PiR: O’s Back in the Postseason Yet Again

Tommy Hunter holds an armful of beers as a teammate dumps champagne on his head.

Reality: The Orioles have made the playoffs three times in the last five seasons.

Perception: After not even getting to .500 from 1998 to 2011, this stat still gives me chills.

There is a lot that goes into that… the start of the Manny Machado era. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter arrived. And yes, the cartoon bird too. It was a total change in the culture in Baltimore that enabled the Birds to start winning… and they have kept on winning.

I was watching the post-game locker room celebration Sunday night and my wife had dinner for my family on the back porch. But I told her that I was going to sit inside and watch. She probably wasn’t happy with me, but afterwards I told her that this hasn’t happened very much in my lifetime and I just wanted to watch. (She is from New England… she sees this all the time, so she doesn’t understand.)

Some say that the baseball locker room stuff is silly, but when it’s your team it’s not. It’s great. No other sport may celebrate a playoff appearance like that, but after such a long season, it’s nice to just cut loose and enjoy for one night. I may not have been in that locker room, but I enjoyed it just the same.

Reality: The player with the most home runs in baseball has resided in Baltimore for the last four years.

Perception: Duquette did a nice job signing Nelson Cruz and getting Mark Trumbo on one-year deals and they turned (and will turn) those career years into big contracts. Unfortunately, those big contracts also moved (or will move) them out of Charm City.

But even with the home run leader each of the last four seasons, the Orioles offense has definitely been on a roller coaster each season. They have gone through big dry spells and also explosive streaks. And yes, it continued this year… so much so that it cost the Orioles a division title.

Before the All-Star break, the Birds were 5th in the Majors in batting average and 8th in On-base percentage. After the break, they were 28th in batting average and 28th in OBP.

Thankfully, the Birds offense seems to have awoken at the right time.

The Orioles scored 5, 3, 4, 8, 3, and 5 runs in their last two series. That’s much better than the previous nine games when they only scored over three runs once.

They will need to find ways to score more than three runs Tuesday, if they want to continue to play this October.

Reality: Zach Britton has the lowest ERA of any pitcher in MLB history with at least 50 innings pitched.

Perception: Think about that for a minute. 0.54 Earned Run Average over 69 games. 47 saves in 47 tries. 74 strike outs in 67 innings. Pretty much a perfect season. So much so that national writers are starting to recognize that feat and are going to vote for him to win the Cy Young award.

Simply put, Britton had the greatest season of any relief pitcher in Major League Baseball history.

But it wasn’t just Britton who made their bullpen great.

Donnie Hart had an ERA of 0.49 in his 22 games, giving up just 12 hits and 1 earned run in 18.1 innings.

Darren O’Day didn’t have his best season but still had an ERA of 3.77 in 34 games.

Mychal Givens was phenomenal most of the year with a 3.13 ERA in 66 games.

Brad Brach ended the year with a 2.05 ERA in 71 games, but had a 0.91 ERA in his first 40 games this year.

The O’s bullpen was 3rd in the majors (1st in the AL) in ERA at 3.40. Batters hit just .243 against the Orioles bullpen this year, good for 6th in the AL.

The playoffs many years come down to pitching, and specifically the bullpen. The O’s have the pen that can help them win games in October.

Reality: The Orioles travel to Toronto to face the Blue Jays in a winner-take-all AL Wild Card game.

Perception: The O’s and Jays played 19 times this season with only one game separating the two. The Orioles won nine and the Blue Jays won 10. Baltimore scored 74 runs, while Toronto scored 97 runs, but the O’s out-hit the Jays 168 to 157.

But the number that might mean the most, at least mentally, is that the Orioles won the last two games in the Rogers Centre just last week, even shutting out the Jays in their last meeting. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched that game, giving up just a single hit over 6.2 innings. It’s his turn in the rotation, but as I’m writing this, the Orioles have not announced who will start Tuesday night.

If Buck gives Jimenez the ball, he’ll have a short leash and can afford to, as the off days stack up in the playoffs. If the O’s win, they’ll have Wednesday and Saturday off during the Best-of-5 ALDS against Texas.

These two teams know each other well, and don’t really like each other either… but then again, who likes Toronto?

It’s hard to make a prediction on this game, because the Orioles are just so darn unpredictable. But I do like their chances with the way they are currently playing.

Orioles win 5-3.

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About Joe Polek

Joe Polek
Joe Polek was born in Baltimore, MD, and was raised in Bel Air, MD. In 2001, he moved to Portland, Maine for a job in radio. In 2012, he moved to Columbia, SC for another gig in radio, where he currently resides with his wife, Nicole, and their two daughters....more

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