Fauber: Good things ahead for O’s

Orioles Magic seemed to be at its peak only two weeks ago, when Baltimore swept Detroit to advance to the American League Championship series for the first time in what felt like a millennium. At the snap of a finger, all of those good vibes dissipated.

The Kansas City Royals continued their surprising postseason run by rolling right through Baltimore in a four-game ALCS sweep, firmly placing the crown of baseball’s “team of destiny” atop their collective heads.

Orioles fans, who had starving eyes set on a World Series appearance, are left trying to figure out how things went downhill so quickly. I guess that’s playoff baseball.

The fact of the matter is Baltimore simply ran into a team that was just too hot. You see it often in the postseason — a team gets on a roll and everything seems to fall their way. Broken bat singles, scoring two runs on a ground ball to first base, spectacular defensive play after spectacular defensive play — the Royals did all in that four-game stretch against the Orioles.

Kansas City, with the blessings of the baseball gods, earned its trip to the World Series. The starting pitching wasn’t anything to write home about, but the bullpen was lights out, as the saying goes. The Royals got the clutch hits. And that defense? It was everything they were hyped up to be, and then some.

Baltimore never was really out of any of the four games in the ALCS — the entire series was decided by a total of six runs. And yet, when the Orioles lost in extra innings in Game 1 and fell in the ninth inning of Game 2, it felt like the series was over. There was slim hope that the O’s would play another game in Camden Yards this season.

Of course falling short in the ALCS is disappointing. The fact that the Orioles were swept makes the sting a little worse. But which is better, having to suffer through postseason heartbreak, or not caring at all about your favorite baseball team by the time July rolls around? True fans will take the former every time.

One thing I am confident in is that Baltimore fans won’t have to wait another 15 years for a playoff appearance. Baseball in Baltimore was made fun again two seasons ago. This season, the Orioles took it a step further. A winning tradition has been established in the Charm City, and it looks like it could be here to stay for a little while.

The Orioles have a strong foundation in players like Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado and Matt Wieters, and a pitching staff that showed it can perform well enough to help lead a team to the playoffs, even without star power. And the Orioles have Buck Showalter.

There’s no question Baltimore will have some big questions to answer in the offseason. What will Baltimore do with longtime Oriole Nick Markakis, slugger Nelson Cruz and lockdown bullpen arm Andrew Miller, who all could be free agents at the end of the season? What exactly is the future for Wieters, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery? The same question applies to Machado, who has had surgery on both knees over the last two seasons.

This offseason could surely shape up to be an entertaining one for Baltimore fans, coming right on the heels of the Orioles’ most exciting season in a long time.

If this were any other time, I’d probably take some time to sulk and ponder just what could’ve been for the Orioles this season before moving on. But it’s a little tough for me to feel too sorry for myself right now. I’m getting married today.

As I said, better things certainly lie ahead.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com

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