Final Score: Houston 11, Baltimore, 0.
Oof, not exactly the way a team right in the thick of a playoff hunt wants to end a crucial month of games. The Orioles finished July at an erratic 12-13 (their first losing month this season) and now sit 1/2 game out of the 2nd wildcard spot in the American League behind Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
Wednesday was a busy and uncertain day for the Orioles, with the arrival of the trading deadline. The O’s have been buyers moreso this season than they have been in a long time, picking up starters Scott Feldman and Bud Norris, reliever Francisco Rodriguez, and catcher Steve Clevenger. The team has said goodbye to Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop and L.J. Hoes, among others, as they continue on their quest to get back to the postseason.
At this point last year, the team was 55-49 and coming off a big 11-5 win over the Yankees. The lingering positive effects of “holy cow, how are the Orioles still in it this year” helped the O’s to put together a strong August (18-9) and September (19-9) and scoot into the playoffs as the #2 wildcard. This year, the resilience of the Red Sox, the stellar pitching of the Rays, the timely hitting of the Indians, and the sheer luck of the Texas Rangers have kept all 4 teams, plus the miraculous Yankees (uncomfortable to write but come on, did ANYONE think they would still be fighting for a playoff berth with all of their injuries?!), in the running for those 2 wildcard spots.
With the incredible records that the Orioles had last season in 1-run and extra inning games, Lady Luck was truly on their side. The struggles that the Orioles have endured this season in those same types of games are a testament to how much goes into completing a 162-game season and how difficult it really is. As quickly as Chris Davis and Manny Machado ascended in the 1st half with Davis’s 37 home runs and Machado’s 39 doubles, they have just as quickly cooled off in the 2nd half with just one home run and no doubles, and that’s part of baseball. Davis isn’t getting as many pitches to hit, and the ones he’s getting, he’s just not hitting
— Mark Viviano (@MarkViviano) August 1, 2013
Last year’s Opening Day starter, Jason Hammel, has struggled mightily this season, but Chris Tillman has rounded into form as a strong top level starter. Wei-Yin Chen has bounced back better than anyone could have hoped after two months on the DL. While J.J. Hardy‘s costly error in last night’s loss to Houston is glaring because it eventually lead to Jason Castro‘s grand slam, the team is still well on their way to setting a new record for fewest errors in a season.
Today is August 1st, 54 games are left in the 2013 season. 54 games stand between the Orioles and the post season. The fans and the talking heads will continue to speculate as to whether the Home Run Derby really DID affect Chris Davis’s swing, if Manny Machado is finally hitting the sophomore slump, if Jim Johnson has lost his edge, and why Adam Jones refuses to draw walks, but all of that is out of everyone’s control. What the fans can control is filling Camden Yards full of orange & black for big upcoming series against Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Oakland. At 59-49, the Orioles have not been 10 games over .500 at this point in the season since at least 1997, that’s a big deal!
It’s time to close the door on a tough July and look forward to the months where Matt Wieters‘s batting average tends to rise and the Orioles seem to play their best baseball. If 162 games is a marathon, then August 1st marks approximately mile 20, right about that point when everything hurts and digging deep to find that extra motivation seems impossible. Watching Nate McLouth run full speed and slide to catch a fly ball in center field last night when it was clear the O’s weren’t going to win the game shows the caliber of players brought in by Andy McPhail and Dan Duquette and managed by Buck Showalter. It might have been 11-0 last night, but the guys have shown they will play until the last out, because when it comes to Orioles Magic, anything can happen.