Orioles win the close ones to offset a poor run differential

The question has been asked often: How can a team that leads the majors in errors, struggles to score runs and get clutch hits and has an ever-changing rotation that ranks 12th in the league in ERA, still be in the playoff hunt after 92 games?

I have another question as an addendum to that: How can a team with a minus-55 run differential still be in the playoff race after 92 games?

Here is the best answer I can come up with. The Orioles have shown an amazing ability this year to win the close games. Having a top-notch bullpen and a shutdown closer surely helps in those games.

The Orioles are 18-6 for a major league best .750 win percentage in one-run games. Last year, Detroit led the American League with a .630 win percentage in one-run games. The Orioles are also 32-14 in games decided by one or two runs. That is how you can have the second-worst run differential but the sixth-best record in the AL. The Orioles don't look very good on the stat sheet, but they look OK in the standings.

Jim_Johnson-sidebar_pitching.jpgThe Orioles are now 37-0 when they lead after eight innings with Jim Johnson saving 28 of those games. You should win a very high percentage when you lead with three outs to go, but the Orioles are the only AL team without even a single loss in those situations. Last season, the Orioles were 59-4 when leading after eighth.

The Orioles got two solid outings from their starters the last two games. Minnesota scored 25 runs on 33 hits with 13 walks in the series' first two games. The Twins scored four runs on 15 hits with four walks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Speaking of run differential, which is one way to look at a team's strength, but it certainly doesn't tell you everything, the Orioles went 2-2 in this series but were outscored 29-17 in the four games. A 19-7 loss set the tone for that stat.

But now, after hanging on to win one night and coming from behind to win the next day, the Orioles take some momentum into the series in Cleveland.

This team remains very much in the playoff hunt, thanks in large part to its amazing success in the close games.

Two wins in a row - that's a streak for the struggling Orioles. Now can they build on that in the Cleveland series?

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