Random thoughts as the Orioles go into tonight's game against the Rays with their backs against the wall, one game behind the Yankees for the AL East crown with two to go:
** Was that a great scene in the O's dugout last night after Chris Davis hit that two-run shot in the ninth off Ray's reliever Kylle Farnsworth, the one that hit the Tropicana Field catwalk?
Davis himself had no idea what happened, that much was clear. When the ball smacked what's called the C-ring of the roof's catwalk, he practically stopped in his tracks around second base, wondering why the ball had suddenly landed 100 feet or so in front of the outfield wall.
Not until the ump gave the home-run signal did he resume his trot around the bases. And once in the dugout, he, Nate McLouth, Adam Jones and others engaged in a spirited discussion of what had just happened, with much smiling, pointing at the roof and gesturing toward the outfield wall.
Even with the O's trailing 5-3 at that point, you could tell there was zero panic in the dugout. You could tell they were still thinking comeback. It didn't happen. But this team never thinks it's out of a game, as we've seen all year.
** Speaking of Davis, does anyone have a more effortless home-run swing? That was his 32nd homer of the season and his swing was the usual lazy, looping number that makes you realize how strong the guy is.
No wonder the MASN broadcasters like Gary Thorne and Jim Hunter keep getting fooled on whether or not Davis' shots are going out of the park.
You watch him take that little 9-iron swing and you figure it's a routine fly ball to right. Then it lands 20 rows back in the seats. Really amazing.
** Said it all year, I'll say it again: hate Wei-Yin Chen's body-language when things go wrong. It was on display again last night when the game unraveled for the O's in the seventh inning and the Rays scored three runs off the Taiwanese lefty.
The hangdog look on his face, the drooping shoulders, the sighs -- no good.
Brian Matusz had the same sort of demeanor in years past when he struggled. The Orioles addressed it with Matusz, I'm told. They need to address it with Chen, too.
** Too bad the Orioles didn't get to celebrate their playoff-clincher the way the Oakland A's did last night, with a big, jubilant on-field scrum in front of the home fans, champagne spraying in the clubhouse and the wearing of the usual goofy-looking playoff caps and T-shirts.
The Orioles didn't learn they had clinched until after the team flight made a harrowing emergency landing in Jacksonville. And then they celebrated -- if that's the word -- with a quick, late-night champagne toast in a hotel ballroom before heading off to bed to get ready for the opening of their series with the Rays.