DETROIT - At this year's trade deadline, Billy Beane and Dave Dombrowski made separate punch/counterpunch moves that appeared to put their respective clubs on a collision course for the American League Championship Series.
Instead, the A's general manager and his Tigers counterpart will watch it.
First, the Royals sent Beane's A's home Tuesday in a thrilling AL wild-card game.
On Sunday, in much less thrilling fashion, the Orioles sent the Tigers packing, completing a three-game sweep of their American League Division Series with a 2-1 victory in front of 43,013 chilled fans at Comerica Park. They will face the Royals -- who completed a sweep of the Angels Sunday night -- in the ALCS.
"If you tell me before the series we're going to sweep, I wouldn't believe it," said Nelson Cruz, who hit a two-run homer off David Price in the sixth inning. "To be able to win three in a row, it was pretty shocking."
Despite losing catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Manny Machado and first baseman Chris Davis, Baltimore is in the ALCS for the first time since 1997.
Many people (Orioles players included) give manager Buck Showalter the credit -- not only for this year, but for the complete organizational turnaround he spearheaded after taking over during the 2010 season.
"I'm a ship passing in the night," Showalter said. "This is fun to watch, and believe me, I'm happier than you can imagine. But most of it comes from getting to see the players get what they put into it."
As for overcoming the injuries to Wieters and Machado and the late-season suspension of Davis for the unapproved use of Adderall, Showalter said his club never has been caught up in "the disease of me."
"There is not a 'woe is me,' it's where is the next challenge coming?" he said. "In spring training, we talked about where the next thing is coming from . . . We may not be able to outdo in some other areas, but we can out-opportunity people. A lot of guys took an opportunity and ran with it, so they're going to get a chance to continue to roll the dice."
Showalter's team advanced by beating Price, a roll-of-the-dice acquisition by the Tigers the same day Beane brought Jon Lester to the A's. Price, though, could hardly be blamed for Detroit's loss. He made only one mistake, but it was crucial -- a 1-and-1 changeup that Cruz, one of 13 players suspended for 50 games last season as part of MLB's Biogenesis investigation, poked over the rightfield wall.
It marked the 16th career postseason homer for Cruz, tying him for ninth on the all-time list with Carlos Beltran.
"I think what's taken us here is the pitching," said Cruz, MLB's home run leader with 40. "The pitching has been unbelievable."
This time it was Bud Norris, making his first postseason start. He, along with a terrific Orioles bullpen, made Cruz's blast hold up, although there was some ninth-inning drama.
With a run home after back-to-back doubles by Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez off closer Zach Britton (37-for-41 in saves this season), Bryan Holaday was unable to move the runner over, striking out on a darting 97-mph fastball. Showalter engaged in some more dice-rolling, ordering an intentional walk to Nick Castellanos that put the potential winning run on base. But on his second pitch to Hernan Perez, pinch hitting for Andrew Romine, Britton induced a series-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Detroit's coterie of three former Cy Young Award winners commanded much of the attention coming in, but the Orioles were superior in all facets.
"You feel like you let the fans down and you feel like you let the organization down," first-year Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's disappointing, no question. But there is nothing we can do about it now."