MLB teams all play 162 games, and it’s cliche` to submit that they all count the same. Guess what folks? – they do. However you can’t go through the season and after seeing how it ebbs and flows argue that some games aren’t just a bit more important based on where teams are in the standings, how they’re playing, etc. That’s a part of any sport, and baseball is no exception.
So I would submit that the next two-and-a-half weeks (beginning tomorrow) are the most important of the season for the Baltimore Orioles. There are some reading this who will disagree given the fact that each game still only counts as one in the standings. However again, each season ebbs and flows differently. Tomorrow night the O’s will head to Oakland for three (games), Anaheim for three, Seattle
for four, and then after a day off at home they’ll host Anaheim and Seattle each for three games.
The O’s are of course ten games above .500, however if they were an AL West team they’d only be in third place. The successes of Oakland have been well-documented league wide, and Anaheim and Seattle have come on well of late also. So due to the competition that the Orioles will be facing, this next sequence of upcoming games could very well factor into the end game for the 2014 season.
Again, some people aren’t going to like that blanket statement, and that’s okay. However the Orioles probably started playing their best baseball in the 2-3 weeks leading up to the all-star break. Look north of the border to Toronto; they played their best baseball in May and June. It seemed like for quite some time that team just couldn’t lose. When teams are getting what appear to be base hits only to have their players thrown out at first base from the outfield, you know you’re really in control of things.
Toronto was being crowned as the princes of the AL East for quite a few weeks – and then they hit the west coast. They were swept in a four-game set in Oakland, and they dropped two-of-three in Anaheim. So the question is whether or not that was due to the fact that they were playing the west, or because perhaps they were having a weak stretch, or maybe something else…? That’s beside the point in reality. The point here is that the AL West is a tough division. The O’s found that out first hand in June when Oakland took two-of-three at Camden Yards.
And that’s why this upcoming stretch will end up as the most important stretch of the season – in my view. The Orioles are only in first place to begin with because they were coming on strong while Toronto was getting their behinds handed to them on the west coast. The road trip starts in Oakland, which as we all know is not an easy park in which to play. It’s long been heralded as the most miserable park out there from the perspective of visiting ballplayers. However the past few seasons the Birds have had some respectable showings there, and the dimensions of the park might play well for Oriole pitchers who at times can have trouble keeping the ball in the yard.
Fans will remember the September 2012 trip to Oakland in which the Orioles were able to steal some games so as to assist in getting them to the post season. However all of that is in the past; this upcoming trip this weekend is what they need to focus on right now. And as I said, the road doesn’t get any easier; Anaheim was coming on strong at the break, and Seattle’s overachieved thus far in 2014.
Let’s not kid ourselves however, as the reverse is also true; those teams can’t be particularly thrilled to see the Orioles pop up at this time. The fact is that either way, the entire league will have been off since Sunday. So there could be a certain unpredictability to quite a few teams coming up this weekend. Bear in mind, the fact that I say these games in the next two weeks plus are the most important doesn’t mean that they count any more or any less than any other games. I just believe that based on how the season has shaken down thus far, we’ll point back to this coming sequence of games and say that they were the key to whatever happened in the end.