Atlanta — Lost in the frenzy of the combined 10 runs scored in Friday's ninth inning was a critical at-bat that, in theory, was six years in the making.
With the go-ahead run at third base in the form of Nick Markakis, and Darren O'Day on the mound, Orioles manager Buck Showalter elected to walk Ryan Flaherty and avert the much-anticipated matchup between two players whose clubhouse antics with each other was a charming internal piece of the Orioles’ run of success this decade.
"For years, they've been talking about the chance to settle it on the field," Showalter said. "I knew that the potential was coming.
"We're all human beings. We know that. I hear enough through the clubhouse. I knew that it was a potential moment, but the moment I was more interested in was us winning the game. I love Ryan. Everybody loves Ryan. He was a great contributor here, and he's doing well over there."
Flaherty, the longtime Orioles utility infielder who was beloved in the clubhouse, and O'Day, the veteran reliever, spent most of their time in the clubhouse together ribbing each other in one form or another. It would inevitably lead to who would win a showdown like the one set up Friday.
"We've talked and joked about it for a while, but I understood the situation, too," Flaherty said. "It would have been tough to keep a straight face, facing him."
Showalter's gambit worked after O'Day got Dansby Swanson to fly out to right field to send the game into extra innings. Speaking of the decision a day later, Flaherty acknowledged his focus was on the Braves winning, not settling old friendly rivalries.
But the question lingers — would he have gotten Markakis in off O'Day?
"I can't make any guarantees," Flaherty said. "He always said he was going to break my bat and all this stuff. He might have. Who knows?"
"There will be another day — maybe today," Showalter said.