It is reasonable to wonder if the trades of Trey Mancini to Houston and Jorge López to Minnesota will derail the Orioles' train, which is looking to have the playoffs as a surprise 2022 destination. It would be an amazing story if they make it, but it was going to be hard enough to pull that off with Mancini and López.
But how can this team do it without them?
The answer is they might not. But this team has surprised us enough already, and shown plenty of heart and guts already, that putting it past them might not be the best play. Sure, it is still a long shot, maybe a longer shot than a few days ago, but the math still works.
They are very much right in the race, and it’s August 3 with 58 games left.
After last night's second straight win in Texas, by an 8-2 score, the Orioles are 53-51 and are just 1 1/2 games out of the last American League playoff spot. The O's lost two key players and responded with two big wins over Texas.
“It was challenging before," O's manager Brandon Hyde told reporters in Texas before last night's game. "It’s going to be challenging going forward with the teams that we face, the teams that are ahead of us in our division, and the good teams we play. But I don’t think our guys are going to back down. (Monday) was a really, really tough day. Today’s a tough day, but yesterday was tough, as well, and our guys came out and played their butts off for nine innings, and I don’t expect anything less the rest of the way.”
In Mancini they lost a clubhouse leader and someone with an OPS 14 percent better than the league average. But someone will get more at-bats now, and that someone or several someones will get a chance to run with it.
Righty Félix Bautista might become a closer with the goods to get saves, featuring a 100 mph heater and devastating splitter. The Orioles have a deep and good bullpen that is one of the best in baseball. Will that 'pen depth be bigger than ever now?
The Orioles overcame a few things already this season. A slow team start on offense where the hitters were adapting to their new ballpark dimensions and not scoring much early on. They began the year 1-5 and were 6-14 after the first 20 games. They had a hole to dig out of. After he pitched just twice this year, their No. 1 starter John Means was out for the year. Adley Rutschman got here, but not until May 21. Grayson Rodriguez never made it. DL Hall is struggling now, and his debut is now more uncertain than we thought just days ago.
And still the Orioles got to the .500 mark and went over it. They won 10 in a row. They won via walk-offs and against AL East teams. They played the Yankees tough while going 15-13 versus the Rays, Jays and Sox. Their offense has been around the league average since the first two weeks even as several hitters had extended slumps. The defense has been stellar from the jump.
They seemed to go from a bad rebuilding team to a decent team overnight. It happened maybe faster than anyone expected, but here they are contending and the calendar says it’s August.
We could doubt them or just sit back and see what they have in store for us the rest of the way.
Another win as Adley doubles the fun: Rutschman did it again. He hit a double. And then he hit another one. As part of the win last night, he had two more doubles after he had two in the series opener on Monday night. That gives Rutschman 22 doubles in his first 57 games in the majors.
He is the fourth MLB player since 1980 with at least 22 in his first 57 career games. Bo Bichette of Toronto had 22 over the 2019-20 seasons, the Yankees' Miguel Andújar had 23 over the 2017-18 seasons and Chris Sabo, a onetime Oriole, had 23 in 1988 for the Cincinnati Reds.
Rutschman has eight doubles his last 12 games. And of his first 51 hits in the majors, he has 23 singles, 22 doubles, one triple and five home runs.
Winning pitcher Jordan Lyles allowed just one run over 6 1/3 innings last night, improving to 8-8 with a 4.40 ERA. He threw 110 pitches, his ninth game throwing 100 or more in his 22 starts. Lyles has allowed one run in 12 innings his last two games.
Shorstop Jorge Mateo hit a pair of homers in the win, a three-run shot and two-run homer for a career-best five RBI night.
The Orioles go for the sweep today in the series finale at 2:05 p.m. ET as righty Kyle Bradish (1-4, 7.01 ERA) faces lefty Martin Pérez (9-2, 2.52 ERA).