Mountcastle on O's first-place run and Rays series; Hyde on Gibson

The Orioles are closing in on clinching their first playoff berth since 2016 with a magic number of four to clinch. They have bigger fish to fry, of course, and want the AL East championship, but clinching a playoff berth will come first.

The players are not yet ready to talk much about that, even with it so close at hand. They are keeping their one-day-at-a-time approach.

“I mean I think we’ve been saying it the whole year, take it game-by-game. We keep doing that, day-by-day and pitch-by-pitch and hopefully this ends with a playoff spot,” Ryan Mountcastle said this afternoon.

I asked Mountcastle today why and how the Orioles have been so good at being in first place. It is kind of a strange question, yes, but since tying for the AL East lead on July 18, they have been in first place every day since.

With their win today at Minnesota, Tampa Bay is 28-14 in the last 42 games. The Orioles are 29-13.

“I don’t know. We’ve just got a really good team,” said Mountcastle. “That is what it is. Good lineup, good staff and we often find a way to win. So keep this going and bring it to the playoffs.

“We’ve had some tough games here down the stretch. And we’ve battled. Think the offense, defense and pitching has shown up when we needed it. It’s been a fun ride.”

The Orioles also have not yet been ready to talk much about the four-game series with the Rays that begins tomorrow night at Oriole Park. But now it’s just a day away.

“It’s huge. Should be a lot of fun. Hopefully big crowds bringing a lot of energy and should be a a great time,” Mountcastle said.

Needing a win tonight to stay three games ahead of the Rays, Kyle Gibson (14-8, 5.12 ERA) takes the ball for the Orioles.

While Gibson is tied for the AL lead in wins and has quality starts in two of his last three games, he also has an ERA of 8.16 in his past five games, allowing seven and nine runs in two of them.

Manager Brandon Hyde talked about Gibson’s season today and the fact that if he is not on his game, you can usually tell early on.

“Well, he’s got 14 wins, so he’s done a lot of things really well this year," he said of the righty. "He’s had a few starts that didn’t go so well. Kind of happens early in the game. Hopefully he can get off to a good start tonight. I feel like when he has his struggles, it’s in that early third of the game.

“Couple of times we scored a bunch of runs and he had a tough time in that second or third inning. But hopefully he gets through that first time through the order – kind of settles in a little bit.

“His sinker is a big deal. Locating the sinker down and having the slider be able to play off of that. When he gets in trouble lot of times it’s walks or having to elevate the sinker in hitter’s counts. If he can work ahead, stay at the knees or below. You have Paul Goldschmidt in that lineup. One of the best players in the game. So, you have to be able to pitch and you know hopefully he gets a bunch of groundballs and lasts for a while.”

So we have just one more game before the O’s and Rays will play a four-game series.

With their win today, Tampa Bay (90-57) has won five of six and 12 of their past 17 games. They are 32-22 in the second half and 40-32 on the road. 


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