Right now, the Orioles have the distinction of having the largest division lead in the MLB. The Toronto Blue Jays are 2nd in the AL East, behind the O’s by 7.5 games with only 42 (43 for O’s) games left in the regular season.
The closest similarity in large division leads in the MLB comes from our neighbors, the Washington Nationals, who are 6 games in front of the Atlanta Braves. Interestingly, they currently have a better chance at making the playoffs despite being 66-53 as opposed to the Orioles’ 69-50 record. The chance of making the playoffs is measured in ESPN’s MLB standings by percentage, with the Orioles currently at 93.3 and the Nationals at 96.2. Whatever the calculations are that go into it, I’ve watched the Orioles’ number increase week by week, and day by day.
We should very well be seeing the Orioles retain their division lead and get a 2nd seed in the playoffs (and play the 3rd seed). Barring any late season collapses, maybe we can hope for a possibility of a Nationals-Orioles World Series.
One obstacle that hasn’t slowed down the Orioles so far has been ill-timed injuries.
The recent spat of injuries include those to Manny Machado & J.J. Hardy. Both have landed on the 15-day DL and look to be coming back within the coming days. Whether they’ll be ready to get back to playing well is up for debate.
Then again, maybe its good for the Orioles to go through just a little of the injury bug around this time, where they have so much momentum. In baseball, more than any other sport, teams have to play their 2nd & 3rd starters in games in order to maintain a regimental way playing through 162 games without wearing out their starters before it’s over. It’s the most grueling slate in all of the professional sports and games could always swing from routs to being tightly contested & low scoring affairs to extending through many sudden death extra innings. Buck Showalter has successfully inserted role players that aren’t the main starters in certain games and the O’s haven’t missed a beat.
The timing of their injuries, and getting them back to speed following their returns to the lineup, can be beneficial considering that there are 43 games left before the playoffs. They can, at that point, provide both the offensive & defensive boosts for the team after resting for 15+ games.
The Orioles have held down the fort well without some of their main contributors and, interestingly, have been getting better as the season wears on. Their ERA has dropped drastically since the All Star break and their home runs have made a roaring come back, where they lead the majors with 152 home runs so far. They also haven’t lost two games in a row since June 28th & 29th. They only need to go 26-17 the rest of the way to get to 95 wins, which should be well enough to get a good postseason seeding.
The O’s aren’t the only ones going through injuries now.
The Ravens are getting some injuries lately to their players as well.
The Ravens have seen some key positions take some hits more than team wide. Their cornerback depth is currently very thin with injuries to Asa Jackson & Ladarius Webb. The injuries aren’t exactly too worrying for the season as a whole, as they’re just minor injuries affecting them during the preseason & training camp. The only major injury for the CB squad was to Aaron Ross, who signed this year to be the nickel back. Now, as the preseason goes on, the Ravens have only starter Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, and a handful of inexperienced players who will largely miss the cut.
On the defensive line, the Ravens have taken a big hit on their depth. They’ve lost some great 2nd string defensive linemen for the season, as well as losing Arthur Jones to free agency, while their starters are healthy. The Ravens had been rotating players in and out of plays during the last few years along the line, but may have to limit that this year. Thankfully, the main defensive ends are well trained at starting inside as defensive tackles, and many of our outside linebackers have great experience as defensive ends. (The Ravens are expected to retain 10 linebackers, mostly for special teams)
Our guys have plenty of time to get healthy enough for the preseason and, judging from the previous game, appear to be season ready as well.
The best part of the preseason is getting a glimpse at who will emerge from (seemingly) nowhere to become breakout players and major contributors for the season. We got that in years past with, for example, former player Cary Williams, who was an afterthought 7th round pick that shined in preseason games and landed a starting role. Maybe we’ll see the same from undrafted rookie cornerback Tremain Jacobs? Maybe the 3-team cut wide receiver Kamar Aiken, who’s been a major surprise in training camp, will emerge as a future starter?
This is why I tend to watch preseason games. I get to see who will become the new stars and get to brag that I saw their upcoming rise to stardom before any of my fellow Raven fans.
Make sure to remember the names of the players who start to shine in the games. You just may want to get their jerseys earlier than others, before demand pushes the prices higher.
Enjoy the week, and go O’s & Ravens!
PHOTO CREDITS: FACEBOOK.COM/ORIOLES