ramon Urias and outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Ryan O’Hearn and Anthony Santander.

The challenge will be figuring out who to bring back from that core with a bevy of top prospects, including shortstop Jackson Holliday, corner infielder Coby Mayo, middle infielder Joey Ortiz and outfielders Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad and Connor Norby, beating down the door for playing time at the big-league level.

It’s a good problem to have – having guys under team control and prospects who are MLB-ready to use to help address the needs in the pitching staff.

But that’s near-term future stuff.

In the here and now, it still feels like there’s baseball to be played.

“Offensively, we weren’t at our best the last two, three weeks of the season. That carried into the postseason where we had guys scuffling,” Hyde said. “These guys won two games in Tampa, extremely well-pitched. They rolled in with a ton of momentum. I don’t think we rolled in with a ton of momentum offensively.

“They battled, and they fought. We just came out short,” Hyde said. “Whatever they take out of it, they take out of it. I’m glad they got the experience. I hate the outcome, because these guys deserve all the credit in the world for the season they just had. I hope people can recognize that.”

Hyde certainly recognizes the 2023 O’s season as an accomplishment.

“How can I not? We were supposed to win 76 games. Won 101, won the American League East. Really proud of our group,” Hyde said. “They defied all the odds. Nobody gave us a chance. These guys played their butts off for six months. We just didn’t play well for these last three, unfortunately. And it’s definitely a successful season, and these guys are going to be really good going forward.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].