Yesterday, I noted that with ten games left to play, you'd better beat Henderson Alvarez. By the same token, with nine games left to play, you'd better beat Ricky Romero. The Orioles did one out of two. Today it's the same story: with eight games left to play in the regular season, you'd damn well better beat Aaron Laffey if you want your strange odyssey to continue beyond October 3.
Laffey is not a good pitcher. He does not get good results, and his peripheral stats like FIP make him out to be an even worse pitcher than his already-bad ERA (4.80 ERA but a 5.72 FIP). That's because he does not strike out a lot of guys, walks a lot of guys, and gives up a lot of home runs. Most of the time I try to avoid being the arrogant and cocky Orioles fan, but Laffey kind of sucks. They need to beat him. This is the bottom line.
So it's a good thing they'll be sending out the best possible lineup against the Blue Jays tonight, featuring... Steve Tolleson? Really? There are eight games left to play and the magic number for clinching playoffs is six, and your designated hitter is Steve Tolleson. How many times have I looked at the O's lineup this year and said to myself, "This is not the lineup of a playoff team." Yet, here they are. Why should tonight be different from all the rest?
The Team Steve-fortified lineup and all the rest of the gang will be hitting in support of Joe Saunders. I have been surprised with the lack of suck from Saunders since he came to Baltimore. I expected him to be a disaster. He has been decent. We can handle decent. We saw precious little of even decent prior to this year. Don't freaking walk guys and then give up home runs to Edwin Encarnacion or freaking J.P. Arencibia. That's pretty much all there is to it.
Crunch time. Five games remaining against the dregs of the American League East. This is the time to begin a five-plus game winning streak. They need it. 90 wins once seemed such a distant and unlikely goal. Now that we stare it in the face we see it will not be enough. For 154 games the Orioles have been one of the best teams in the American League, but they need to keep it up so they can still say that after 162 games.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||TORONTO BLUE JAYS|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Brett Lawrie - 3B|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Colby Rasmus - CF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Edwin Encarnacion - DH|
|Matt Wieters - C||Yunel Escobar - SS|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Yan Gomes - 1B|
|Chris Davis - RF||Rajai Davis - RF|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Adeiny Hechavarria - 2B|
|Steve Tolleson - DH||J.P. Arencibia - C|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Anthony Gose - LF|