After a weekend sweep in Boston, the Orioles find themselves back in the thick of a playoff race that they really have no business being part of. Then again, none of the teams battling for the American League’s second wild card spot have much of a claim to it. Outside of the division leaders, only the Yankees (who hold the top wild card position) and the Rangers even have a positive run differential this season. But after putting together a four-game winning streak to get back to .500, the Orioles are now among seven teams within three games of a postseason spot. It’s a miracle in itself that the O’s have been able to keep themselves afloat like this, but also a strong indication as to how weak the AL is as a whole. Only a few teams have really proven themselves to be able to stand out above the pack. It makes for an interesting race if nothing else.
For the Orioles, the month of August has been a positive one. As they look to round it out this week, they need just one win in four games to guarantee a winning month for the first time since April. I won’t call it a turnaround, but much of the success has come on the arms of the pitching. The staff has posted a 3.81 ERA in the month, which is in the top 10 in all of baseball. August has also seen the Orioles offense break out, with the best average in the game and the third most runs in the major leagues. This was supposed to be the formula for success for the Orioles all season. Average to slightly-above average pitching and an offense that slugs the ball all over the place.
Part of that offensive output has come from a more consistent lineup. Tim Beckham has provided stability at the top, while Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones are proving to be a potent core. Even with Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo spending most of their time struggling, the ability to move them down in the order seems to have provided Buck Showalter with some flexibility.
For the Orioles, every game from here on out has to be treated like the postseason. The Mariners are in town this week for a three-game series, and they are one of the teams the O’s are chasing. Down the stretch, they’ll see plenty of the Yankees and Red Sox along with games against the Indians and Rays, who are also in the thick of things. In the end, I still personally don’t think the Birds have enough to make that postseason push, but I wouldn’t have guessed they’d still be in it to this point. Every time I think they are going to fold, they run off a few wins to keep hope afloat. And frankly, if there isn’t another team in the AL that’s going to take charge of the race, the Orioles will remain in the thick of it.
For years, fans have clamored for playoff baseball, and the Orioles have delivered. They’ve made the postseason in three of the past five seasons. This year, the postseason is starting in late August for the O’s. Even if there are no special logos on the field or uniforms, these next five weeks of games are just as important.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.