We are now past the midpoint of the month of August and the Orioles' completely improbable success continues unabated. Around a month ago at the All-Star Break, we were talking about the O's being five games over .500 and wondering how long they could hold on at that point. Now they are back up to 10 games over .500 - a 64-54 record they share with Tampa Bay. These two teams occupy the American League wild card spots.
One of the reasons that the O's have been able to have such success this year is their 22-6 record in one-run games. This includes a stretch where the Orioles have won their last 11 consecutive one-run games going back to June 22. This is all the more remarkable when you consider the state of the starting pitching all season. Measured by ERA, it's one of the worst in baseball, with a 4.68 ERA from starters and the 5th-fewest innings thrown by starting pitchers.
Many times when the rotation has stumbled, it's been the bullpen there to pick up the slack. Even through all the extra-inning contests - of which the O's have also won 12 straight - when they are asked to fill an unknown number of innings without giving up a run while waiting for the offense to do so, they have managed. The last 13 games have illustrated this trend, with the O's bullpen holding the line in two one-run extra-innings wins and another three tense two-run wins.
In that stretch of 13 games, the Orioles have a 9-4 record. Their relief pitchers have thrown a total of 44 innings in these games and have only given up five earned runs. That's a 1.02 ERA from the bullpen, and it's only over 1 because of last night's unfortunate Luis Ayala outing with one inning pitched and three earned runs.
As the closer, Jim Johnson gets a lot of the credit, and his 35 saves have been a nice boost. But most of the innings in those games have been taken by more unheralded relievers who have just as much to do with the success of the Orioles.
There's Pedro Strop, whom Texas finally gave up on when they let the Orioles acquire him in exchange for Mike Gonzalez last August, not having allowed a run in 17 outings dating back to July 5. Or how about Darren O'Day, an off-season waiver claim, also from Texas.
Let's not forget Troy Patton, either. Patton, despite never being the centerpiece we hoped for from the Miguel Tejada trade with Houston, finally seems to have blossomed this year as a reliever who can get out both lefties and righties - though he's better at the lefties. Patton may not be the back-end star of the bullpen, and neither is Matt Lindstrom, almost a forgotten throw-in to the Jeremy Guthrie-Jason Hammel swap, but they have contributed many quality innings this season.
Between Strop, O'Day, Patton and Lindstrom, there have been 187 innings pitched. The highest ERA any of those gentlemen possess is Patton with a 2.58. That's nearly 21 full games worth of innings pitched by these misfit toys. They might not get all the glory individually, but the Orioles wouldn't be sniffing the playoffs, or any kind of winning season, without them.
Night in and night out, it's they who are saving the day.