Last weekend, the Orioles lost the first two games of a home four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. They were now tied for first in the American League East.
What followed was an outing of eight scoreless by Grayson Rodriguez leading to an 8-0 Saturday win. And when the Birds won a crazy game the next day their lead was back to two games atop the division.
Fast forward to the series at Cleveland. They lost the first two games, and their starters went a combined 8 1/3 innings. But then John Means on Saturday and Kyle Gibson Sunday combined to allow two runs over 14 1/3 innings and the O's pulled out another improbable four-game split.
Had they not won the 2-1 game Saturday, their division lead would have been 1/2 game. But they kept it at 1.5 with the victory that night and it's 2.5 games now with six games to play.
The magic number for the AL East title is down to three heading into today's much needed off day.
Have we mentioned how the Orioles have answered every challenge this year?
Another Houston-Baltimore comp: When the Orioles took two of three in Houston on their road trip that ended yesterday, it was an impressive series win. Houston, the defending World Series champs, badly needed wins and the O’s went in there and won that series.
In one sense it was the new guard that is one of the best teams in the American League in 2023 against the old guard that has been one of the best in the AL for several seasons.
Houston has played in the last six American League Championship Series and three times in the World Series in that span, winning twice.
We’ve often heard comparisons about the O’s rebuild and how the Astros built a consistent winner, especially since the top front office O’s brass led by Mike Elias, came from Houston.
But, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, in an article this week, the Astros players could look across the field in that series and see something very similar.
“You look at them," Astros veteran catcher Martin Maldonado told Nightengale. “And it’s exactly how we were built. It’s scary."
Justin Verlander added his thoughts on this topic.
“Their organization is really stacked," Verlander told USA TODAY Sports. “There are a lot of young guys over there, and you say, “Oh [expletive], where did they come from? Nobody really expected them to win the division. Everyone was talking about everyone else in that division.
“But you look at them, they got some really young good players, and they hit. Do they ever hit. You play the game right, this game will reward you, and they play the game right."
Nice praise there coming from a Houston clubhouse that is aware they could see the Orioles again next month.
O’s against the playoff field: There are basically seven teams that have already either clinched an AL playoff spot or are in the hunt to get one.
The Orioles have played .640 ball against the other six clubs, going .500 or better versus each one.
Tampa Bay (8-5)
That is a record of 32-18. You could even take away the record versus Toronto and the O’s are playing .595 ball (22-15) against the group.