Back when the Orioles were contenders on a regular basis, manager Earl Weaver used to say: "The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three-run homers."
That is still so true in Major League Baseball.
But in a new world of competitive balance where teams like the Orioles and Pirates are back in the September picture, the greater trick is being able to do that consistently as the hot hand of autumn -- as St. Louis did last year. One-third of the 30 clubs will reach this Postseason now that an extra Wild Card has been added in each league, and MLB.com on Wednesday launched its Postseason Chase Ticket Deal to help fans cut through increasing demand and make it out to the ballpark to see the drama and maybe even some clinchers.
"We have exciting races, two new Wild Cards are up for grabs, we're going to have a very exciting September to look forward to," Commissioner Bud Selig said earlier this month in announcing a TV deal with ESPN.
Baseball's single-season attendance record was set in 2007, the culmination of four consecutive years of breaking that record, and five years later a new mark is a real possibility. Just consider all of the fans who will be clicking on the team logos on that page, a gateway to ticket deals, packages, and access to the season's most important games for clubs now in the hunt.
If you thought the Phillies were long gone and playing the role of spoiler, then look at the standings. They entered Wednesday just four back in the NL Wild Card race, and again it is about getting hot at the right time in the modern MLB Postseason. Will the team that lost to the Cardinals last October be this year's Cardinals? Their fans might want to order Sept. 23 tickets for a Sunday day game against Atlanta, because it not only has Postseason implications, it also means a chance to say goodbye to Chipper Jones and get a Cole Hamels Action Figurine for the kids.
And if you're a Braves fan, every remaining game is another chance to see No. 10's dwindling days in the Majors.
Who can pass up Star Trek Night on Sept. 20 at Tropicana Field? The Red Sox will be in town, the Rays figure to be making their usual run at a berth, and you can get an exclusive Rays/Star Trek T-shirt featuring manager Joe Maddon on the front. Klingons, Star Fleet officers, a Postseason chase.
In some instances, buying tickets for this pennant race can help your cause in 2013 as well. Consider the White Sox, whose Postseason Payoff lets their fans purchase the final seven home games of the regular season (Sept. 24-30) and place a $500 per seat deposit toward 2013 season tickets.
Reds fans, remember what it was like two years ago as Jay Bruce hit that walk-off bomb and you were back in the Postseason for the first time in what seemed like an eternity? Tickets were hard to find. Take a look at that last Business Day Special of the year: $15 gets you a seat and $10 in concession credits for the Sept. 27 game against Milwaukee -- another club in the NL Wild Card hunt.
In Washington, where the Nationals have led the NL East most of this season, there are still two chances to grab that Harris Teeter Family Fun Pack. You can choose the $14 Upper Right Field Terrace or $25 to $28 Outfield Reserved, and with each ticket you get a hot dog, bag of chips and beverage. And best of all, you see a team in contention.
Maybe you're an Orioles fan snagging one of those $8 seats as they continue to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards in Baltimore, rolling back prices to 1992. Those were days when you expected the O's to make a run in late September, and now it remains to be seen whether the 2012 club stays in the hunt and gets back into a Postseason. The Orioles were tied with the Yankees atop the American League East entering Wednesday.
Pitching, fundamentals and three-run homers will still win this thing -- same as it ever was. But make it to this Postseason and you have more company than ever in doing just that.