The Orioles are the champions of the American League East for the 2023. They will get a bye through the first round of the postseason. They do not have to play a game from October 2-6. They are guaranteed home field advantage for any round of the AL portion of the postseason that they will play in. They did this thing and they sealed it with several games to spare.
This is also a 100 win team. 100 wins! They are in triple digits. It has not happened for the Orioles in 43 years. The team is more than 40 games over .500 - a distinction that has otherwise only been achieved by Orioles teams in 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1979. Every one of those teams made it at least to the World Series. Starting eight days from now, the 2023 Orioles will take their shot to equal that.
A quick and dirty month-by-month look at how they got here:
Despite a 4-5 start that included that dreaded Ryan McKenna play in Boston on the second day of the season, the Orioles rallied for a dominant month, only trailing for the division lead by 3.5 games even though the Rays started off the season 13-0. The team overcame the short injury to Kyle Bradish and the early struggles of Grayson Rodriguez.
Jorge Mateo was the best player for the first month, batting .347/.395/.667 in 83 plate appearances. Yennier Cano did not allow an earned run in 11.2 innings pitched in the month. Kyle Gibson was the winning pitcher in four of his six starts and the loser in none.
In terms of runs allowed, this was the worst month for Orioles pitchers, as they gave up 131 runs, or 4.68 runs per game. The team had a winning month anyway! Cano and Félix Bautista continued to be excellent, combining for only five earned runs allowed in 26 outings between the two of them. Wells continued his pace as the MLB WHIP leader. Gibson was still good. Bradish was good.
It was Anthony Santander who helped to carry the offense through May, with seven home runs and 22 runs driven in and 1.5 fWAR for the month. Adley Rutschman and Cedric Mullins were also pretty darn good.
Only barely over .500 for the month, but they were still over for the month! Every month was a winning month this year. That’s part of what got the Orioles here.
Gunnar Henderson stepped up in May, hitting six home runs. New arrival Aaron Hicks batted .250/.372/.486 over the course of the month, surprising everyone (or at least me) who was dreading him being the replacement for an injured Mullins. Austin Hays and Ryan O’Hearn, another 2023 surprise, also had solid months here.
Bautista continued his excellence at the back of the bullpen. He didn’t walk a batter all month and saved seven games. Cano kept a low ERA even as batters started hitting him more often.
The best Orioles winning streak of the year ran ten games from July 5 to July 16. Four Orioles were in the All-Star game: Rutschman, Hays, Cano, and Bautista. That was fun. On July 19, the Orioles secured at least a tie for the division lead that they did not relinquish for the remainder of the season from that point.
Bautista did not allow an earned run during the whole month. Rodriguez returned from Triple-A and started showing that he could be the elite pitcher we were all hoping for. Mike Baumann had a solid month of pitching and continued his pattern of being the win “vulture,” grabbing wins in three games. Bradish was still good. Dean Kremer had a good month.
Henderson once again led the way with six homers. He slugged .500 over 25 games played. Rutschman and O’Hearn each had good months once again.
Another eight home runs for Santander! And five apiece for Ryan Mountcastle, returned from his bout with illness and vertigo, as well as Henderson. Backup catcher James McCann had some strong performance in his limited action. Rutschman and Hays were good, again.
The trio of Bradish, Rodriguez, and Kremer made five starts apiece and all had ERAs that start with 2. Cano and Cionel Pérez had 0.00 ERA for the month. So did Danny Coulombe. Waiver wire acquisition Jacob Webb pitched in 12 games with a 1.69 ERA. It did not matter, in the long run, that trade targets Shintaro Fujinami and Jack Flaherty were erratic and with bad overall results.
Record: 17-9 (so far)
In the middle of this month, it seemed like the Orioles might be having this thing get away from them. A season-long four-game losing streak from September 12-15 seemed like it might herald the end of the not-swept streak and the O’s time atop the division. Neither of those things happened. The not-swept streak is now at 91 straight series, or the entire career of Rutschman plus one series before that.
The O’s rallied on consecutive weekends to split four-game sets after losing the first two games. That included the crucial four-gamer against the Rays that guaranteed the O’s would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rays. The O’s went into that with a two game lead and left it with a two game lead. At that point, the Orioles still needed to take care of business, and they did. They bounced back to split with the Guardians after a three-game losing streak that saw them lose in walkoff fashion twice.
Bautista, who got hurt at the end of August, did not play a part - the team was able to move towards the clinch without him. Four different relievers recorded saves. Rodriguez and Bradish dueled for greatness. Gibson got back to good form. John Means returned and had a crucial long start in the Guardians series.
Another month, another six Henderson homers. As of the night of the clincher, he is tied with Santander with 28 home runs for the team lead. Rutschman had an OBP over .400 for the month and slugged over .500. Hicks and Ramón Urías were over the .400 OBP mark as well. Prospect Jordan Westburg had his best big league month yet.
It all adds up to 100 wins. There are three games left to see if they can win more. The Orioles are eleven postseason wins away from winning the World Series.
Looking for some more AL East clinching exuberance? Listen to my podcast episode reacting to the team’s accomplishment with a little something good to say about almost all of the whole roster.