Bad puns aside, the Baltimore Orioles showed again Sunday how good they've been this season — and how distractions aren't much of an issue for a team locked on reversing its history and making the playoffs.
The Orioles beat the Red Sox 6-3 on Sunday in Baltimore then hopped aboard a plane for Tampa, where they'll play the Rays in the final series of the season. While the win didn't guarantee that the O's would get their first playoff berth since 1997, they had a good chance at the spot as they boarded their flight south.
Baltimore has overcome all kinds of odds this year on the way to going 92-67, with the club that was more used to losing records, ugly defeats and key players going down with funky injuries instead finding ways to just keep winning this year. So, it only seemed fitting that, as Baltimore sat on the cusp of the capstone to its improbable season, a little bit of the previous O's strangeness would rear its head — and the Birds would bat it away.
As the Orioles flew south, a fire reportedly broke out in the kitchen area of the team's plane. Smoke could be seen, and the plane made an emergency landing in Jacksonville — with the pilots apparently not taking any extra time to get the aircraft onto the ground.
"They came on and told us we needed to make an emergency landing, and then we were nearly free-falling for a few minutes as they raced to get us on the ground as fast as possible," Ned Rice of the Orioles baseball operations department wrote on his Facebook page, according to CBSLocal.com.
The plane was checked for problems, and everything appeared to be fine. The players reboarded and soon arrived in St. Petersburg, with all distractions — whether it be a smoking plane or 15 years of losing — firmly behind them.
The team issued a statement late Sunday saying the pit stop in Jacksonville "was done with an abundance of caution," and that no one was in danger.
By the night's end, the Orioles had safely clinched both a landing in St. Petersburg and their first playoff spot since 1997.