The Orioles don't have the record they had this time last year, but they're a stronger team.
On Tuesday night, the Orioles flashed some of their 2012 magic against the Yankees at Camden Yards, winning on a 10th-inning walk-off homer hit by Nate McLouth that brought an end to a battle of the bullpens. For last season’s Orioles, who went 16-2 in extra-inning games and 29-9 in games decided by a single run, winning one-run games with walk-offs was a way of life. For the 2013 Orioles, who entered last night 3-3 and 6-6 in such situations, respectively, those victories have been as difficult to come by as they are for the typical team.
“Run differential” was the frequent refrain in any conversation about the Orioles’ success in 2012 and outlook for 2013. Good teams tend to outscore their opponents by a comfortable margin. The Orioles, who went 93-69, outscored their opponents, but barely—their run differential was that of 82-80 team. Some said it was luck and assumed it wasn’t sustainable, while others credited a good bullpen and Buck Showalter, both of whom the O’s brought back.
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The 1999 meeting between Cuba and the Baltimore Orioles did not go well for the major league squad.
The Baltimore Orioles, led by their owner Peter Angelos, made a bid at international diplomacy in 1999. After a large push by Angelos, Major League Baseball and the Cuban government (along with a little help from the State Department, I'm sure) agreed to play a home-and-home series between the Cuban national team and Angelos' Orioles at the start of the season.
The first game was played in Havana in March before a roaring crowd of 50,000-plus. Angelos was joined in the front row behind home plate at Estadio Latinoamericano with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. After the home team tied it up in the bottom of the 8th, the crowd was treated to a 3-2 Baltimore victory when an 11th-inning single from Harold Baines scored Will Clark from second. It was a thrilling but, ultimately, predictable game.
Has the rest of the AL East stolen a march on the Orioles this offseason?
If the Baltimore Orioles don’t have the best backup infielders in the American League next season, it certainly won’t be for lack of effort.
Of the six moves made with players on the 40-man roster this offseason, one was a Rule 5 pick, one was the re-signing of Nate McLouth, and the four others all involve backup infield types, including getting rid of Robert Andino in favor of a returning Brian Roberts and/or maybe Ryan Flaherty at second base.
The Game 1 starters match up again, this time with the series on the line.
With a pitching matchup of two no. 4 starters in a hitter-friendly ballpark, Game Four had the ingredients to become a slugfest. Instead, the Orioles and Yankees combined for only three runs in a 2-1, 13-inning Baltimore win that set the stage for Game Five this afternoon. To get you ready before first pitch, here are the PECOTA odds and projected starting lineups for the winner-take-all Game Five:
PECOTA strongly favors the Yankees to put this series away. But Joe Saunders has upended PECOTA before, and recently.
Game Three was about Joe Girardi’s decision to pinch-hit Raul Ibanez, and Ibanez’s story was this: three pitches seen, two home runs hit, one victory delivered. The Yankees are a win away from bouncing the Orioles and advancing to the ALCS. Will they wrap up the series tonight? Here are the PECOTA odds and projected starting lineups for Game Four:
If the Orioles want to extend their surprise season beyond the wild-card game, they should make the most of what got them there.
An Orioles fan might put money on the O’s to win their wild-card play-in game against Texas tomorrow night, but a betting man wouldn’t, at least with even odds. Then again, by now the betting man may have already gone broke backing Baltimore’s opponents.
The Orioles have spent the whole season surprising people. First they flouted the expectation that they couldn’t compete in the AL East, then the near-certainty that they couldn’t sustain their early-season success (or, for that matter, their success later on in the season). To reach the Division Series, they’ll have to have one more surprise in store.
What role have Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter played in the Orioles' 2012 turnaround?
The Orioles’ storybook season added another amazing chapter on Thursday night, as the O’s pulled off a startling four-run comeback after blowing a five-run lead in the opener of their huge four-game series against the Yankees at Camden Yards. This is Baltimore's first meaningful baseball September in more than a decade, and on the night that the Orioles unveiled a statue of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr, they erupted for six home runs to move back into a tie for the American League East lead.
