In part three of this five-part series, we take a look at the Baltimore Orioles and their chances to reach the postseason.
The Orioles are currently racking up the wins. But as the saying goes, it is better to be lucky than good, and the Orioles are not enough of the latter to continue their torrid surge. Their hitters have become the old men of the American League East. They have been hitting a surprising number of home runs, but their strikeout rate is beginning to get ugly. They have also been curmudgeons on the base paths, getting caught stealing far more often than they can successfully swipe a bag. And Nick Markakis, once thought of as an outfield anchor, has seen his average go on a southern migration for the last few years. Though the pitching has been steady, and at times exceptional, their starters have been getting roughed up a little more often now. Their top pitcher, Jason Hammel, has only faced teams struggling offensively, the Blue Jays twice, and is due to regress.
The runs are piling up as savvy off-season acquisition Wilson Betemit is putting up solid numbers and catcher Matt Wieters is hammering the ball over the walls of Camden Yards. The revival of J.J. Hardy continues while Adam Jones could make another All- Star Game appearance as his clutch hitting and eight home runs have been leading the Orioles to victory after victory. The starting pitching has been sufficient to cover for the batsmen, and the bullpen has dominated, as closer Jim Johnson has yet to allow a run.
So far, the Orioles have handled the Red Sox and Blue Jays, and can continue to do so since these teams are not as balanced as the Orioles, lacking either pitching or hitting. The Yankees and Rays are a completely different story, with one boasting dominant starting pitching, the other a gauntlet of home run hitters.
The Orioles are as much a feel-good story as the Washington Nationals, who fared well in their first half season in D.C. But April and May smiles won’t save the Orioles from another collapse and missed postseason.