BALTIMORE — Enjoying their final day off before the last six games of the regular season, manager Buck Showalter and some of the Orioles took the opportunity to attend the Ravens’ 23-16 win over the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.
What the Orioles skipper didn’t expect was the thunderous ovation he and several of his players would receive when they appeared on the M&T Bank Stadium video screen in the second half. Nearly 71,000 fans exploded into a “Let’s go O’s!” chant and provided a standing ovation as the Orioles in attendance watched the game from Cal Ripken’s suite.
“That was fun. I know the players were buzzing about it,” said Showalter, who was sitting elsewhere before deciding to stop by the suite to say hello to Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and a few others before leaving for the night. “I think it even surprises them sometimes, the reaction that our city and our fans have to what they’re doing this year. I think it’s good, and I’m trying to stay in the background.”
While obviously focused on the task at hand of beating the Browns for the ninth straight time since becoming the coach in Baltimore, John Harbaugh shared his appreciation for the support shown by Showalter and Orioles players and offered his thoughts on what’s happening with Baltimore’s other professional sports team this year.
“I think the world of that team,” Harbaugh said. “I love Buck. I think he does a great job. They play fundamentally-sound baseball. This is a special team.”
An avid college football fan, Showalter was trying to leave the suite as his players and stadium personnel urged him to stay, obviously with the plan of showing the manager and his players on the video board. As fans erupted into loud cheers, Showalter wanted the energy to assist the Ravens in protecting their closer-than-expected lead over the winless Browns.
“They were trying to time it,” Showalter said. “I guess they needed a big defensive stand there or something. They thought it’d be a good reaction to the players on the board. I was hoping and praying it was going to be three-and-out afterwards. Otherwise, we’d never be [invited] back, but I think it was. And that’s when I left. I’m leaving in a hurry [after that].’”
Harbaugh offered high praise of the Orioles’ historic success in one-run games and extra-inning contests this season as they’ve already secured their first winning season in 15 years and are on the verge of earning their first postseason berth since 1997 as well.
The Orioles entered Friday with a 27-9 record in one-run games this season, which is on pace to tie the highest winning percentage in major league history in games decided by one run. They’ve won a franchise-record 16 straight games that have gone to extra innings, the longest streak in the majors since the 1949 Indians won 17 in a row.
Growing up in Ohio, Harbaugh recalled listening to Indians games on the radio with his father Jack, who is the bigger baseball fan. The Baltimore coach sees similarities between the Orioles and his own team in 2012.
“How many close games have they won this year? I think they set a record,” Harbaugh said. “One-run games, extra-inning games, finding a way to win. It’s something that we can look at as a team, too, and say, ‘That’s what we did a little bit last night.’ You find a way to win games.”
Unlike any other time in the 17-year period in which the franchises have co-existed in Baltimore, this is the first season in which Baltimore fans have had a reason to be excited about both teams in September and, if they’re lucky, well into the month of October.
Harbaugh made it clear the Ravens are behind the Orioles, inviting Showalter out to watch practice whenever he wants but also acknowledging the Orioles manager and his players are a little preoccupied these days. He even admitted to taking a peak when the result of the Yankees game was shown on the video board during Thursday’s game.
“The Ravens are big fans of the Orioles,” Harbaugh said. “We’re cheering them on in this pennant race. The Yankee score came up last night; I did happen to see that, I have to admit.”