The Baltimore Orioles continue to be a team that’s difficult to figure out. One night (Tuesday) they look so bad in a listless 4-0 loss, and anothe (last night) they suddenly come to life and beat Toronto 12-2. Unfortunately for the Orioles they continue to get no help whatsoever, as Oakland beat Texas last night, the L.A. Angels beat Seattle, and the NY Yankees beat Minnesota. If the Orioles are going to do this they’re going to have to do it themselves because it seems like the teams that are chasing them (and the one that they’re chasing themselves) are refusing to lose. The good news is that this same Toronto team that gave the Orioles so many problems begins a four-game series with NY tonight, and the L.A. Angels go to Texas starting tomorrow.
Ideally Miguel Gonzalez wanted to do something that the Orioles hadn’t done in the last two games, which was not allow Toronto to score in the first inning. Unfortunately Edwin Encarnacion was having none of that, as he hammered a home run to center. There was a feeling of dread at the yard, as many people felt the playoff chase slipping away. However Nate McLouth returned the favor in the last of the inning with a lead off solo shot of his own, and we were tied at one. In fact, the Orioles seemed to be stuck in that same rut of not being able to score, however it seemed that a fifth inning run scored by Toronto to take a 2-1 lead may have opened the dam and brought a deluge down…
…Jim Thome led off the last of the fifth with a homer over the scoreboard in right field to tie the game. Once again, the team and the crowd were right back in it. With two gone in the inning Manny Machado gave the O’s the lead with a homer of his own. (Machado is 20 and Thome 42; according to the Elias Sports Bureau that’s the second-largest age gap for teammates homering in the same inning in history.) McLouth and Hardy both followed that up with singles, to bring Chris Davis to the plate. Davis hit a shot to center that carried…and carried…and carried; until it went over the fence and the game was wide open as the O’s led 6-2.
The Orioles weren’t done at that point, but I’ll spare the play-by-play for the most part. Mark Reynolds hit a two-run homer, Chris Davis hit another homer (two-run), and Manny Machado hit another one as well (two-run). When all was said and done the final score was 12-2. Would you say that the Orioles’ mini-slump is over?! It’s only one game, however the Birds picked a good time to break out. Lost in this offensive firepower is the job that Miguel Gonzalez did last night. As has been said on numerous occasions by various people, the guy has ice water in his veins. He gave up an early homer only to come back and in effect shut Toronto down for the rest of the night. Gonazlez’s line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K. By going deep into the game, Gonzalez also helped save the bullpen a bit given that they worked a doubleheader Monday and long relief was necessary on Tuesday.
The Orioles will enjoy their final off day of the 2012 regular season today before Boston comes to town tomorrow night. I mentioned the teams chasing the Orioles above; Texas and Oakland close out their series this afternoon at 2 PM at Rangers Ballpark. If Oakland is able to sweep that series they’d be even with the O’s in the wild card standings, and in effect they’d be a notch ahead of them given that Oakland won the season series between the teams. (The Orioles can hang their hats on the fact that it’s tough to sweep someone, especially at their place.) The L.A. Angels finish their series with Seattle at 3:30 this afternoon. If Seattle can avoid being swept, the Orioles’ magic number would go down to four.
As I said above, the NY Yankees head to Toronto for a four-game set this weekend, and the L.A. Angels head to Texas. Oakland heads to Seattle, however if the Orioles’ and L.A. Angels’ performances against Seattle are any indication the Birds might not get much help there. The best case scenario for the Orioles is that Texas is able to salvage one against Oakland this afternoon, and then beat up a bit on L.A. this weekend. I do feel that aside from winning themselves of course, the Texas Rangers represent the best way for the Orioles’ magic number to continually go down. Currently it stands at five, however again an L.A. loss this afternoon (and that’s a big “if”) would put it down to four. Given that potential scenario, if Texas and the Orioles both win on Friday and Texas wins on Saturday afternoon, that would make Saturday night’s Brooks Robinson statue celebration game a potential playoff clincher for the Orioles. More realistically I think it’s going to stretch out an extra day; my personal prediction is that the Orioles clinch a playoff spot on Sunday afternoon at home against Boston. But there’s a lot of baseball to be played between now and then.