Although the Birds have again failed to live up to expectations this season as they’ve strung together their 14th consecutive losing season, their strong performance throughout September resonates hope for next year.
The Orioles finished the final month of the season with a 16-12 record, which was their only winning month of the entire year. Not to mention, they played the role of spoiler against the Red Sox as they won five of seven this month and essentially eliminated them from the playoff picture last night.
For those of you who missed the game last night, it was a wild one. After an hour plus rain delay and many missed chances by the Birds to regain the lead, again they were able to take down Jonathon Papelbon. With a 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th, it looked as if Boston would at least force a one-game playoff with the Rays at worst.
But, super utility man Robert Andino came through in the clutch again! After a game-tying double by outfielder Nolan Reimold with two down, Andino laced a low line drive to left field. It dropped just in front of Carl Crawford and Reimold raced around to score the winning run.
Although the Birds only won 69 games all season, aforementioned, 16 of those victories came in the last month of the year. They really played their hearts out this month and if this is any indication of next season, it will be an exciting and magical year in Birdland.
September vs. the Red Sox
Historically, any Orioles fan knows that the Sox have dominated the Birds over the past 14 years, and up until this month, they had this season as well. Entering September, the Birds were only 3-8 against the Sox. But, amazingly, the Birds won the last two series and finished 8-10 vs. the Sox this year.
Series in Boston
Although the Birds were able to win those five games, their starting pitching really struggled against the former AL East Champs. In the seven contests, their rotation sported an inflated 7.83 ERA. Collectively, they tossed only 31 innings (about 4.1 per outing) and they surrendered 27 earned runs (29 total).
In five of the seven games, their starters allowed at least four earned runs and only two times a starter last six innings or more. In the four game series at Boston, the starters really had a hard time getting outs. They tossed only 16.1 innings and gave up 18 earned runs!
Former phenom and prized left-handed starting pitcher Brian Matusz ended his season in horrific fashion as he lasted only 1.2 innings and surrendered six earned in Boston. Rick VandenHurk pitched to a no decision as he lasted only three innings and allowed four earned runs (five total).
But, even though the Birds’ starters couldn’t pitch deep into the games, their bullpen pitched magnificently, which allowed their rejuvenated offense to mount comebacks.
With the exclusion of the ugly 18-9 loss in Boston when the pen allowed 12 earned, the Birds’ pen on the road allowed only one other earned run over 9.1 innings (three games, 0.98 ERA). In the final game of the four game set, the pen tossed 2.1 innings without allowing a base hit.
Series at Home
The Birds’ starting pitching this past series in Baltimore performed better, but still not great. Tommy Hunter tossed five innings and allowed only one earned run, but received a no decision as the Birds’ offense battled back and eventually won Monday night 6-3.
Tuesday night, rookie Zach Britton struggled in his final outing of the year as he lasted only 4.1 innings and he surrendered five earned runs in the Birds only loss in the series. Last night, Alfredo Simonmatched Britton’s innings pitched, but allowed only three earned.
The bullpen again pitched very well in the three game series. They tossed a collective 13.1 innings and allowed only four earned runs (2.71 ERA). Overall, their bullpen surrendered 17 earned runs, including the 12 in one game, over 32 innings pitched, which equates to a respectable 4.78 ERA.
You must be wondering how the Orioles have been able to come away with five victories when their starting pitching allowed upwards of seven runs per game. Well, the answer is their offense.
The Birds broke out against the Red Sox over their last two series. They scored a combined 45 runs, which averages out to almost six and a half runs per game (6.43). Infielder Chris Davis and Reimold both sported .333 batting averages, not to mention Andino’s sudden surge of power.
Andino, who had two game-winning hits off of closer Papelbon, smashed two homeruns and drove in nine RBI over the course of the two series. He collected eight hits in 29 at-bats (.276 average) and really came through in the clutch.
Catcher Matt Wieters went six for 21 in six games with two home runs and four RBI against the rival Red Sox. Reimold, who has been on a tear as of late, compiled six hits as well, in just 18 at-bats, including a home run and six RBI.
Not to mention, the all-time hits leader among Dominican-born MLB players Vladimir Guerrero collected nine hits in 31 at-bats (.290 average), including five RBI. And, shortstop J.J. Hardy crushed two home runs, including his 30th of the season, and four RBI while going eight for 28 against the Sox this month.
So, overall, even though the Birds starting pitching struggled against the always-tough Red Sox lineup, their bullpen stepped up their game, with the exception of the blowout. And, their offense found ways to win ball games and never game up late until the last out was recorded. These last two series are definitely encouraging leading into the off-season and hopefully it will drive the Birds to be better next year.
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Topics: Alfredo Simon, American League East, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Brian Matusz, Buck Showalter, Chris Davis, Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Wieters, MLB, Nolan Reimold, Playoffs, Rick VandenHurk, Robert Andino, Tampa Bay Rays, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton, Vladimir Guerrero, Zach Britton