We know who the perennial powers in baseball have been over the past several years. The Braves are on the verge of winning six straight division titles, have the best record this year and are looking to win their second World Series in the last three years. The Astros seem to go to the League Championship Series every year and have played in the World Series four times since 2017, winning two of them. Dodgers? They won they division every year, and they have played in three world championships since 2017, winning one in 2020.
The Yankees may be struggling to get past the Red Sox and out of last place this season, but the last time they missed the postseason was in 2016. The Red Sox have still won four World Series this century.
Orioles? They are in the midst of a breakout season and appear poised to join the list of perennial contenders.
Two years ago at this time, the O’s were in the midst of losing 100 games for the third time in four years and the only time they didn’t do that was in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season. He made it to the ALCS, in 2014, and at times seemed like a very distant memory like Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s record.
But now, as powerhouses like the Braves, Astros and Dodgers continue to return to action for big runs in October, it’s the Orioles who have become as big a story as any team in baseball so far this season. The Orioles have the second-best record in the sport, just three games behind the Braves. It’s the Orioles who continue to play like a bunch of kids who have taken over the manager’s office.
Here’s one way to look at how far the Orioles have come:
At the 2022 All-Star break, they were 17 games behind the Yankees. Coming out of this weekend, the Orioles now have a 19 1/2 game lead in the AL East. After taking two of three games from the Red Sox at Fenway Park last weekend, the Orioles are 17 1/2 games ahead of them, meaning they are 37 games better than the Sox and Yankees.
With 20 games left to play, the Orioles continue to hold off a Rays team that started 13-0. If having the Yankees in last place this late in the season is a pretty big surprise in baseball, having the Orioles in first place in September, ahead of the Rays and Blue Jays and everyone else, is a pretty big surprise.
“The Orioles have been on a roll since 2021 in September,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the other day. “They were swinging before, and they were swinging a lot. Now their chase rate is down. They’re putting the ball in play, they’re playing good defense. There’s a reason they’re the best team in the American League.”
Now the only chase rate is for the teams chasing them in the East. The Orioles have made the kind of move to the top of their division that we kept expecting the Blue Jays to finally make. They’re young, they’re talented, they’re not at all surprised to be where they are and they still have a blast. In addition to everything else, the man in charge in Baltimore is Brandon Hyde, who will likely win Manager of the Year in his league.
The Orioles don’t have the type of loaded batting order that the Braves have. That doesn’t change the fact that they are having as much of a moment in the American League as the Braves are in the National League. They had just reeled off seven straight wins before the Red Sox cut them off on Sunday. They have already won seven more games than they did a year ago.
“Our team has come together,” Hyde said before the start of the Red Sox series. “Now hopefully we can finish the season strong.”
Nothing the Orioles have done to this point, even with the constant questions about their pitching staff, makes you seriously doubt they won’t finish strong. They are the ones who are set up to always be winners in the future, whatever happens to them once they return to October.
Sports are still at their best when they surprise us. The Orioles surprised everyone but themselves. We knew they were going to be good. We had no idea they would be this good. We knew they were coming when they came after last season. We didn’t know they would come this strong or this fast.
But another beauty of sports is that there is no timetable for such moments. Orioles fans have waited a long time, through a lot of losses, to get what all fans want, a team with a chance. The Orioles have given their fans that kind of opportunity.
“If you don’t have good dreams, all you have are nightmares,” says Mickey Rourke’s character in the wonderful Baltimore movie Diner.
The Orioles had nightmare seasons when they kept giving up 100 runs. And now the dream comes, ahead of schedule. If they only play .500 ball the rest of the way, they’ll win by 100 this time.
(tags for translation) MLB