The Orioles have not been in the playoffs since the 2016 season and that was the last year they had two straight winning months. That is, until now.
When the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 on Monday night, they improved to 13-6 in July with six games to play in the month at that point. And following up on June, when they had a 14-12 record, it meant they had back-to-back winning months. Something that had not happened in Birdland since May (14-13) and June (19-9) of 2016.
Two veteran Orioles believe that was very important to this rebuilding, improving club as it takes its next steps back toward contending baseball.
“It’s very significant,” Trey Mancini said. “Especially since August of 2017 was the last time we had a winning month, it certainly has some significance. Like we keep saying, though, it’s not the end-all to have a couple of good months, but it is a very nice step and things are moving in the right direction.
“Being in a playoff conversation this time of year is very exciting, given how the last few years have gone. Something to be really proud of, and I’m very proud of this team. I believe in this team enough to not get too ahead of ourselves or too satisfied. We’re still going to come out every day and play hard and do what we’ve been doing. We know that is what you have to do to be where you want to be at the end of the year.”
The Orioles are now playing around .500 ball, a big change from 115 losses in 2018, 108 in 2019 and 110 last year. They are not far out of a playoff spot with the calendar about to turn to August. But Mancini said playoff talk in the clubhouse has not been very prevalent.
“No. Not too much,” he said. “It’s kind of business as usual, which is good. No one is getting too caught up or ahead of themselves. We know we’ve been playing good ball and we have good camaraderie here, but no one is looking too far into the future. That is exactly how it’s been the whole year.”
Mancini said that when the Orioles won a series in St. Louis earlier this season was about the time he felt this year’s team could be different.
“Around early May, I would say, I had a noticeable change. And I asked a couple of guys on the team, ‘Do you guys think this is a lot more fun and just a better vibe than last year?’ Everyone said yes, way better for a number of reasons. That is kind of when I noticed,” he said.
His teammate Cedric Mullins agreed with Mancini that back-to-back winning months is an important step for this O’s team.
“I think it is huge for us an organization,” said Mullins. “For guys that have had struggles in the past and are putting it together, including myself, it is huge. Just to keep the consistency going. We’ve had guys come up and contribute in big ways, and to see it all come together on the field and be winning is big for everybody.”
But unlike Mancini, Mullins said he felt back in spring training that this would be an O’s team that could show solid improvement.
“I thought that before the season even started," Mullins said. "Seeing guys that were coming in, and the familiar faces as well as new guys from other clubs. I saw a lot of potential. Just a matter of filling out the pieces and being in the right places. Now it’s showing.”
Another win over the Rays: The Orioles produced yet another stirring comeback win last night. Ramón Urías hit a two-run homer in the last of the eighth to put Baltimore ahead on its way to a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.
The Orioles moved a game over the .500 mark (49-48) and passed Boston for fourth-place in the American League East. They are now three games out of the final AL playoff spot.
The Orioles are now 28-19 at home, winning 11 of their last 13 and 14 of 18 at Oriole Park. They are 8-4 in their past 12 AL East home games.
Urías is batting .397 (23-for-58) in 17 games, with five homers and 18 RBIs, since returning from the injured list.
After going just 1-18 last season against Tampa Bay, the O's can secure a third series win over the Rays with just one more win in the next two days. They are 7-7 overall against Tampa Bay on the year, and 6-2 at home.