After three consecutive bullpen meltdowns, the Orioles shouldn't go back to Arizona any time soon.
Last season, the Orioles were excellent in August. With an easy 12 games in the first half of the month, it seemed likely that they'd do it again. Well, winning six and losing as many against the easier teams of the month doesn't make continued success look likely.
Especially when you take a look at the teams the Orioles finish the month off playing, nothing's going to be easy. Instead of cashing in against the easier teams, the Orioles will have to do it against teams that are vying for playoff positions. Just like them.
It starts with the bullpen. The series in Arizona could have gone completely the same, just in a different team's win column if the bullpen were more steady. The Orioles were swept on three walk-offs. Jim Johnson blew two saves in two days. Orioles fans have been nervous about Jim Johnson for most of the season and now they're simply done.
Francisco Rodriguez should have a shot at being closer against the Rockies, or whenever the next opportunity for a save comes up. K-Rod has 300 career saves, so why shouldn't the Orioles try him out? To be honest, he hasn't been stellar in the bullpen with the Birds, but nobody really has. Jim Johnson may have the most saves, but he also has nine blown saves this year.
The Orioles don't have their magic when it comes to 1-run games this year. They don't have enough gas to win extra-inning games, but they're still in this.
They're three games behind the Rays, who have been struggling of late. The Orioles need to jump into second place in the AL East, and now. The worst news is that they could already be in first. David Schoenfield of ESPN writes:
Showalter can claim that's the case, but if the Orioles had average results from Johnson -- three lost games in the ninth instead of nine -- they'd be 71-49 instead of 65-55 ... and tied for the AL East lead instead of trailing the Red Sox by 6 games.
Tomorrow, the Orioles head back home with yet another easy opportunity. Nothing's easy for this team though. Inconsistency hasn't hurt them yet, at least not too bad.
Anyways, the bats should be lively in this series, against a Rockies team that lacks solid pitching. However, with super-hitters like Michael Cuddyer, they may make the games more exciting than they should be. I don't know about you guys, but I had my fair share of excitement for the month in the desert.
Then, the Orioles have a big opportunity against a team that has recently burned out. Tampa! They also happen to be ahead of the Orioles and this is as good of a time as any to start climbing our way up the standings. The Orioles already blew the opportunity to start to knock the Rays out of second in Arizona, but enough of that. They've gotta take this one game at a time.
The Orioles head northward after playing the Athletics at home. This will show us if the Orioles can compete in the playoffs should they get that far. This is a potential wild card opponent. The O's aren't great against Oakland, but they need to take the series.
The Orioles dropped a recent series versus the Red Sox, but they've been successful against number-one Boston, so this is a great opportunity in terms of divisional play.
The Yankees are beginning to creep up. On a four game winning streak, they're behind the O's by two games and that makes me feel pretty uneasy. I don't think they'll come up any further, but to close off the month by taking the series or sweeping the Yankees (good or otherwise) always makes me happy.
Let's say the Orioles win each series 2-1 this month. (The Yankees series goes into September 1st, but let's count it as August for simplicity's sake.) Where are they then? They'll be 16-11 for August, which isn't too bad. But to repeat a 93 win season, they can't afford to make many mistakes in September. Get ready.