That’s the magic number currently with 14 games left in the season. The Orioles will be at home for most of those games and all of their remaining games are against the AL East. For the first of those games, the O’s wind up their 4 games up against the Yankees, then face the Blue Jays, who are both behind respectively 12 & 11 games.
If the O’s could potentially (and it’s certainly possible) win 6 of those 7 games, the division is pretty much in the bag. It seems almost impossible to lose the lead, but there’s no reason for the Orioles to relax just yet. Probably the worst stigma to occur for a team in any given season is to give up a large divisional lead in the last month.
It’s almost unreal how the Orioles have gotten to this point. They were picked almost unanimously to finish around 4th or 5th in the division by “experts,” who seemed to think that this was the same Orioles team from their 14 year postseason drought.(Most sports writers are criticized for having an East Coast bias when they ignore West Coast teams. The problem with that angle is that Baltimore teams receive the same treatment as the ignored teams, despite being in such close proximity [basically part of] the Northeast.)
What was also strange is that the Orioles have gone through injuries that looked to be crippling to their postseason chances, and instead became better.
When catcher Matt Weiters went down for the season, it seemed that the O’s wouldn’t have much of a chance to keep producing offensively or defensively. Caleb Joseph has, instead, been a welcome surprise and a valuable alternative.
When 3rd basemen Manny Machado was out earlier in the season, served a brief 5 game suspension, and then proceeded to get injured for the rest of the season, the Orioles missed a very great offensive & defensive player. Once again, they were predicted to be doomed and lose their division lead. Instead, they got clutch contributions from their various utility players. Guys like Ryan Flaherty, Steve Pierce, and Jonathan Schoop have come through with very clutch hits, homeruns, and outs. (All of whom I’ve observed O’s fans make fun of for their traditional lack of offense, although not so much anymore for Schoop. The running joke being if the other team gives Flaherty or David Lough a hit, their pitcher must really suck.)
Not only have the injury-replacements been welcome, so has the outstanding turnaround that the starting pitching staff has gone through. The Orioles have had the 6th best ERA in the AL this season over all. The number doesn’t reflect too much how much the ERA has improved since the All Star Break, where the starting pitching has been about the 4th best in the whole league! Our guy Wei-Yin Chen just picked up his 15th win on Wednesday. At 15-4, he is tied for 2nd most wins in the AL.
They’ve managed the big turn around in pitching despite not being big players at the trade deadline. The minimal action taken by the O’s was also thought of something that will come back to haunt them. However, now we’re seeing articles being printed that criticize certain teams for being aggressive at the trade deadline. Although, the players that the Orioles did trade for have worked well for them, especially with relief pitcher Andrew Miller becoming a great pitcher for the 8th innings.
Now, as of writing this, it’s been revealed that Chris Davis has been suspended for 25 games due to amphetamine (Adderall) use. He can be eligible to return if the playoffs last longer than 8 games for the O’s. Now the Orioles have yet another challenge in this roller coaster season to replace a key player. Let’s see if they end up getting better yet again. Should be easy, as Davis has only been hitting .196 for the year.
Also, in case you were wondering, the Ravens did play a game on Thursday. What a satisfying victory after such a week of constant, negative coverage! The Ravens executed in all phases to ensure victory. If your memory is fuzzy (or you didn’t care to look, no matter), the team performed like I expected them to do against the Bengals.
They had a very equal balance of rushing, passing, and effective defense. This strong balance (they had 157 net yards rushing & 166 net yards passing, while the defense limited any long gains for much of the game and caused turnovers & sacks) is tough to combat, as stopping one phase of the game will give more opportunities to the other facets of the team to exploit.
I do hope that this continues throughout the season. The Ravens are facing the Browns next on Sunday 9/21 (I’ll have another post up by then) and should have an easier time as opposed to their previous two opponents. They shouldn’t take them too lightly, as the Browns nearly upset the Steelers themselves.
I wish the Orioles all the best and I hope you all continue to enjoy the weekend. Go O’s!
Photo Credits: Baltimore Sun (infographic) & 929theticket.com (Flaherty picture)