It is a storyline that is surfacing often now in the Orioles clubhouse. There are several players in there that were on the team two years ago that lost 110 games. Now they are on a team that might win 100 games.
Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander, Ryan McKenna, Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo were position players on both clubs to name several, but not every player that fits this bill.
Hays played in 131 games that 2021 season and, of course, is a key part of the winning this year. Winning that will take the Orioles to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. And they have a magic number of three for their first American League East title since 2014.
“This is everything you dream of,” Hays said this afternoon before the series opener with Washington. “You get to the big leagues and then you try to figure out what you need to do to be on the field and get playing time. Then you kind of learn how to be an everyday player and stick here. Once you have done that, the focus turns to what do I need to do to win? What do we have to do to win?
“So we were able to last through those 100-loss seasons and kind of just find our way into the big leagues and figure out what we needed to do to stay here. Now we’re a big part of this team and it’s special to still be here going through this. Growing as the players that we have.”
The Orioles just ended a stretch of playing 17 straight days since Sept. 8, going 9-8. They had a four-game lead on their last off-day on Sept. 7. It was an “off-day” where they flew across the country arriving in Boston after sunrise.
Monday they enjoyed a 2 1/2-game lead and an actual off-day in their own homes.
“It’s great to be home," Hays said. "Had a tough stretch there with no off-days, so it was nice to be home with my family yesterday. Hit the reset button, get ready for this series and have some rested bodies now. Ready to finish strong."
Despite an AL East championship that is now within reach, Hays, not surprisingly, said the O’s approach will not change now. It has served them well all year to the best record in the AL at 97-59.
Their next win would make the 2023 Orioles the eighth club in team history to win 98 or more games and the first since the 1997 club went 98-64.
“This doesn’t feel any different at all,” said Hays of their approach now that the last week of the regular season is here. “This is what we have been doing all year. Every series for the last three weeks everyone has been talking about, ‘This is the biggest series, then this is the biggest series.’ It really is just another game that we are preparing for and treating it like we have all season. Staying within ourselves and doing what we have done all year to get us to this point. We have to prepare for what we have to do today to win this game and then do that for six more."
But it is nice to scoreboard watch, take a look at the standings and see their team in such a strong position getting ready to play Game No. 157.
“It’s a lot of fun to be able to look at the standings and have it mean something instead of where we have been these past few years," added Hays. "You are just looking from the outside in. We’re in it. The games matter to us and it’s fun to look at the standings the last couple of weeks and see what happened from day-to-day."
The Orioles host the Nationals (69-88) tonight. In April at Nats Park, the O's won two in a row by shutouts, 1-0 and 4-0 behind Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish.
Tonight Bradish (11-7, 3.01 ERA), who is third in the AL in ERA, pitches against right-hander Josiah Gray (8-12, 4.00 ERA).
The Rays (95-62) begin a two-game series tonight at Fenway Park in Boston against the Red Sox, who will be in Baltimore for four games starting Thursday.