Magic number went down as tension in Birdland rises

With the understanding that not all fan reaction one gets on a radio talk show, on a blog, via social media and/or Twitter represents all of Birdland, it appears a good percentage of the fanbase has emotions surging after the O's lost in the last of the ninth at Cleveland Friday night.

Some are worried, some are nearly panicked and we see just about everything in between.

First let's do this fact check: The Orioles let a game get away last night but with Tampa Bay's loss to Toronto, they saw their magic number to win the division reduced to six.

Since Sept. 12 the Orioles are 4-7. But in the same time frame, the Rays are 5-5 and have cut the O's lead from three games to 1.5 in that span.

Just a week ago on that Friday night, the O's were getting questioned and criticized after losing two games to the Rays. They answered that by winning the next four by scoring 30 runs against Tampa Bay and Houston.

Now they have lost three in a row - two on walkoff losses. 

The pitching staff is springing leaks from the rotation to the bullpen and there seems ample reason for concern.

First the rotation: From Aug. 13 to Sept. 8 the O's starters produced 14 quality starts in a 23-game stretch. Now since Sept. 9, they have just three QS in the last 14 games and 10 times O's pitchers went 5 2/3 innings or less. In that span, they went 4 2/3 or less six times.

The lack of innings from the rotation keeps putting more and more stress on the bullpen. O's starters have an ERA of 6.17 in the last eight games and have allowed runs in seven of those games while going 4-4.

When you score eight runs you should win but the O's managed to lose 9-8 Friday night in Cleveland. 

The Orioles have scored eight or more runs 36 times this year and they are 33-3 in those games. Guess which team has put two of those losses on the Orioles? Yep, the Guardians.

The O's took an 8-7 lead in the ninth last night on Aaron Hicks' two-run double. Had they held that lead, it have would been their third win when trailing after eight innings in the last six games. They would have those comebacks off Pete Fairbanks, Ryan Pressley and Emmanuel Clase. They were that close to pulling it off.

But the game ended in disappointment with the O's reeling, letting this one get away.

With pitchers having to stay down in the minors for at least 15 days after they are optioned out unless replacing an injured player, several pitchers cannot return yet. That list includes Joey Krehbiel (optioned Sept. 12), Cole Irvin and Nick Vespi (Sept. 13), Bryan Baker (Sept. 16) and Mike Baumann (Sept. 22). 

Lefty John Means (0-1, 3.60 ERA) takes the mound today and the O's could use a good start and deep one from Means. They have to regroup and show their fans once again how resilient they are.

They are playoff bound yes, but will it be as AL East champs? And what shape will the team be in when they get there? A lot can change in a few days. The O's were riding high after beating Tampa Bay and Houston and they need to get back to that kind of play ASAP.

Roster clarification: Several fans and readers asked me if a player optioned out to the minors late in the year, with time still remaining before he can rejoin the roster, has that time carryover to the postseason? If a pitcher were optioned to the minors say on Sept. 26, would his 15 days carry into the postseason?

The answer is yes they would carry over and it's 15 days and not 15 games. A pitcher sent out on Sept. 26 would see his 15 days up on Oct. 11 and since the American League Division Series would already be underway, that pitcher could not be on the ALDS roster. He could play in the next round if his team advanced.

Here is the full clarification via an O's team official: "Any player optioned must be down the minimum number of days before being eligible to be recalled. If that overlaps with the start of a playoff series, that player would be ineligible for that series unless replacing a newly injured player or a player eligible for the bereavement or paternity list."

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