PiR: Settling in for a Wild Home Stretch in the AL East

Reality: Chris Tillman is 16-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 27 starts.

Perception: Tillman is having a really great year, on pace to have the best season of his career. In 2013, Tillman went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts. Tillman will probably get four more starts during the regular season and he missed about six starts due to injury. It is more than likely that had he stayed healthy, he would be a 20-game winner for the Orioles this season. Yes, Tillman has been that good.

He is not getting talked about in the Cy Young conversation and his injury probably plays a lot into that. Had he stayed healthy and won 20 games, you would have to give him serious consideration.

Tillman continues to be a steady part in an unstable rotation. Sunday he did it again. He just continues to battle and gives the O’s a chance to win. If the Orioles have any chance in the post season, they need Tillman to stay healthy.

Buck Showalter told the media Sunday, “I think the rest did him good. We’re not out of the woods. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and the next day, and whether we need to give him an extra day next time out. We have that ability. We’re going to put our best foot forward each day and see where it takes us. Hopefully, Chris is a part of that.”

He better be a part of that, or there won’t be much of anything for him to be a part of.

Reality: Zach Britton is perfect in save opportunities in 2016.

Perception: 41 times this season Britton has come in to the game with the Orioles “leading by no more than 3 runs and pitched at least one inning,” or has entered “the game with the potential tying run on base, or at bat, or on deck”, and all 41 of those times the Orioles have won the game.

He has an ERA of 0.63 in 57 innings. He has struck out 64 hitters while only giving up 30 hits, and walking 18 (three intentionally).

We can dive into Britton’s stats as much as you want, but they all say just one thing… he is the best closer in baseball and might be the top pitcher in the league.

But, because many people believe that only starting pitchers should win the Cy Young, Britton will not win the award for the best pitcher in the league. Currently, when you look at betting odds, Britton has the 6th best odds to win the award. ESPN’s Cy young Predictor has Britton 3rd, behind Rick Porcello (a 20-game-winner already) and J.A. Happ (an 18-game-winner).

Porcello and Happ have both had great seasons, obviously, so you can’t really complain about either one of those guys winning the Cy Young. However, when you take a look at the history of relief pitchers, Britton very well could be having the best season of all-time. And with the struggles that Orioles have had with their rotation this season, Britton is a huge reason why the Orioles are currently holding a playoff spot.

Reality: There are 20 games left in the MLB regular season, and the Orioles playoff elimination number is 19.

Perception: Look, as a baseball fan, or as an Orioles fan that suffered for so many terrible years, this is all you could have hoped for. The Birds are in the thick of the playoff race in the middle of September. There are many, many ups-and-downs, but they continue to battle day in and day out and are just 2.0 games out in the AL East. They are currently tied for the 1st Wild Card with Toronto.

As they continue to fight for playoff position, they cannot stop. They are 20 games over .500 at home, and six games under .500 on the road. Winning the division would be the best situation for the Orioles as then they would have the best chance for home games and would be guaranteed an entire series. If they are the 1st Wild Card they would get the 1-game Wild Card playoff at home, before being the road team in the majority of their remaining series (until the World Series, anyway). If they were the 2nd Wild Card then all bets are off for this team who struggles to win games on the road.

However, just when you say that, they go on the road to Detroit and take 2-out-of-3 against a team they are fighting against for that 2nd Wild Card.

Baseball is a long season, and there is no way to predict it.

Reality: Of the 20 games remaining, 17 of them are against the AL East.

Perception: Think about that for a minute. Four teams in the AL East are within 4.0 games of 1st place. Three teams are within 2.0 games of the 1st Wild Card. And those teams play pretty much only each other the rest of the way. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Orioles all control their own destiny. Win and they are in. It’s that simple.

Seven of the Orioles’ next 11 games are against the Red Sox. If they want to win the AL East, it is up to them in the next week and a half. So the Orioles need to win five of those seven games against the Sox to be in first place. If they go any worse than 5-2 against Boston, it just makes it nearly impossible to win the division. They still would have a chance to grab a Wild Card, but they would likely have to win two out of three or four in each of the six remaining series.

The final three weeks of the regular season are going to be so much fun. Sit back and enjoy!

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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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