After a disappointing loss on Saturday, the Baltimore Orioles came back with vengeance yesterday in San Francisco. Starter Bud Norris had a rough go of things early on, surrendering two runs in the last of the first. Norris’ line: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K. Not a terrible outing by Norris under any stretch of the imagination, however he threw a lot of pitches and struggled by falling behind in counts. However he battled control issues and hung around long enough to keep the O’s in the game.
And perhaps all the Birds needed was a little nudge so to speak. They got it in the form of a sixth inning RBI-triple by Brian Roberts followed by a Nate McLouth RBI-single. Once the Orioles got on the board there was no turning back. Following a Chris Davis double in the seventh, J.J. Hardy promptly seized the lead for the Birds with a two-run homer. A four-run eighth and a three-run ninth inning closed out the 10-2 final.
So you see the rhetorical question posed in the title of this piece. So are the Orioles making “their move” so to speak in terms of the standings? It’s probably too early to tell – and I know that sounds strange to say in August. But if you look back to last August and September, that’s when the Birds started to make their move or their push towards the post season. However you don’t realize that’s what’s going on until it’s done; or at least until further into that “push” than a few games. However let’s not forget that this “study” is not limited to yesterday’s win, or even the series in San Francisco. The Birds swept an admittedly short two-game series in San Diego last week, with various players (including Adam Jones and Chris Davis) stepping up in the clutch at different times.
In June and July Tampa and Boston were the toast of the division and in many cases the league. Tampa went 21-5 during the month of July. There’s no version of reality in which that’s not impressive, however savy baseball fans also know that it’s a pace that’s impossible to keep up. As has been chronicled on Birds Watcher from time to time, both Boston and Tampa had “refused to lose” at almost every turn – until now. Boston dropped three-of-four to Kansas City over the weekend, and Tampa was swept in Los Angeles.
A baseball pennant race is a lot like a basketball game in many ways. Foremost among them is that it’s all about runs. Basketball’s a game of runs, and given that most games are somewhat close the team that goes on it’s run last will generally win. A pennant race is similar in that the team that has it’s final run or push last will generally win. So if June and July belonged to Tampa and Boston, could it not stand to reason that August and September could belong to the Orioles?
It absolutely could, however the fact is that at this point we just don’t know. Given the schedule and the number of times the Orioles will see those teams (and others such as Oakland and Cleveland), I think we’ll start getting our answer in short order. However it’s interesting to note that the Orioles have always finished strong under Buck Showalter. When he arrived he immediately guided the Orioles to their first winning month (August of 2010) in quite some time. However his Oriole teams have always ended the season on positive notes in terms of wins and losses.
With all of this said, the Orioles now sit 4.5 games out of first place, and a game-and-a-half behind second place Tampa. The also sit a game-and-a-half behind Oakland for the final wild card spot. A week ago they were six games back of Boston, so some ground has started to be made up. It will certainly take a lot more than that to move back into a playoff position, however again keep in mind that the Orioles play all of these teams down the stretch. If the Birds don’t lose any ground to Tampa between now and next Monday (when Tampa comes to the yard) and they can take at least two-of three from them, the O’s have suddenly overtaken Tampa in the standings.
All of these scenarios are big if’s, but again Orioles fans should take solace in knowing that the Birds have always finished strong under Showalter. So again, are they making their move? Too early to say, but I think they might be. They’ll try to continue making their move tonight as they open up a three-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. Scott Feldman will get the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Arizona’s Wade Miley. Game time is set for 9:40 PM.