Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
With their win last night the Baltimore Orioles move to 21 games over .500 and have a nine game lead in the AL East, which is the largest division lead in baseball. Before their three game series in Chicago on Monday, the Orioles had just finished a tremendous stretch playing 36 games against above .500 teams since July 7. In that time the Orioles went 22-14. Now the Orioles have 20 consecutive games against teams with losing records, and don’t play another winning ball club again until the Yankees come to Camden Yards on September 12. This could be an ideal time for Orioles really build some momentum to carry into the playoffs.
The biggest concern for the Orioles between now and the playoffs is getting and staying healthy. The obvious example of this is Manny Machado. It doesn’t take an expert to see that when Machado’s on the field the Orioles are a much better team. He’s a Platinum Glove winner and his extra-base power lengthens an already strong lineup.
Chris Davis has done a decent job at third so far, but you can’t replace the best fielding third-baseman in baseball. Also, Steve Pearce is a decent first baseman, but Davis has turned into one of the best fielding first-baseman in the game so having Machado on the D.L. weakens both corners of their infield. But the Orioles are going to be sure he’s 100% before he comes back. He’s the future face of the franchise so they have reason to be cautious. Orioles’ fans hoping for a speedy recovery are probably going to be disappointed.
One of the greatest strengths of late has been the starting pitching, and one of the main factors of their success has been health. The Orioles have used only 7 starters this season, including the one start T.J. McFarland made, in comparison the Yankees have used 13.
The only issue could be because the starters have made the majority of their scheduled starts every starter could be at or over their career highs in innings going into October. Just to be sure everyone is fresh going into the playoffs, Buck could give certain starters extra days of rest by giving T.J. McFarland or even Steve Johnson some starts in September.
The biggest issue the Orioles could have is monotony. With 37 games left and a nine game lead over the Blue Jays and Yankees the division race is relatively over. If the Orioles only win 19 of their remaining games the Yankees would need to go 29-8 the rest of the way. That’s just not going to happen. Buck’s challenge will be to keep the team from falling asleep at the wheel and backing into the playoffs after a lackluster month. However, if the Orioles could build on their recent success the schedule is set to gather lot of momentum for the playoffs.