The visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park is one of the most uncomfortable places in baseball. It’s cramped, it’s old – a bandbox with few idle places where you won’t be in the way.
When you’re losing, it can be a place of misery and seem more suffocating. But when you’re winning, as the Orioles are?
Well, let’s see. Right-handed reliever Luis Ayala carried a giant, mulitcolored pinata under his arm coming out of the showers following Friday night’s 13-inning win.
The same night, reliever Darren O’ Day poked into a postgame interview scrum with Mark Reynolds, using a hole puncher as a mock microphone.
“Mark, who is your favorite sidearm reliever?” O’Day chirped.
“Darren O’Day,” Reynolds deadpanned. “He’s the reason why I’m in the big leagues.”
The Orioles (18-9) can earn their first three-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway since June 10-12, 1994 with a win this afternoon. They can also put a 7 ½-game difference between themselves and Boston in the AL East standings.
Baltimore’s clubhouse is a loose one these days. Yes, it helps that they’re winning, but there’s a different dynamic at play here. There are newcomer veterans like Ayala who have played on winning teams and have kept the mood light. The other relievers seem to follow Ayala’s tone, and they’ve backed it up with 21 straight scoreless innings.
Then there’s some younger players, like Tommy Hunter, Chris Davis and O’Day – all who played on pennant teams with the Rangers – who also add to the atmosphere of winning but still having fun. All have played key roles in the team's success on and off the field.
"We're just trying to win every game,” Davis said. “There's a lot of things, outside expectations that people put on ballclubs, try to read things into and be something that they're not. We just feel like we have a good group of guys here. We like being around each other. We like going out there and playing every day, and we have a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things and can give us the opportunity to win every day, and we've shown that lately.
"The fact that we know we'll pick each other up says a lot about this team,” Davis added. “You go out there and make a mistake, you have eight other guys out there, saying: ‘Come on, let's go, we've got your back.' That goes a long way in a long season. There's a lot of stuff that's going to happen that one guy can't handle himself and that just says a lot about our team."