The Orioles lost 1-0 in extra innings to the Angels on Thursday. They mustered a measly five hits in 13 innings. Their division lead is down to 1 1/2 games with the Blue Jays having won six straight and nine of their last 10. And yet I went to bed with a smile on my face last night. Are we having fun yet? I don’t know about you, but I sure am.
It’s August and the Orioles are in first place in the American League East. This hasn’t happened since 1997 when the O’s went wire to wire. What’s more, the Orioles have averaged a 16 game deficit on Aug. 1 since 1998. Typically, it’s been “Turn off the lights, the party’s over” for the Orioles by August. This year, the party’s just getting started.
The Orioles’ largest Aug. 1 deficit since 1998 was 34.5 games in 2010. That team was really bad. However, even the not-so-bad Orioles teams have found themselves in deep holes. The 1998 O’s were playing .500 baseball when the calendar turned to August, but still faced a 25 game deficit in the A.L. East thanks to a Yankees squad that was 50 games above .500.
If you followed the Orioles during their 14 losing seasons, you have to appreciate the feeling of being in first place in August no matter how small the division lead. Remember the August swoon (which was actually more of a late July swoon)? The Orioles enter this August having gone 8-5 against winning teams since the All-Star Break, and they don’t have a powerhouse squad like the ‘98 Yankees with which to contend in the East.
Speaking of contending, the trade deadline has provided additional reason for optimism. Two of the best pitchers in the game, David Price and Jon Lester, changed addresses on Thursday and no longer play in the AL East. The O’s probability of winning the division still stands at better than 50 percent while their playoff probabilities are at 70 percent. I have a longstanding pessimistic streak when it comes to the Orioles, and even I can’t deny that things are looking good.
As recently as a couple of weeks ago I wrote that winning baseball hasn’t made me happy, just less unhappy. That’s changed. I’m excited, rather than nervous about the prospect of the O’s competing in a pennant race. After spending almost the entire 2012 season waiting for the other shoe to drop, I’m kicking my feet up this time around.
I believe in Buck. I believe in the bullpen. I believe in the bats. And I certainly believe that a 1 1/2 game lead on Aug. 1 is nothing to feel bad about.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Follow him on Twitter: @RoarFrom34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.