My rule for the rest of the season, or at least until the Orioles are able to clinch the American League East, is that there are no bad days where the O’s magic number to seal the division and the bye goes down.
Yesterday felt like a bad day when the O’s played in the afternoon and they were only able to score a single run in a game where the Astros starting pitcher had an ERA closer to 5 than to 4. It felt bad that the offense wasted a pretty darn good outing by Kyle Bradish, and that the bullpen contributed to this waste when less-reliable relievers had to be used with Yennier Cano and Cionel Pérez on the shelf needing rest. Those guys could not hold the meager lead handed to them. That wasn’t fun. Check out Andrea’s recap of the game for more of those not-so-lovely totals.
And yet: Later on Wednesday, the Rays played the Angels, and although we were all fearing three auto-wins for the Rays in that series, that’s not what happened. The Angels jumped out with six runs in the first two innings and never looked back. Brandon Drury hit two home runs and drove in five runs for Los Angeles. Thanks to that 8-3 win for the Angels, the magic number for the O’s to clinch dropped down to 7.
This is the math on the magic number: If the Orioles win 7 more games and reach 102 wins, there is no way for the Rays to pass them in the standings due to the O’s holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. Every further Rays loss reduces the number the O’s would need to reach where the Rays can’t catch them. Every Orioles win helps them get closer to the number. If they really take care of business in Cleveland and things fall apart for the Rays, the earliest theoretical clinch date is Sunday.
All in all, that was a fine series the O’s just played in Houston. They managed to win the Monday game that many people (including me) simply assumed that they would lose due to the hangover effect from Sunday’s beer-and-champagne-soaked celebration. They didn’t lose! They didn’t lose the next day either, and that against an Astros team that’s desperately trying to hold on to the AL West lead, now ahead of two different teams by just half a game.
At 95-57, the Orioles are on pace to win 101 games this season. That would be a 6-4 finish over their final ten games. As a reminder, reaching 99 wins would make this the winningest regular season team in the Camden Yards era of the team, and hitting 100 would be the first time the O’s have ever won 100 games when Earl Weaver was not the manager. I’m sure it would feel pretty good for Brandon Hyde after having two 100+ loss seasons on his resume to have the team hit 100+ wins this year. But I’m also sure that clinching the division is more important to him.
The Orioles are past the contenders now. The Guardians are on the precipice of being eliminated with their own “tragic number” of 1 - that is, one Minnesota win or one Cleveland loss eliminates them. It speaks to the weakness of the AL Central that Cleveland can be nine games under .500 and still only be on the verge of elimination now. After four games against the Guardians, it’s two against the Nationals and a four-game set against the Red Sox. They can’t look past any of these teams! Hopefully they can play to their talent and make these teams look like the jabronis that they are.
Heading out of Houston towards Cleveland was the final Orioles road journey of the season, which meant that it was time for one of those baseball traditions, the rookie dress-up ritual. This year, embracing the team’s water-heavy theme that has been going on since April, the rookies had to don gear appropriate for Mr. Splash, who has been spraying fans in one left field section for a lot of the seasons.
This piece of theater also involved, apparently, making all of these guys walk towards the team bus in the flippers. There is no video of this that I have seen, but can you just imagine? It’s fun how much the players have really embraced this stuff.
Around the blogO’sphere
Strap in, because we’ve got a lot to get through! The Orioles are a hot topic, folks.
General public sale of Orioles postseason tickets happens TODAY (Orioles)
If you do not have your tickets yet, be aware that this is beginning at 10am Eastern today. You can find the information on the team’s website in the above link.
Wait, FanGraphs is too low on the Orioles AGAIN? (FanGraphs)
One FanGraphs writer attempts to explain why FanGraphs models have persistently underrated the Orioles this season. You can decide if you find it convincing or not.
Orioles place Mountcastle on injured list, recall McKenna (Baltimore Baseball)
There was one roster move yesterday, as the O’s finally put Ryan Mountcastle on the injured list with what they announced as AC joint inflammation. Mountcastle had been out of the starting lineup for seven straight games. The move can only be backdated by three days, though, so he’ll still miss at least one more week beyond now. I don’t know why the team didn’t do this days ago, but it hasn’t impacted much.
Kjerstad on O’s player development: “They have a great eye for talented hitters and a great way of developing us” (Steve Melewski)
As long as we are into the Mike Elias stewardship of the Orioles, I still get excited when the players come along and give quotes like this. It just... wasn’t happening before.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, Astros coach Joe Espada’s bond goes past baseball (The Athletic)
A baseball connection that was forged when the two were on the staff of the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2006 was strengthened by a personal connection when Espada married Hyde’s wife’s sister. This is a good read. If you usually don’t bother reading Bird Droppings links, you should read this one!
Breaking down Orioles prospect Seth Johnson, a pitcher acquired in the Trey Mancini trade (The Baltimore Banner)
Jon Meoli, who’s had a lot of prospect-focused coverage for the Banner all season, closes out his looks at pitchers on the farm with the recently-returned-from-TJ Johnson.
Austin Hays follows the numbers, and trusts the process (FanGraphs)
Two in one day on FanGraphs! This is a David Laurila special that really gets into interesting quotes from the player.
Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries
Of all the players to ever play for the Orioles, only one has a birthday today. Happy 37th to lefty reliever Zach Phillips, who posted a 3.21 ERA and 5.05 FIP in 16 games across the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: novelist H.G. Wells (1866), composer Gustav Holst (1874), animator Chuck Jones (1912), producer Jerry Bruckheimer (1943), actor Bill Murray (1950), musician Faith Hill (1967), and rapper Wale (1984).
On this day in history...
In 1435, the Kingdom of France and the Duchy of Burgundy concluded the Treaty of Arras, which led to Burgundy switching sides from England to France in the Hundred Years’ War. Philip, the Duke of Burgundy, was willing to ally with France even though French king Charles VII was involved in the murder of Philip’s father.
In 1780, early American traitor Benedict Arnold committed his famous betrayal as he handed over the plans to West Point to the British.
In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor received unanimous approval in the Senate to become a Justice of the Supreme Court, making her the first female justice in the court’s history. Four women sit on the court today.
And that’s the way it is in Birdland on September 21. Have a safe Thursday. Go O’s!