The past couple of months, the last-place Orioles haven't played many meaningful games to those outside of the Baltimore clubhouse. The Ravens reclaimed the attention of most Baltimore sports fans the day the NFL lockout ended, and now that the trade deadline has passed, the Orioles are sputtering to the finish line.
But the Orioles get to play in a playoff-type atmosphere whenever the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays come to town. They thrived in those situations a year ago, finishing the season on a tear under new manager Buck Showalter. This season, the Orioles haven't been as successful in playing the spoiler role, but they aren't going down without a fight. Just ask Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Rays reliever J.P. Howell.
Howell allowed an eighth-inning home run to Matt Wieters on Tuesday night as the Orioles beat the Rays, 4-2, and dealt a critical blow to the Rays, who now trail the Red Sox by four games in the wild-card race.
After the game, though, neither Wieters nor Showalter said they took pleasure in Tampa Bay's misery.
"I don't think we're really trying to spoil," Wieters said. "We're just trying to play as well as we can against teams that are going to the playoffs. They can fight it out and go for the playoffs. We're just trying to get better and keep working."
Meanwhile, on Monday, Orioles rookie starter Zach Britton expressed disappointment that he didn't pitch well enough to damage Tampa Bay's playoff hopes in Baltimore's 5-2 loss at Camden Yards.
"We all know that they're in the battle for it, they are playing really well. So I actually want to go out them and beat them. You don't want them to get it on your clock," Britton said. "So I was really disappointed that I didn't put together a good effort and got us in a hole early and we couldn't put it together."
We always hear about players relishing the opportunity to be September spoilers. I totally understand how they could feel reinvigorated by playing meaningful baseball again, but should they get satisfaction from keeping another team out of the postseason? And should doing it against the Rays be different than doing it against the Yankees or the Red Sox, with whom the Orioles have more intense rivalries?