Looking back at the late-season offense and ahead to the Texas series

When the regular season was winding down for the Orioles, they went through an eight-game stretch from Sept. 15-22 when they allowed nine runs once, seven runs twice and five runs twice. But then their pitching was really rolling in the season’s final eight games, pitching two shutouts in that span and allowing one run or less five times.

But the Baltimore offense was certainly not rolling. They hit just .138 scoring eight runs in the last four-game series versus Boston. In the last 11 games, the Orioles scored two runs or fewer seven times.

But over the long haul, the stats covering all 162 games, this just served to improve the O’s in the pitching stats. Their final team ERA of 3.89 ranks fifth best in the American League. And while their final runs scored per game dipped under 5.00 to finish at 4.98, that is still fourth best in the AL.

And while there are many different stats we could look at to evaluate their pitching and offense, ranking fifth in pitching ERA and fourth in scoring is a pretty good combination, one that led this team to 101 wins.

But should Birdland worry about an offense that scored just 32 runs while hitting only three homers in those last 11 games?

Several hitters cooled off at the end of the year leading to the reduced amount of runs scored. Cedric Mullins, one of those hitters, went just 2-for-33 his last 11 games.

I don’t think the struggles of the offense in the final games means that will continue starting Saturday when the American League Division Series begins. It’s a clean slate, a new beginning and often teams generate momentum and offense within a series and that holds up for a few days or through the series. No doubt being at home those first two games could be a plus.

But when we look for trends in the postseason based on what happened late in the year plenty of mistakes can be made. There are teams that over the years played great late in the year and lost in the postseason and the reverse can be true.

The 99-win Tampa Bay Rays, who pushed the Orioles so hard down the stretch for the AL East title got eliminated in two straight games by the Texas Rangers with 4-0 and 7-1 losses. A Texas club that with six games left in the regular season was leading the AL West by 2.5 games. But then they lost four of their last six and finished in a tie for the division with Houston at 90-72 and they lost the tiebreaker. Thus, the wild card matchup with Tampa Bay. Now they are coming to Baltimore.

During the regular season the Orioles took two of three at Texas in early April and lost two of three to the Rangers in late May in Baltimore.

Texas went just 40-41 on the road this year, but it didn’t keep them from winning two in a row at the Trop to advance to play the Orioles.

Lefty Jordan Montgomery, who pitched so well in Game 1 for Texas, would not start Saturday’s Game 1 unless he pitched on three days rest. Currently he is lined up for Game 2. That could mean Dane Dunning (12-7, 3.70 ERA) possibly could get that Game 1 start. Jon Gray went on the injured list late in the year for Texas.

The Rangers have a prolific offense, one that led the AL with 5.44 runs per game this year and also ranked first in team batting (.263), OBP (.337), slugging (.452) and OPS (.790). But Texas ranked 10th in the AL with a 4.28 team ERA, ranking fifth in starting pitching ERA and 11th among bullpens.

The Rangers postseason series win over Tampa Bay was their first playoff series victory since the 2011 AL Championship Series versus Detroit.

Tides honored: Minor League baseball named the Triple-A end of season All-Star teams yesterday and outfielder Colton Cowser of the Norfolk Tides made the IL team. In 87 games this season he hit .300/.417/.520/.937 with 17 homers and 62 RBIs.

Buck Britton was named the International League Manager of the Year after guiding Norfolk to 90 regular-season wins in addition to the IL title and the win in the Triple-A championship game against Oklahoma City.

Connor Norby did not make the team and other Tides could have been honored as well. But Norby played 138 games for Norfolk in 2023, and put together one solid season, batting .290/.359/.483/.842 with 40 doubles, 21 homers and 92 RBIs.



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