Orioles and their fans rejoice in 'crazy' Game 2 win over Tigers

Dave Schaub had staked quite a lot on the Orioles as they attempted to rally against the Detroit Tigers in Friday's Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

The sign the Middle River resident hoisted above his head said it all: "If the O's Win, We're Getting Married!"

So it was just a little sweeter for him when Delmon Young's three-run double fell in to put the Orioles ahead in the eighth inning and Zach Britton closed out the 7-6 victory, which put the Tigers down 2-0 with the series headed to Detroit.

Schaub's fiancee, Sue Fischer, leaped into his arms and pressed her lips against his as strangers offered congratulatory handshakes.

Their moment offered a glimpse of the euphoria that erupted around Camden Yards as the Orioles staged one of their most stirring comebacks of a stirring season before a sellout crowd of 48,058.

"We rarely get a chance to come out here together, so this was our time to celebrate," said Schaub, a Navy veteran who'd taken the day off from his job as a research coordinator at the University of Maryland Medical Center. "And this victory sealed the deal for us."

With a win in Sunday's Game 3, the Orioles can complete a sweep and reach the American League Championship Series for the first time in 17 years.

The atmosphere Friday was so frenzied that Britton had to compose himself as he warmed up in the bullpen, knowing he'd come in after Young's double.

"I went crazy. … I jumped up out there," said the Orioles closer, who retired all three batters he faced in the ninth inning. "To stage a comeback like that in a game that, I mean, this was an important game. Going into their place 2-0, that's a big deal."

Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz, a veteran of postseason and World Series appearances with the Texas Rangers, said he'd never heard anything like the Baltimore throng. "Today, it was crazy," Cruz said. "I haven't experienced something like this — playoffs, World Series, All-Star Game. It doesn't matter. Today was something special."

Cruz and others said there's no danger of the Orioles becoming complacent as they fly to Detroit knowing they need just one more win to take the best-of-five series.

"We're going to feed on this. I mean you see everybody in the clubhouse. This is an exciting moment," first baseman Steve Pearce said. But "they're a good team. They're a really good team. We have the advantage of being up 2-0, but that's the only advantage we got. We have to go there and keep playing our baseball."

The Orioles have little reason to be intimidated. They tied for the second best road record in the American League this year at 46-35 and, historically, the home-field advantage in baseball has been significantly less than in pro football and other sports. Home teams win about 54 percent of their games in both the regular season and playoffs.

The Orioles will continue to face on-paper mismatches in the Motor City.

David Price will start Game 3 for the Tigers, the third straight former Cy Young Award winner they'll roll out. He led the league in strikeouts after Detroit made perhaps the sport's biggest midseason deal to acquire him.

"How many times does a team face three Cy Youngs?" Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis said. "We know what we're up against."

Miguel Gonzalez, who's expected to start Game 3 for the Orioles, gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Tigers in his first outing of 2014.

As with many aspects of this series however, there's more than meets the eye. Gonzalez became an entirely different pitcher in the second half of the season, lowering his ERA from 4.56 on June 29 to 3.23 by season's end.

He was arguably better than Price after the All-Star break, not to mention, the Orioles have hit the Tigers' big lefty well the last two seasons.

Friday's crowd at Camden Yards first reached peak excitement in the third inning, when Markakis' line drive bounced off the top of the groundskeeper's shed in right field for a home run that gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead.

With a 12-3 win already in the bank and their ubiquitous orange towels whirling to the tune of "Seven Nation Army," Baltimore fans surely had visions of the ALCS dancing in their heads.

Then the Tigers reminded everyone why many analysts had pegged this as an even-money series, pounding out five runs in the next half inning. The Orioles wouldn't lead again until Young's dramatic shot down the left-field line.

Out on the flag court in right field, Matthew Pace seemed to lose control of his faculties briefly when J.J. Hardy scored the go-ahead run off Young's line drive. The Brooklyn Park resident excitedly threw his body into friends and strangers alike, a black Orioles cape billowing from his shoulders.

"I've been a fan all my life," the 25-year-old Pace said. "I live and die by the Orioles, and this is one of the biggest things I've ever seen."

He said years of losing taught him not to get ahead of himself. But he's confident the Orioles can clinch the series in Detroit, which would be just fine with him. He'll be back at Camden Yards if they reach the ALCS.

"It's hard, when you've watched what this team has done day to day, not to have your mind set on the World Series," he said.

For Schaub and Fischer, the vision is even more sweeping. They've been friends since they were in the eighth grade at Deep Creek Middle School and started dating two years ago, after he returned from serving in Iraq.

They're both 27 and have loved the Orioles as long as they can remember. Now, their own love is wrapped up in the team's 2014 run.

"I couldn't find the mountain top high enough to scream I love you, so instead, I came here with this sign," Schaub said.

"We won't stop," Fischer added, echoing her favorite team's slogan. "The World Series is happening. You know it when you feel it in here."

And she tapped her chest.



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