Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz talks about losing Game 3 of the American League Championship Series to the Kansas City Royals. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)
The Orioles weren't fooling themselves after Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals put them in the deepest of sudden-death situations in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series. They know the odds against winning the next four games are almost off the charts, so there's no sense talking about it in those terms.
J.J. Hardy dismissed any discussion of that improbability, choosing instead to focus on averting a sweep in Game 4 on Wednesday afternoon. The World Series may seem to be way out of reach, but he insists that no one in the Orioles clubhouse thinks it's out of the question.
"We're not looking at it like that, I can assure you," he said Tuesday. "I think we've got to come out tomorrow and win and just take it one day at a time. It's tough to look at it over the long haul."
So, it will come down to Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez and Royals left-hander Jason Vargas in Game 4. Gonzalez hasn't pitched in more than two weeks, but that kind of layoff didn't keep Game 3 starter Jeremy Guthrie from holding the Orioles to just one run and three hits in five innings.
Manager Buck Showalter said after Tuesday's game that he was not tempted to bring back Game 1 starter Chris Tillman on Wednesday. There's no reason to juggle the rotation when the Orioles are going to need four starters to pitch well to pull off a miracle comeback.
"And Gonzalez has pitched some big games for us and especially on the road and in some tough spots," Showalter said. "They'll get challenged again tomorrow."
Showalter isn't making any predictions either. He gave credit where credit was due in his postgame news conference.
"They [the Royals] are earning everything," he said. "Strong people. The thing you notice up here, strong guys, the strength, and they muscle balls over the infield. Squaring up there pitchers, especially the guys they are pitching this time of year, is hard to do. Our guys, I always feel like they're one away from getting the thing going the other way."
While we're on the subject, here are our predictions for Game 4:
Dan Connolly has given up on the series and is predicting the Orioles will go down meekly by a 4-0 margin. Eduardo A. Encina concurs, but he thinks the Orioles will get on the scoreboard before falling, 3-1. Columnist Peter Schmuck believes the Orioles have reached the point where they have nothing to lose and will finally put some swings on the Royals pitching staff. They'll win, 5-3, but it may be their last hurrah.