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Sort of David and Goliath scenarios considering the match ups of our teams this week.

Here we pit the lovable underdog Orioles, who have been gaining support from the rest of the MLB fans, heading up to New York City to deliver the knockout blow versus the Yankees.

Considering our metropolitan area is about 1.5 million people and NYC alone has over 8 million, there’s already quite a size difference before counting the fans.

Similarly, the Ravens this Sunday [October 14, 2012] are taking on the once named “America’s Team,” although the Cowboys are coming to Baltimore and the Ravens are the favorites.

So this week, you’ll see the largest fan bases within the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and the MLB for the Yankees in both baseball & football gear up against the passionate & loyal Baltimore fans!

Now if you wish to know why big fan numbers are something to worry about for an opposing team, just ask any big time sports fan.  There’s something psychological (and probably factual) about the effect of a franchise’s large following towards the officials and sportscasters.  Could they really be pressured to allow such teams to get breaks they may not fairly deserve?  Its best to come up with your own answer rather than listen to varying opinions.

Now, the Orioles won on Monday to tie up the series at 1 game a piece.  This win occurred 16 years, almost exactly to the day, after the infamous Jeff Maier game.  Also 16 years ago, the Ravens were still new here and haven’t become the winner we’ve come to love.

Ah, how time changes everything!  Now, it seems the Orioles are following the postseason path that the 2000 Ravens & 2002 Terrapins (basketball) had taken.

It seems impossible for sports analysts to fathom how in the world the Orioles are not 5th in their division, let alone in the postseason.

Yet, the true strength of the Orioles lies in their relief pitchers.  Normally on teams, they take out the starting pitcher when he seems too worn out and is starting to give up hits & runs.

However the Orioles seem to pay more attention to their starting pitchers and also seem to pull them much sooner than other teams.  Most teams aim for their starting pitchers to last past the 7th inning and then pull them; however whenever I watch the Orioles or see game stats, rarely do they let their pitcher stay much past the 6th inning. 

Could this added rest plus the huge amount of talent in relief pitchers (not to mention our great closer, Jim Johnson) be the underlining cause of the 2012 Orioles’ success for the whole season?

I find it very credible, especially when you consider the last 8 or so years when in half of the seasons the O’s started out winning a lot the first two months and then regress into obscurity by years end.

The starting pitchers of those games regularly stayed until midway or after the 7th inning, along with one relief pitcher and then the closer to follow.  This formula would work for a while, but seeing that a MLB season is 162 games long and not a lot of days off in between, you can conclude that pitchers get very fatigued and it affects the game play of everyone.

Two seasons ago, the Orioles had the worst bullpen in the league, so they spent the next two off-seasons signing & trading for relief pitching talent and it has paid off now.  What was once a major weakness on the Orioles team that became magnified by starting pitchers’ fatigue has now become the strength and major reason the Orioles have won 93 games this year and are in the playoffs.

While the Orioles have rediscovered their winning ways, the Ravens have been the model of consistency lately.

Every football season on sports media sites, there are articles about what teams may go into the playoffs and which will not return.

And every year for the last 5 years, the Ravens have either not been predicted to go to the playoffs (2008) or are predicted to regress and miss the playoffs (2009-present). 

Similarly, every season the Ravens do better than expectations and rank higher than most other teams. However, sports writers have short term memories and consider our team’s successes to be not much more than flukes by the time the next season rolls around.

Thankfully there are people with great memories, so now with the Cowboys coming to town, the Ravens are looked as the juggernaut team that will crush a flawed Cowboys team. 

Sadly, the only really dominant game the Ravens had this year was against the Bengals in week 1.  Their point differential (points scored minus points allowed) is mainly the same difference that occurred in the first week, as all other games were decided by mere points.  In this game against the Cowboys, I expect another tight game that the Ravens seem to enjoy playing when under the national spotlight.

My predictions for the next couple of days: the Orioles win tonight, lose the next game, and win the last one in ten innings; the Ravens win over the Cowboys on Sunday 28-26.

Of course, a two game sweep over New York and a 40-10 Ravens victory would be nice too.

-CW

Originally posted on October 10, 2012

Photo Credits:  Baltimore Ravens & Baltimore Orioles http://www.facebook.com

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