Orioles remain very much in playoff hunt, but losses are mounting

With each Orioles loss these days, is it possible that a reality is setting in and that reality is that this year, which started out with such promise, will not end up with the Birds in the playoffs?

It hasn't been just a tough series, or week, or homestand the team has endured. But since starting the year with a record of 27-14 on May 19, the Orioles are 19-28.

That is 47 games of sub-.500, losing baseball.

During those 47 games, the ERA of the Orioles' starting pitchers is 5.33. That ERA is on the increase, and it seems so are the injuries that keep hitting the club.

But there is also this fact: Through all that losing, the Orioles continue to hang onto the second wild card playoff spot in the AL. We can still say if the playoffs started today, the Orioles would make it.

But now those wild-card standings are bunched up big time. Three teams - Detroit, Oakland and Tampa Bay - are just a half game behind the Orioles. Cleveland is one game back. Boston and Toronto are 1 1/2 back. That is six teams bearing down on the struggling Orioles. Their hold on that wild card spot has never looked more shaky.

The Orioles right now have problems with their offense, their pitching and their defense. There seems to be no end to the injuries or constant roster moves.

Two of the club's offensive mainstays are struggling now. Over his last 27 games, Adam Jones is batting .233 with two homers and six RBIs. Over his past 24 games, J.J. Hardy is hitting .101 with two homers and six RBIs.

The Orioles run differential is now minus-43 and that is second-worst in the AL.

Despite all this, a few wins might be all that's needed to provide hope for a turnaround and hope that this still could be a special season.

With almost all signs pointing down right now, do the Orioles have it in them?

Tonight, they begin a four-game series against a Minnesota club that has the worst record in the league. Maybe they will have a big series against the Twins. Maybe Chris Tillman and Zach Britton will stabilize the starting rotation. Maybe Jim Thome and Nick Markakis started to get their bats going over the weekend, and the offense will get its act together. Maybe the team will finally start to get healthy. Maybe Jason Hammel will return to pitch meaningful games in September.

Maybe.

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