Next stop for the Orioles – the MLB postseason. Their next game will be Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Saturday Oct. 7 at Baltimore’s Camden Yards against the Tampa Bay-Texas wild card series winner.
They are three wins from the League Championship Series, seven from the World Series and 11 from winning the World Series for the first time since 1983.
They will enter the playoffs with a roster devoid of much playoff experience. Manager Brandon Hyde though believes his club has indeed had big-game experience dating to late last season. And he believes it will help a lot coming up.
“I think it started last year with all the close games that we won and the type of games that we played, (and those) benefitted us big time this year,” said Hyde. “We’ve won a ton of one-run games (going 30-16) and won a lot of close games late. I think it’s been beneficial for the regular season and feel like we’ve been playing playoff-type games. Especially these last couple of weeks. The four games against Tampa, three games in Houston. Feel like we needed to win those two in Cleveland. Felt the guys wanted that and needed that. So, I feel like we’ve been playing some high-pressure games and I hope that benefits us in the postseason.
“But you never really know. There are a lot of guys without postseason experience. I do believe in the makeup of our club, I think it’s a real confident group. The young guys that have never been in the playoffs, they play with a ton of confidence. I don’t think they’ll be shaken by how different postseason baseball is.”
Baltimore position players Aaron Hicks, Adam Frazier and James McCann have some playoff experience and pitchers Kyle Gibson, Jack Flaherty and Jacob Webb have a combined 31 playoff innings.
Outfielder Austin Hays said the Orioles showed real toughness in big games down the stretch against the likes of Tampa Bay, Houston and Cleveland.
“It’s just kind of what we have done all year,” said Hays. “Every time we get backed into a corner, we find a way to fight and scratch and claw our way to come out on top. It would be nice to blow teams out, but we find a way to keep things interesting every night. This is a tough team that has had a lot of close wins.”
The Orioles played .500 or better ball against the other five AL playoff teams going a combined 28-16 versus that group of five for a .636 win percentage.
“Yeah, we have a lot of experience against teams we could be playing," Hays said during the Boston series. "Have some experience against those relievers. Starting to have some at-bats pile up against some guys. It makes you more comfortable in those situations. Sometime situations where we are behind, but we think ‘We can do this because we have done it before. It’s not just blind confidence that you are saying that you really are confidence you can come from behind. You’ve done it.”
The Orioles have gone 3-3 against Houston, 4-2 against Minnesota, 8-5 versus Tampa Bay, 3-3 against Texas and 10-3 versus Toronto.
Holding their own without Félix: The Orioles bullpen has done a pretty solid job most nights holding its own since Félix Bautista pitched in his last game on Aug. 25.
The Orioles won their game that night and at that point were playing .625 baseball at 80-48. Since then, with obviously no Bautista, they have played .618 ball at 21-13. A win in the season finale and that would have been .636.
The bullpen ERA at the end of the night on Aug. 25 was 3.53. It is 3.47 since that date.
"It’s obviously a huge hit that we took,” rookie lefty DL Hall said. “For us, it’s all about the pen coming together as one and filling that void. Just us giving our best effort, putting the pieces together and doing whatever we can to win. We know that Felix was a big piece and for us, we take it personally, that’s our teammate. And we’re going to do everything we can to help fill that spot. We’re bulldogs, we want to show we can do it together.”