They Did! They Did! They Did Taw Some Puddy Tats!

This is not where the Baltimore Orioles were supposed to end up. Not with Manny Machado and Matt Wieters suffering season-ending injuries. Not with Chris Davis dry-docked over a drug violation involving an amphetamine. Not with an offense so governed by power that the only thing any pitching staff had to do was tie them up on the inside part of the plate.

But they're going to end up in the American League Championship Series, the team with the most home runs in the Show this season facing the Kansas City Royals who hit the least home runs in the Show this season. And they swept their way to the ALCS with an ownership of the Detroit Tigers that might have even the Orioles wondering how the hell this happened.

"If you tell me before the series we're going to sweep," said Nelson Cruz, whose two-run homer Sunday turned out to be all the Orioles would need to turn David Price and the Tigers aside, "I don't believe it." Now, after finishing the sweep in the Tigers' playpen, the Orioles look like Tweety Pie outsmarting the Tigers' puddy tats.

Cruz was an Oriole in the first place because he'd turned down a qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers last winter after missing 50 2013 games on a suspension tied to the Biogenesis scandal. Cruz didn't flinch; he said he'd gone to Biogenesis in the first place because he feared a gastrointestinal infection that dropped his weight enough to alarm him about his playability.

"I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse," he said. When he turned down the $14 million qualifier from the Rangers he knew he might not have as solid a market in his first free agency as he once might have expected. The Orioles took a flyer on him for $8 million, banking he'd stay clean and play clean.

"He knows things were self-inflicted," said manager Buck Showalter after the Orioles finished the Tiger sweep. "He really wanted to re-establish himself, and we thought that we could provide a real good opportunity for him, and the sky might be the limit." In more ways than one.

In fact, Cruz went a little out of character when he squared up Price in the sixth. All season long, Cruz's weak spot was changeups. He hit .210 when his at-bats in 2014 ended with a changeup, though five of his 13 hits on the pitch were homers and he never got a hit on a changeup unless it hung up in the zone.

He shouldn't have hit Price's service to him in the sixth. This changeup sailed low and well wide of the plate, the kind of changeup Cruz usually can't hit if you handed him a hangar door. This time, Cruz got his bat on it and this changeup sailed sneakily over the right field fence just inside the foul pole and just over the foul line.

Bud Norris, the Orioles' starter, seemed completely unaware that he was only starting his first postseason game. But he out-pitched Price, the veteran the Tigers landed mid-season in a deal by which they hoped to shore up their run to the postseason. Instead, they watched helplessly as Price became the third former Cy Young Award winner on the Tiger staff to lose in this division series.

Norris got the start over Miguel Gonzalez for a simple reason: Showalter figured he could get a decent start from Norris after a 10-day layoff and still go to him in the bullpen if it got to a fifth game. That was despite Norris carrying a 5.00+ ERA in daytime assignments. But Showalter presumed Norris's excitability equaled putting him into Game Three without risk since the Orioles had a 2-0 lead in games and it wouldn't hurt if Norris imploded somewhere, thus letting him rest Gonzalez an extra day.

But Norris threw six and two thirds innings of two-hit shutout ball and escaped disaster when he wrestled Victor Martinez to a nine-pitch third-inning contest and got Martinez, with men on second and third and two out, to fly to shallow center with a fastball in on the hands.

Showalter also taught every other postseason manager that it pays off big more often than not to throw the Sacred Book in the trash can once in awhile. After he got five straight outs of spotless relief from Andrew Miller, who's found a home in Baltimore after failed tours with the Marlins and the Red Sox, Showalter didn't flinch when Victor and J.D. Martinez opened the ninth with back-to-back doubles off closer Zach Britton, cutting the Oriole lead to 2-1.

Roll over Matt Williams and tell Donnie Baseball the news: Showalter ordered an intentional walk to potential winning Tiger run Nick Castellanos. Now, look closer: Showalter knew the Tigers had already spent the best man on an extremely weak bench, Rajai Davis, addled by a strained pelvis, and weak bat Andrew Romine — the shortstop whose off-the-hands error in Game 1 really set up that 8-run Oriole eighth — was due up.

So Tiger manager Brad Ausmus had little choice but to send up Herman Perez, who'd had only six major league trips to the plate all year. And Britton got Perez to dial Area Code 5-4-3 for side, game, set, and trip to the ALCS. Clearly Showalter has the stones for the postseason. Whether or not the Orioles' thunder bats strike big. Whether or not an opponent such as the Tiger bullpen implodes big. Whether or not he's facing his third consecutive former Cy Young Award winner and sending the man to an early shower.

"We got beat," said Max Scherzer, who'd lost Game One the hard way. "There's all there is to say. We got outplayed in the series in every facet."

"We've got a lot to go and we're grinding," Adam Jones, the Oriole outfielder, told reporters after the game and in the middle of a champagne shower. "If we play as a team, we can do anything."

Considering that they won 96 games in winning an American League East usually overpopulated by behemoths and just shoved the Tigers away in three straight, some think the Orioles already have done anything. And almost everything.

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