When asked today when he saw a light at the end of the tunnel, and when center fielder Cedric Mullins thought the Orioles had turned from a losing team into a winning one, he cited an 11-day period in July during the 2022 season.
From July 3-13, 2022, the Orioles won 10 games in a row. A stretch that included seven wins by two runs or less and three walk-off wins. When it began the Orioles were nine games under .500. When it ended they were 45-44 and on their way to an 83-79 record. A 31-game improvement over the year before.
Now, a season later, that team is one win away from 100 victories and one win away from clinching its 10th American League East title.
“There was a 10-game win streak that we had last year where we were playing really good ball. It was consistent,” Mullins said this afternoon in the Baltimore clubhouse of a turning point for the organization. “We had the same guys going out there doing their thing. The guys on the bench were coming through. And we have been able to stay consistent with that and progress even further this year.”
For manager Brandon Hyde, that 10-game streak was a big moment.
“For me, yeah, that was a huge turning point for us as a team believing that they could win and would win. That stretch we went on – we just played really well for a long period of time. I think that 10-game winning streak just gave our team a ton of confidence and was probably the turning point for this core group of guys.”
But now, with a magic number of one and no Tampa Bay game to scoreboard watch, it’s all up to the Orioles tonight. Win and they get a division title and the No. 1 seed through the AL playoffs.
But, as Mullins noted, you don’t try any harder tonight or change a single thing now.
“I think our approach today is nothing changes," he said. "We’ve approached every game the same this year. Think we are on the cusp of our 100th win, which is pretty awesome, so there is a lot to celebrate.”
The team that lost 110 games two years ago can win No. 100 tonight. They would become the first O’s team to win that many since 1980, and the sixth in club history.
How did this turnaround happen?
“It is just the process of how some seasons go. In a position to be able to come through the bad years and be on a team where we have turned things around in a quick way, it’s been a lot of fun. Look forward to seeing what we do after tonight," said Mullins.
And it is nice tonight for the Orioles not to have to worry about anything Tampa Bay might do.
“Even if they had a game today, it wouldn’t matter what they do. It’s about us locking in, getting the win and securing it tonight," he said.
Of course, this homestand features mixed emotions. The excitement of a pending division title and the sadness with the death of O's Legend Brooks Robinson. Mullins said everyone in the clubhouse is thinking about the Hall of Famer.
“A lot of us have personal ties with Brooks. Him being around us the years we have been here in the bigs. It’s crazy to not envision seeing him again. It’s a very sad moment in the clubhouse, but it is one of those where I know that he is proud of what we have done and what we are doing," he said.