What seemed like a guarantee for a better part of the past month is now official. The Baltimore Orioles are playoff bound. With the Orioles magic number at one, the Cleveland Guardians defeated the Texas Rangers 9-2, officially securing a playoff spot for the Orioles.
Baltimore Orioles secure first playoff appearance since 2016
Of course, the Orioles and Rays were still playing at the time, but now the Orioles have won 5-4 in 11 innings. That gives the Orioles a two-game lead over the Rays for first place in the AL East as they secured a split of the series.
The Orioles of 2023 end the seven year playoff drought in Baltimore, making the postseason for the first time since 2016. They will look to last longer into October than the 2016 squad, who lost in the Wild Card game to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 2014 Orioles were the last Orioles squad to win a playoff series, advancing to the ALCS after winning the AL East and beating the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS. Unfortunately, the Kansas City Royals swept the Orioles once they got to the ALCS.
What still needs to be determined is the race for both the AL East and the number one seed in the AL playoff picture, with the Orioles and Rays neck and neck in both. It seems like a foregone conclusion that whoever wins the AL East will in turn also win the top seed, with the second-place team relegated to the Wild Card round, likely holding the first wild card spot and home field advantage in the Wild Card as a result.
The closest threat to the Orioles and Rays for the top seed in the AL would be the AL West leading Houston Astros, who were nine back of Baltimore and Tampa Bay in the win column entering play on Sunday.
If the Astros were to remain behind Baltimore and Tampa Bay in the standings, which is likely, they would be the second team to get a bye to the ALDS, with either Baltimore or Tampa Bay being the first.
With the Guardians beating the Rangers, the Rays also secured a playoff spot despite ultimately losing in extra innings. The race for the AL East is nowhere near settled, however, with plenty of meaningful baseball still left to play for both the Orioles and Rays.
This week, the Orioles will take on the aforementioned Astros for three games in Houston beginning on Monday. The Rays have Monday off before starting a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
The first hurdle has been cleared, the Orioles are now in the playoffs. However, there are plenty more hurdles remaining before the World Series, which is the end goal. Buckle up, the fun has just begun.