September has been friendly to Buck Showalter since he first arrived in Baltimore in August 2010. After taking over for interim manager Juan Samuel, Showalter led his team to a 34-23 record, including 17-12 after August.
And his Orioles continued to end their regular seasons on a high note each year thereafter through 2016, never failing to play below .500 ball and amassing a winning percentage of .578 with a 118-86 record.
So, what’s happening in 2017? Buck’s Birds look like ostriches stuck in the mud this month, winning just four of 13 games and dropping 5.5 games behind the second wild card. They are now just four games in front of the Blue Jays for last place in the A.L. East.
It’s easy to blame the beleaguered starting rotation that has borne the brunt of fandom’s wrath all year. Yet, these days, other cogs in the wheel have grown rusty as well contributing to Showalter’s first September collapse.
The boisterous bats have quieted, the bullpen has blown leads, and the defense has disappointed after a 17-12 August put the Orioles in an excellent position for a post-season berth given their history of strong finishes.
The Orioles have scored just 36 runs in their 13 September games. That’s fewer than three runs per game, two of which were 13 and 12 inning contests. They won both of those nail biters – difficult one-run wins, as were their other two victories this month. Nothing is coming easy for the Orioles this September.
There are still 15 games left to play in the regular season. If Showalter’s team rises to the occasion like in previous years to play at least .500 ball post-August, then they’d need to go 10-5 to finish up 14-14. That would result in an 82-80 record, which could be just enough to snag a playoff spot.
There are plenty of reasons to think that won’t happen, but we'll beckon the September magic of previous seasons anyway and hope some of it rubs off on the 2017 squad.
Buck’s Orioles have won frequently on today’s date, September 15. In a desperate attempt to bring some positive mojo to this year’s team, let’s take a look at a few games from this date in Showalter’s past to see what it took for those Orioles teams to win.
September 15, 2015:
Orioles 6 Red Sox 5
The Orioles won this walk-off at Camden Yards in the bottom of the 13th inning on Chris Davis’ line drive to right field scoring Gerardo Parra who opened the frame with a walk and moved to second on a Manny Machado base hit. I’m not sure how dramatically teams were shifting their defenses against Davis then, but I wonder if that line drive to short right field would land in the second baseman’s glove now.
And the reminder of Parra in an Orioles uniform makes me queasy recalling that ill-advised trade of pitcher Zach Davies to add the outfielder in a year when the playoffs were not at all realistic. Their record on July 31, 2015, the day the team acquired Parra from the Brewers, was 51-50. They finished 81-81, seven games out of the wild card.
Of course this year we’ve all read about Davies’ success in Milwaukee and cringe thinking how his 17-8 record and 3.67 ERA could have helped the Orioles’ 2017 rotation.
And in case you haven’t noticed, Parra is batting .329/.360/.483 for the Rockies this year after performing at a .237/.268/.357 level in 55 games as an Oriole. Sure, he’s playing half his games in high-altitude Colorado, but still!
September 15, 2013:
Orioles 3 Blue Jays 1
The Orioles’ pitchers bent but didn’t break this day, scattering ten hits but allowing just one run at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Starter Miguel Gonzalez lasted 5.1 innings for the victory, and had some help from some familiar and forgotten relievers who pitched out of some jams.
A kid named Kevin Gausman spelled Gonzo with one out and the bases empty in the sixth inning and promptly allowed a single and a walk. But then he struck out Ryan Goins and J.P. Arencibia to end the inning.
In the seventh, the Jays loaded the bases with two outs against Francisco Rodriguez before Tommy Hunter put out the fire by striking out Moises Sierra. Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth for his 45th save.
That was Gonzalez’s 10th win of the season on his way to an 11-8 year with a 3.78 ERA. Dan Duquette tried to bring Miggy back for the stretch run this year, but said the White Sox were asking for too much in return.
He was shipped to the Rangers, but has not pitched well for a Texas team that is also striving for the wild card. In two starts, Gonzalez has tossed 5.1 innings, giving up four homers and 11 earned runs for an 18.56 ERA.
September 15, 2010:
Orioles 3 Blue Jays 1
Under the leadership of their fresh manager, the new-attitude Orioles were beginning to awaken from a decade-plus slumber. This September 15 victory completed the sweep of the Jays at Camden Yards and was the team's ninth win in their last 11 games.
Brad Bergeson pitched a complete game, giving up just seven hits and no walks while striking out seven. He cruised through the entire game throwing just 95 pitches – 68 for strikes.
Boy, is this the type of start the 2017 Orioles could use right about now. Bergeson struggled in 2010, evidenced by lowering his ERA to 5.03 after this stellar performance. So, there’s proof that the Orioles can get a surprising and solid September start from an unexpected member of their rotation.
How about it, Gabriel Ynoa? Do you have it in you for September 15, 2017? Buck Showalter needs someone to renew his September magic and begin a miraculous turn of events to save this season.