You often hear in baseball about a "team of destiny" once the playoffs roll around. This team could be dealing with any circumstance. They could be playing for their city in the wake of a tragedy, they could be playing to honor a teammate who suffered a serious injury, it could be anything at all. Could this year's Orioles be the "team of destiny" in the playoffs this year?
Stats are prior to beginning of play September 19
The Orioles are not "lucky" this year
In many sports with shorter seasons, you can always look back to a game where they got "lucky." The NFL campaign is so brief that each game accounts for nearly 6% of the year. To get a fortunate bounce on a punt or have your opponents miss a short field goal can be all a team needs to sneak into the playoffs. Baseball is a different story. 162 games of pure grind leaves little room for "luck." With each contest tallying .62%~ for the year, a squad that reaches October is not relying on chance.
Baltimore is not a "lucky" baseball club. Their 94-56 record shows that they have outperformed the majority of major league teams. Particularly, the Birds have topped the AL East so far. Tampa Bay, a ballclub that many pundits like to say are superior to the Orioles, are 5-8 when facing the O's. Toronto, an expected wild card squad, are 3-10 against Brandon Hyde's boys. Two playoff and divisional rivals; an 18-10 showing from Baltimore.
The Orioles have a chance to take the season series over Houston this week as their record against the Astros stands at 2-2 entering play on Tuesday. Houston is one of the best teams in baseball at the moment. Baltimore beating them in Texas while both clubs are fighting for a divisional title could only come from grit and superior performances.
4-2 facing the Mariners, 3-3 against the Rangers and a 4-2 record when playing the Twins round out an 11-7 stretch from the O's for their matches against fellow American League playoff teams.
So, where are these dastardly claims of "luck" coming from? A Baltimore team that is 49-26 on the road with a +123 run differential is surely just a talented baseball team. Well, there have been games where it looks like the Birds have benefitted from fortune, but a closer look at this September stretch reveals just how skilled Brandon Hyde is when it comes to pulling victory from the jaws of defeat.
September 9th, away against Boston, the Orioles completed an incredible feat. Only ten days removed from the heart-stopping game with the Red Sox, very few have forgotten what happened. Baltimore was outhit 23-14 but won 13-12. "Lucky?" No.
The Birds hit over .500 with runners in scoring position. Six hits out of eleven chances towered over Boston's impressive 8/21 performance with RISP. Two relievers allowed multiple hits without giving up a run, but only one Red Sox pitcher was left unscathed.
September 18th, away against Houston; yesterday the Birds played the Astros. It was a tense game that Cedric Mullins won for Brandon Hyde with a 9th-inning three-run home run. An impressive outing from newly returned John Means was immediately negated by Shintaro Fujinami.
The reliever gave up three runs while only recording one out. While not immaculate, Hyde proceeded to utilize five more relievers and pinch-hit multiple times to take the Orioles from a losing position on three occasions, to a nervy but incredible 8-7 victory.
Depth, clutch, wit, whatever you want to call it, Baltimore have it. They are the second-best team in the MLB for many reasons. To think that this season started with Ryan KcKenna's dropped fly-ball that handed the Red Sox a 2-1 series win in Fenway. Since then it has been all Birds.
The streak of not getting swept, Gunnar Henderson's expected Rookie of the Year campaign, John Means' return, Ryan O'Hearn's reinvention under Hyde and the hitting staff, Grayson Rodriguez and Jordan Westburg getting called up: the O's are not the "lucky" team; they are the better team.