Here we are on the eve of the final month of the baseball season, and for the first time in many years the games being played have meaning – for the Orioles! I can remember a time when this was the normal Birds experience, but lots of fans – like my own sons – have no real memory of such a time. But to see this return to “the Orioles way” is very cool!
In the middle of August, with 17 games remaining before the dawn of September, I wrote of a hope and goal to see the Orioles win 10 of those games. They did it! Today was the 10th win since that time – against 5 losses (with the first Yankees game to yet play, and a rainout to be made up in September against Toronto). Over this 15-game stretch, the team only actually outscored opponents by a mere 5 runs, but winning close games and not sweating large occasional losses has been the defining mark of this unusual season.
Buck Showalter is going to have to draw upon all his considerable baseball coaching skills to take the Orioles successfully through the final 20% of this season. Especially interesting will be his use of starting pitchers. With Joe Saunders being added to the team, and Jason Hammel about to return, there is quite a logjam with five other effective starting arms – Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, and Miguel Gonzalez. And this does not even include Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz! But as I’ve said before, I believe the roster expansion is likely to help the Orioles organization more than their primary opponents for the playoffs.
This long list of pitchers is of course the work of Dan Duquette. My mind goes back to a snowy and cold winter day at FanFest. In one of the sessions, Nick Markakis was asked of his impressions about all the personnel additions that had transpired over the winter. In his typically quiet manner, Nick replied, “We sure are stockpiling a lot of arms around here!” And the pile continues today with the signing of veteran Randy Wolf.
I have no idea how Showalter is going to deal with all of this. Certainly he is being given a shed full of every imaginable tool to use – with plenty of extras if one breaks. It is difficult to criticize Duquette, given all the moves that have worked out surprisingly well. But Sauders did not impress in his first showing, and Wolf has troublesome statistics this season. I have to say that I am not excited about these two moves. I’d rather that the Orioles “dance with the ones that brung ya.” But, time will tell! Less successful and inspiring names have helped the Orioles in unlikely ways all season!
It is almost September, and the Birds are still in it! The Yankees clearly hear the footsteps behind them. That is … well … salubrious!