Delmon Young an unlikely O's postseason hero

September 24th, 2018

BALTIMORE -- The stadium was shaking. At least it looked like Camden Yards was moving from the two women's vantage point. Several rooftops over they were perched, hoping for a glimpse into Game 2 of the 2014 American League Division Series between the Detroit Tigers and their beloved Baltimore Orioles.

The O's were down, 6-4, from what they could tell, and what the scroll of their smart phones would report. And then came the unmistakable roar.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, pinch-hitter yanked a first-pitch slider from Tigers reliever down the left-field line with one out and the bases full. The three-run double gave Baltimore a 7-6 lead and sent Camden Yards into a fervor. The clutch hit would hold up as the decisive marker, as the underdog Orioles took Game 2 en route to a series sweep.

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"It's still the loudest roar I think I've ever heard in real life," said catcher , who was in the on-deck circle wondering if he'd also be pinch-hit for. "And I've been to playoff football games, playoff hockey games. It was a moment you are never going to forget in terms of the energy. It felt like the stadium was moving because so many people were excited about what was going on."

The video of the two women, screaming and shouting in jubilation a half-mile away, later made its way to manager Buck Showalter. The O's skipper included it the following spring in his annual pump-up movie, along with reactions from local bars and restaurants.

"I think it's important for these guys to see how important this is to the city," Showalter said, "How there are people who live and die with what we do."

At first blush, the move to pinch-hit the left-handed bat of for the righty Young against the right-handed Soria may have surprised some out-of-towners. But Orioles fans and Showalter alike knew Young was their best late-game option, a 29-year-old former No. 1 pick with a bevy of postseason experience on three clubs prior to the O's.

"Delmon knew the pitchers in that bullpen. I remember him saying, 'Let's get to the bullpen, boys. If we get to the bullpen, we got a chance,'" first base coach Wayne Kirby said. "He knew who he was going to face. He was our best hitter off the bench. It's almost like he visualized doing what he did."

Young -- an unreal 11-for-21 (.524) as a pinch-hitter that year -- was right about Detroit's relief. The series, billed as the Orioles against three Cy Young Award winners -- , and Max Scherzer -- hadn't accounted for the woeful Tigers bullpen. In Game 1, the Detroit trio of Joba Chamberlain (two runs), Soria (four runs) and Phil Coke (one run) allowed seven runs (six earned) while recording a combined two outs.

In Game 2, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had pulled Verlander early and gone to -- a starter placed in the bullpen to help the shaky relief crew -- for the next two frames. Instead of a third inning for Sanchez, Ausmus went with Chamberlain, whom Orioles fans cheered as the bullpen door swung open as if he was one of their own. Chamberlain tipped his cap sarcastically, and several minutes later, slinked off the mound in a mess for Soria to try to escape.

A former All-Star closer, Soria couldn't contain the O's. He issued a five-pitch walk to J.J. Hardy before Young dug in and swatted a 79-mph slider. To his teammates, it was to little surprise.

"We call him Bruce Lee. He doesn't lose a fight," Orioles slugger said at the time of Young. "Every time he comes up, he delivers."

Added closer Zach Britton: "We were kinda laughing at it down in the bullpen. We were like, 'Delmon is going to swing at the first pitch,' and he did. We just knew it. This was his signature moment."

As Young raced out of the box, two runs easily crossed home plate. The difference maker, the decisive run, was Hardy lumbering over from first base. The Orioles shortstop, always teased by teammates for being perhaps the team's slowest runner -- outside of injured catcher Matt Wieters -- Hardy kicked it into another gear. Knock-kneed and breathless, he circled the bases, getting a frantic wave from third base coach Bobby Dickerson as Hardy ran as fast as anyone had ever seen.

"There was a momentary bobble on the ball off the fence," Showalter said of Hardy, unaware of the precious second that left fielder J.D. Martinez gifted him to get his hand under catcher Alex Avila's tag. "That was the difference between out and safe [for Hardy]. Trust me, we've watched it about 700 times."

In the live version, chaos ensued in the home dugout as bodies spilled out, arms and legs flying everywhere.

There was the typically stoic Young, emphatically clapping his hands from second base. Hardy being mobbed. Joseph running against the crowd to get his batting gloves and helmet in case he was now going to hit. And Showalter racing to the phone. Someone had to get Britton up.

"It got crazy. Apparently [bullpen coach] Dom [Chiti] was standing right beside me yelling at me to warm up and I couldn't hear him," said Britton, who put the finishing touches on the win moments later. "I just yelled, 'Don't worry, I'm ready!' Based on the spirit of the game, I could have gone in with no warmups. That's how amped I was."

Two days later, Baltimore put the finishing touches on Detroit with a 2-1 sweep at Comerica Park. The victory further cemented Young's lore as an Oriole postseason hero -- joining the ranks of guys like Moe Drabowsky, Tito Landrum and Joe Saunders -- in stepping up on baseball's grandest stage.

"That was the loudest I've ever heard Camden Yards," Kirby said. "Going into that series, against that tough lineup, all those Cy Young [winners]. It was just a chilling moment. Once we won that game, we knew we were going to move on."

It would be Young's last playoff run. He returned to the Orioles the following year on a one-year deal, but was designated for assignment in July. After a season with the Australian Baseball League, Young is currently playing in the Mexican League.

The Orioles have also not won a playoff game since that series.

"It's a really unique feeling that I haven't been able to replicate yet," Joseph said of Young's hit. "It was amazing. You felt the city coming together during that whole year."

"Pinch-hitting is not easy -- and Delmon made it look easy that whole season. When he got into the box, there wasn't a single ounce of doubt. It was one of the most exciting moments on a baseball field I've ever had."