Stoetzer: O's fans should be nervous
Baltimore Orioles Mark Trumbo (45) greets Matt Wieters (32) at home plate after Wieters hit a two-run home run off New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Cessa that also scored Trumbo in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek) (Kathy Kmonicek / AP)

Trim your fingernails before biting them. Practice deep-breathing techniques. Brew some green tea.

You're going to need it, Orioles fans. Your team made the playoffs for the third time in five seasons, and for the second time they're hitting the road for the AL wild-card game.


Find ways to calm your jangled nerves before the game even begins. It's October baseball, and thanks to these winner-take-all wild-card games it's all the drama of a Game 7 in a three-plus hour serving.

Optimists will tell you they feel good about their team's chances for various reasons. For one, the Orioles won the wild-card game in 2012 on the road, beating Texas 5-1 when, somehow, journeyman Joe Saunders out-dueled Yu Darvish. Another could be Baltimore's most recent series win in Toronto, games supremely critical to the club getting to this point in the first place.

The Orioles took two out of three.

Of course, the pessimists are ready to chime in and remind you the Orioles lost the first game of that series. And that's a good point. But those weren't playoff games.

Everything changes tonight in Toronto.

Time to bone up on your relaxation skills. Borrow someone's spa music mix.

Baltimore turns to Chris Tillman as the starting pitcher, and it didn't take long for the Nervous Nellies to speak up. You know them, trust me, but it's understandable given the uneasiness of Tillman's performances since coming back from his shoulder injury.

Tillman in July? He went 5-1 with a 2.79 ERA, and seemed as if he'd become the first Orioles pitcher in 32 years to win 20 games.

Tillman since then? He's 3-4 with a 5.03 ERA.


Optimists might tell you Tillman has earned the start. He's the Orioles' No. 1 pitcher, and whoever assumes that role is usually the one to pitch in big games.

Tonight's game officially counts as big, by the way.

If fans really want to break it down, Tillman (or any Oriole starter, for that matter) getting through six innings tonight should be seen as a victory. You'd have to be feeling at least a little bit confident handing the ball to the bullpen with a late lead.

Tillman's detractors (let's call them doubters) are pointing to Ubaldo Jimenez as the one to start tonight's game against the Blue Jays. No, really, they are!


No one is ready to label Jimenez with the ballclub's "Best Pitcher" tag. And his time with the Orioles has certainly been filled with tribulations.

But his recent numbers don't lie — Jimenez went 4-1 in September with a 2.31 ERA. That stretch includes the team's lone complete game this year.

Maybe go with Jimenez and have Dylan Bundy waiting in the bullpen, just in case. After all, almost everyone should be available in a wild-card game.

Then again, Tillman is on his scheduled turn in the rotation.

Oh, the anxiety!

And never mind the high-powered offense that went missing several times in September. Does 16 runs in three games against the Yankees constitute a revival? The Orioles scored 19 runs in their previous six games before closing out the regular season in the Bronx.

But in a one-game playoff, a few runs could be all that's needed.

And let's not have this conversation without being wowed in how the Orioles pulled this off.

Sure, they had a major-league most 253 home runs. But they finished ninth in the AL in both batting average and runs scored. And 10th in on-base percentage.

It's a swing-for-the-fences approach, and it worked.

Couple that with the league's 10th-best ERA, and many pundits' predictions of Baltimore finishing below .500 didn't seem far-fetched.

The Orioles had the last laugh, as it turned out.

Even if their fans will be watching tonight's playoff game with one eye open.