When the 2018 season begins, the Orioles will be afforded no time to ease into the action. The early season schedule is tough and littered with 2017 playoff teams.
Of the 15 American League teams, just five finished over .500 last year and they were all playoff teams. Cleveland won 102 games, Houston won 101 on its way to the World Series title, Boston won 93, New York won 91 and Minnesota 85.
Of their first seven series of the 2018 season, the Orioles play each of those five teams once. They open with three at home versus Minnesota followed by three at Houston and four in New York. Then they play three at home against Toronto followed by four at Boston and three in Detroit. Then the tough opening stretch concludes with four at home against Cleveland to begin a 10-game homestand.
That homestand ends with three versus the Rays and three against the Tigers. That will be the first time in 2018 the O's play back-to-back series against clubs with 2017 losing records. It comes in their eighth and ninth series of the year.
So five of the first seven series are against the 2017 playoff teams and the Orioles went a combined 21-37 (.362) versus those five clubs last year. They went 10-9 against Boston, 7-12 versus New York, 1-5 against Houston, 1-6 versus Cleveland and 2-5 against Minnesota.
The Orioles will play their first 10 games and 18 of their first 24 against those playoff teams. They will play 14 of their first 20 games on the road, where they went 29-52 last season.
So, yep, challenges all around and they'll need to hit the ground running come the end of this month with opening day set for March 29 at Camden Yards against the Twins.
The Orioles got off to a fast start last season, going 7-2 through nine games and 12-4 after 16. Through games of last May 9, the Orioles were 22-10. Not only was that a strong start, they held the best record in the majors at that point.
AL East standings last May 9
* Orioles 22-10
* Yankees 21-10 and a half game out
* Red Sox 17-15 and five games out
* Rays 16-19 and 7 Â½ games out
* Blue Jays 12-21 and 10 Â½ games out
Last Aug. 30, the Orioles completed a seven-game winning streak. At that point, they were 68-65 and 1 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second AL wild card. But they would then finish the year going 7-22 to end up at 75-87.
The fast start last season neither led to a winning season or a playoff berth. It seems for the 2018 Orioles, however, just holding their own against the brutal early schedule would be an accomplishment.