Thursday, August 14, 2008

Orioles: It's Off to Detroit and Then What - A Look at the Rest of the Season


The rest of the year is not going to be easy, but the Orioles are heading in the right direction regardless of how the stats size up compared to this point last year.

Orioles score 8 runs in the 8th to break 3-3 tie to beat Cleveland Indians 11-6; gain split for series.

Beginning tomorrow night in Detroit, the Orioles begin a stretch from now until September 24, the completion of their next to last series of the season, where they will play three series, ten games that are not against teams in their respective division races. (Their opponents – Cleveland, Toronto, and Oakland) The Tigers are the least competitive of the contenders they’ll face. In fact, it might be polite to call them contenders at all. As such a feisty Orioles performance could all but finish the Tigers’ chances of any post season play. Of remaining contenders, the New York Yankees, yes, those guys, are the weakest of the lot in 3rd place at 64-57, 9.5 behind first place Tampa Bay, six games back in the Wild Card chase. The remaining contenders are Tampa Bay and Boston from the East, Chicago and Minnesota in the Central. Of these five contenders, two will be division winners and one will be the Wild Card as there is no strong competition still standing in the West.

This year on August 14, the Orioles stand at 58-62 only slightly ahead of their pace on the same date, last year at 55-63. On August 14th of last year, the Orioles shut out the Yankees 12-0 and beat them again the following night, they’d go on to Toronto and lose two out of three, and came home on 20th to be rained out against Texas. Little would anyone expect as they beat the Texas Rangers the following night, they were on the eve of one of the most dreadful days in Orioles history as they’d play a double header to makeup for the rain out. In the first game, at the end of the third inning, all looked well as the Orioles led 3-0; however, what would follow would make the sinking of the Titanic look like a pebble thrown in the brook. The Rangers scored six runs in the top of the 4th, nine runs in the 6th, ten runs in the 8th, and for good measure six runs to start the 9th. The final tally was 30 runs for the visiting Rangers on three for the lowly hometown Woe-O’s. They’d drop the nightcap 9-7 then go on to lose 26 of their remaining 37 games still finishing in 4th place over Tampa Bay, but guess where Tampa is this year?

Those who’ve followed the Orioles so far this year can see progress though the results right now show only three more victories and one less loss. Were the Orioles to maintain their present pace, they’d finish at 78 and 84, a nine game improvement over last year, hardly the .500 or slightly better finish that would officially mark a return to modest respectability. Let's be realistic, given the opposition the Orioles face between now and the final weekend, maintaining the current pace will be extremely difficult especially on the road where fans will be roaring their support for the home team being hot in the pennant chase. There will be no pennants in Baltimore. The prospects of a winning season are not very likely, but for a team that was predicted to finish in dead last (where they will most likely finish barring a Toronto collapse), this is a team that the experts would have expected to lose 95-105 games and look like fools getting there.

The Birds only have two starters from their opening day roster, Jeremy Guthrie and Daniel Cabrera. Starting centerfielder, Adam Jones is likely out for the year, with the shortstop position remaining a revolving door. The three remaining starting positions in the rotation consist of personnel going up and down the Chesapeake between Baltimore and Norfolk.

What success the Orioles have had this year has been earned with honor as the breaks have not gone their way. The remainder of the year is going to be rough, very rough.

The bright side is a number of players are shaping up to be solid every day players for the future and the bullpen is greatly improved. When rosters expand on September 1, Orioles of the future from Norfolk and Bowie will have the chance to play in tough competition to help them grow into the foundation of the Orioles who could be contending for top honors two or three years in the future.

The biggest change between this year and last regardless of what the end results might show is that in August of 2008, the Orioles DO have a future. Bring on the contenders. Let the Camden crazies play spoiler as the season heads down its final stretch. It might not be winning ball, but it will be enthusiastic all out baseball.

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