We’re not necessarily picking on the four-letter network, and no, I am certainly not picking on MASN. But maybe I am picking on ESPN.
In their ESPN.com MLB preview for this year, they projected a record of 58-104 for the Orioles. Another 100-loss season. Hey, at least they did see the team gaining six wins from last season.
Well, as of last night the Orioles are on pace for 85 wins, a gain of 33. As of Friday night, the Orioles also hold an American League playoff spot after they took a 7-0 lead on the way to a 10-3 rout of the Tampa Bay Rays. At Tropicana Field, where they had won just two of their previous 19 games.
It was a bit of a statement they made in the opener of this huge series.
Hey, so ESPN was wrong about the Orioles, but so were a lot of people. No one could have predicted this. Some might have thought they maybe make a run for 70 wins. But no one thought they were ready to be a .500 club, much less a playoff team.
But here we are, the stunning and surprising and gutsy Orioles holding a playoff position with 50 games to play.
In that preseason preview, ESPN.com wrote that, “If everything goes right … the Orioles win 70 games. In truth, the Orioles still have too many shortcomings to isolate just one of them. Since the Orioles lost the 2016 AL wild card game, they've dropped 104 of every 162 games they've played. With a rebuild that long -- more than a half-decade -- the bad news is that 2022 looks like more of the same.”
OK, yes that was a big whiff.
Who cares anymore about those projections. They can’t tell this team they should not be winning, and every time they have faced adversity, they just keep winning. Lose John Means, they have won. Trade Trey Mancini, they have won. Last night they get a terrible umpires call in the sixth, they go on to score four runs anyway and win.
The Orioles are 9-8 versus Tampa Bay after starting the year 0-3 against this club. If they win one of the next two, they will take the season series and hold a potentially huge tiebreaker over the Rays. They are now a combined 18-14 against the Rays, Jays and Sox.
The three players at the bottom of the order last night – two of them with OPS numbers in the 600s at first pitch – Rougned Odor, Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo, had big nights in the win. They went a combined 10-for-13 with two doubles, four runs and six RBIs.
Starter Austin Voth was good again. Five scoreless, no-hit innings on 59 pitches to start his night, and two runs over 5 1/3 on his final line. He is 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA as an Oriole.
Now DL Hall gets the start today in his MLB debut. Who figured Hall would beat Grayson Rodriguez to the big leagues? But the lat injury to Rodriguez gives Hall the first crack in the majors between the club’s two top pitching prospects.
Hall, who pitched in the 2019 All-Star Futures Game, is 2-6 with a 4.76 ERA at Triple-A. He hasn’t been nearly at his best lately, but during a four-start stretch in July he allowed just one earned run over 20 2/3 innings with 40 strikeouts. That is how dominant he can be.
I don’t expect the moment to be too big for him. We might know early whether he is locked in or not. Those nights when he has great outings, we usually see that greatness almost from the first pitch. And those nights that become a struggle, the reverse can be true.
But it’s exciting that the Orioles hold a playoff spot as they take the field today. Behind one of their most talked about and anticipated prospects, they’ll try to keep it.