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Thursday night Orioles game thread: vs. White Sox, 7:05

The season isn’t over if the Orioles lose tonight, but the wild card math’s going to get pretty tough.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

We are now into the final quarter of the 2022 season. Every game played from here on carries the same weight as any of the other 162 games in the season, but they also carry more weight, because each game’s outcome is locked in to the standings and there are fewer opportunities to change that. A win goes into the bank. A loss leaves a team needing an increasingly more miraculous run in order to change the math.

And so we consider the Orioles. They enter play tonight 2.5 games back of the third wild card spot, 3.5 back of the second spot, and 4.5 back of the first. The Rays, holders of the top wild card spot, have already won their game on Thursday.

The 4.5 game deficit is already getting to where it’s tough to imagine that being overcome in 39 more games. The Orioles need to make sure they don’t slip to where that’s how far back they are from the third and final spot. That’s especially true since they have lost the head-to-head tiebreaker against two of the three wild card teams, the Rays and the Mariners.

If this morning’s run of the PECOTA projection system is accurate, it’s going to take 87 wins to get the third AL wild card. FanGraphs puts it at 88 wins. That second one would take a 24-15 finish from the Orioles. Over a full season of games, that’s a 100-win pace!

Do the Orioles have the talent on this roster to pull that off, even if you add in somebody like Gunnar Henderson into the mix? Maybe! They’re 35-22 since Adley Rutschman arrived. That’s a 99-win pace. So in that sense, all they need to do is keep playing like they’ve done for the last two-plus months. It’s a tough task given the quality of competition remaining on the schedule, including seven games against the Astros, but it isn’t out of the question.

Orioles lineup

  1. Cedric Mullins - CF
  2. Adley Rutschman - C
  3. Anthony Santander - DH
  4. Ryan Mountcastle - 1B
  5. Kyle Stowers - RF
  6. Austin Hays - LF
  7. Terrin Vavra - 2B
  8. Ramón Urías - 3B
  9. Jorge Mateo - SS

When taking account season performance to date for both offense and defense, this might well be the best lineup that the Orioles can field right now. Santander isn’t in the outfield. Vavra is at second base instead of Rougned Odor. Stowers, who’s still waiting on his first big league homer, is getting a chance against a homer-prone righty, Lance Lynn.

The Orioles turn to Jordan Lyles for this game. Lyles... you know. He’s one of those guys where I wish he was performing a little bit more like the Orioles media acts like he is, and a little bit less like what he actually is. His 4.61 ERA would seem like a nice improvement by recent Orioles rotation standards, except with 2022’s dead ball and the new left field wall, that’s only an 87 ERA+. It is comparable to Tanner Scott having a 5.17 ERA for the 2021 Orioles.

Lyles, also, is talked about as though he is an innings eater. Through 25 starts, he is averaging fewer than 5.2 innings. That is not an innings eater. He does bring some value by virtue of having made every start. That’s not nothing. I don’t know whether it’s “pick up next year’s $11 million option” worth of something. I hope he pitches acceptably tonight but I never have high hopes.

White Sox lineup

  1. Andrew Vaughn - LF
  2. Gavin Sheets - RF
  3. Luis Robert - CF
  4. José Abreu - 1B
  5. Eloy Jiménez - DH
  6. Yoán Moncada - 3B
  7. Elvis Andrus - SS
  8. Josh Harrison - 2B
  9. Seby Zavala - C

Lynn brings a 5.30 ERA in 13 starts into this game, and he’s allowed 14 home runs in 71.1 innings this season. If the Orioles are going to do this thing, they need to pounce on guys with 5+ ERAs when the chance presents itself. They failed to do this against Lucas Giolito last night, whiffing on an opportunity to gain ground in the wild card race. They need to do better against Lynn tonight to hang around in the picture.