The Orioles have finished under .500 for 14 consecutive years and have lost 91 or more games in nine of the last 11 seasons, including each of the last six years. But if the season had ended yesterday, the Orioles would have been postseason bound, which represents a remarkable turnaround under General Manager Dan Duquette and Manager Buck Showalter. Credit also has to be given to former GM Andy MacPhail, who hired Showalter in 2010 and laid the groundwork for this team.
The Orioles' success story isn't totally separate from the tragic seasons of the Blue Jays and Red Sox.
On Wednesday night in Toronto, the Baltimore Orioles experienced the unfamiliar feeling of losing a baseball game. The O’s entered the evening tied for first place in the AL East, having gone 21-10 since the start of August, and having made up 10 games since July 18th on the other team atop the division, the New York Yankees.
With each victory and each game gained on the Yankees came another explanation of how a team that had been picked to finish fifth by most pre-season pundits could be winning despite being outscored by its opponents. Many observed that the Orioles were excelling in games decided by one run, often an indicator of a team outplaying its underlying performance. Some pointed out that an effective bullpen can help teams win tight games, while still others thought Baltimore’s bullpen success would prove as ephemeral as its one-run record. More than one wondered whether the O’s league-leading transaction total could be the secret to their success.
The Orioles are surprise contenders behind an excellent bullpen. Or, more accurately, behind a bullpen that has pitched excellently.
Pedro Strop was a utility infielder who spent three years in short-season ball and never slugged as high as .350 before the Rockies decided, in 2006, to try his live arm on the mound. In his first try as a pitcher, he struck out 22, and walked just two, in 13 innings. But the Rockies released him two years later, and the Rangers picked him up, waited him out, and eventually promoted him to the big leagues. He had an ERA over 7, with 22 walks in 27 big-league innings, when they traded him to Baltimore as the non-famous half of an August waiver-period trade for Mike Gonzalez.
That was a year ago this week, and Strop has been far more significant in this year’s pennant race than Gonzalez ever was with Texas. He has the second-best ERA in the American League (minimum 30 innings), and among relievers, his win probability added is sixth, ahead of all but four closers. He has the fifth-best groundball rate in the majors, a fastball that averages 97 mph, and no platoon split worth worrying about. The Orioles entered play Sunday tied for a Wild Card spot, though their playoff odds were just 13.4 percent. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that, without Strop's work this year, those odds would be close to zero.
When the Orioles extended Adam Jones, he was hitting like a player possessed. Now that he's back to being the old Adam Jones, have the deal's detractors been proven right?
The Orioles went 29-18 through May 25th. Since then, they’re two games under .500. You know about the crazy record in one-run games (22-6!), the related crazy record in extra-inning games (12-2!), and the other fluky factors (Pedro Strop’s BABIP!) that have kept a team with a run differential of nearly negative 50 in contention with six weeks of regular season remaining. But for those first two months of the season, something a little less fluky, if equally fleeting, was keeping the Orioles afloat: Adam Jones was on fire.
Jones wasn’t literally on fire. Lighting fires under players is most effective when the flames are metaphorical. In the NBA Jamsense, though, Jones’ bat was burning up. Through the end of May, he hit .314/.365/.618, with 16 home runs. Only Josh Hamilton and Edwin Encarnacion hit more over the same span. Jones’ career high for homers was 25, and he was on pace to blow by that before the end of June. I mentioned the Orioles’ record through May 25th earlier, not just because it made for a convenient arbitrary endpoint, but because the following day, they signed Jones to a six-year, $85.5 million extension. That day, May 26th, was a good day to be an Orioles fan, which is not something you can say about very many days since, oh, 1997 or so. The O’s were in first place, Adam Jones was by far their best player, and he’d agreed to be in Baltimore until 2018. If you looked closely, there wasn’t a lot to like about the 2012 Orioles. But there was plenty to like about Jones.