When the Baltimore Orioles clinched the AL East title on Thursday with a win over the Boston Red Sox, they won the top seed in the AL playoff picture, getting a bye to the ALDS as a result. As such, the Orioles won't play until Saturday, October 7, when the ALDS gets underway.
While the Orioles have an extended break, the wild card round will be a cutthroat competition to see who gets the honor of advancing to the ALDS and who goes home. As the top seed, the Orioles will play the winner of the wild card round featuring the 4/5 seeds in the AL. But who are they?
Who could the Baltimore Orioles play in the ALDS this weekend?
On Sunday, the Houston Astros winning combined with the Texas Rangers losing gave the Astros the AL West title. That instead made the Rangers a wild card team and the number five seed in the AL. The last time they made the playoffs was in 2016, when they were swept in the ALDS by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Orioles and Rangers have been very evenly matched this season. In Texas in April, the Orioles took two of three games from the Rangers, while the Rangers took two of three from the Orioles at Camden Yards in May.
The one time the teams have met in the playoffs, the Orioles won by a 5-1 score. That was the 2012 Wild Card game, with Joe Saunders getting the win on the mound and RBIs going to JJ Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Mark Reynolds. The Rangers would certainly present a test to the Orioles, but the team Texas is playing in the wild card team is one the Orioles are quite familiar with.
Who is that team? Well, that's the Tampa Bay Rays, the 4 seed in the playoff picture and the team who will host the wild card series against the Rangers, with either both or all three games being played at Tropicana Field.
The Orioles and Rays have had very entertaining battles this season, but perhaps none more exciting than the game that took place on September 17. That's the day the Orioles clinched a playoff spot with a 11 inning, 5-4 thriller of a game with heroics abound.
Across the entire season, the Orioles have an 8-5 record in 13 tilts with the Rays, going 4-3 at Camden Yards and 4-2 at Tropicana Field. A series against an AL East foe to mark the Orioles first playoff appearance since 2016 would certainly make things all the more intriguing to watch, and every moment would mean even more than it already does.
As far as who will be the starting pitchers for those ALDS games against either the Rangers or the Rays, that's a little more up in the air. Kyle Bradish can safely be penciled in for a start, likely game one on Saturday thanks to his terrific season in the rotation.
Beyond Bradish, you can make cases for all of Grayson Rodriguez, John Means, and Dean Kremer to earn starts in the playoffs. The Orioles will need three starters at minimum in this series no matter how it shakes out. Hyde could opt for more experience and give Means and Kremer starts, or he could bump one of Means or Kremer to the bullpen and give the fireballer Rodriguez the ball in a game two or three.
No matter who starts the games on the mound, the Orioles will have no shortage of talent at their disposal in the playoffs. They have a deep lineup and a dependable bench, along with starting pitching that is dominating at the right time.
Whether it's the Rays or the Rangers, there will be no shortage of excitement around the first playoff baseball for the Orioles since 2016, and the first playoff game at Camden Yards since 2014. Can you feel the playoff energy in the air?