Following yesterday’s loss at Boston, the Baltimore Orioles’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is Cal Ripken Sr’s #7. For those who’ve forgotten how that’s calculated since the Orioles haven’t been in the playoffs for so long, that means any combination of Oriole wins and losses by the teams chasing them that equals seven, and the Orioles are in. (So an Oriole win and an Anaheim loss would actually put it down to five.). These are exciting times in Baltimore; as I said, it’s been a long time since Orioles fans have needed to calculate a magic number. One only needed to watch last night’s Ravens’ game and hear the massive chant of O! that went up during the national anthem to know how happy Baltimore is to have autumn baseball back again.
The Birds lost an uneventful 2-1 game at Fenway yesterday which snapped a six-game winning streak. However the main highlight from the game was the fact that rookie Dylan Bundy made his major league debut late in the eighth inning. Bundy was summoned with one out in the eighth and given the task of recording two outs to get the team out of the inning. He induced pop flys to the outfield on the first two batters he faced, sending Boston down in the inning. I suppose the only criticism I’d make of the Orioles here is that your big league debut is a pretty big deal. In this case if a guy makes his debut out of the bullpen there’s no way of knowing when or if it’s coming. It just kind of happens; in Bundy’s case, his family had already left Boston on Friday although they’ll be joining the team in Baltimore. At any rate, I suppose the idea is to let him get his debut over with so that when he’s ready to be a full-fledged starter the butterflies of actually pitching in the show have already passed.
This begins the final full week of regular season league play for the Orioles, and they’ll get it started tonight with a traditional single-admission doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays. Game one will begin at 4 PM (Henderson Alvarez vs. Steve Johnson), and game two (Ricky Romero vs. Wei-Yin Chen) will begin roughly 20-25 minutes after the completion of game one (but not before 7 PM). Given that the Orioles have two games today, that magic number could go down to four by the end of the day. They also have an opportunity to take the division lead back from NY, who opens a three-game set in Minnesota tonight. If the Orioles sweep the doubleheader (a tough task under any circumstances) and Minnesota beats NY tonight, the O’s would have a half-game lead in the American League East.
When the Orioles went to the playoffs in 1996 and ’97, these scenarios were already tied up by this point in the season. So it’s really been a long time since Baltimore’s seen games this impactful at this point in the season. I suppose one would have to go back to 1989 when they seemingly shocked the world (similar to this season) all year only to lose a shot at the playoffs in the season’s final weekend in Toronto. Obviously we hope for better results this time around, however the makeup of this team is so strong that I just can’t see them faltering. They obviously need to keep winning until the very end, but at the very least we know that the effort will be there and that they’ll play to the last out. We’re down to crunch time here folks; when the going gets tough, the tough get going.