I’m in a baseball frame of mind today, so after blogging about the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier I wanted to address the season of another perennial loser, the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles, it appears, are going to the playoffs. The Orioles, for sure, are going to break a streak of 14 consecutive losing seasonsWho is this man? Why, it's Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson, of course.since 1997 as they surprisingly surge toward 90 wins with manager Buck Showalter, a shoo-in for manager of the year.
The O’s are a robust 83-64. How have they done it?
Smoke and mirrors seems to be a popular answer. Nobody – and I mean NOBODY – expected this kind of season from Baltimore, which had lost 92 or more games in each of the previous six seasons.
So, once again, how have they gotten to 19 games over .500?
Extra-inning magic, that’s how.
Since dropping their first two extra-inning games of the 2012 season to the New York Yankees in April, the Orioles have run off a string of 14 straight wins in extra frames. In those 14 games, Baltimore has played 51 innings and outscored its opponents, 28-2.
Baltimore eked out an 18-inning win in Seattle on Tuesday night, beating the Mariners, 4-2. They also got the best of Seattle in 14 innings on Aug. 7 and have beaten Tampa Bay (twice), Detroit, Philadelphia (twice), Boston (three times), Washington, Kansas City, the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago White Sox in extra innings during this mystical streak.
The Orioles have a bunch of home run hitters and an inexplicably great bullpen, led by Jim Johnson. He’s about as flashy as his name indicates, but Johnson has nailed down 43 saves and has a 2.82 ERA in 63 games.
The rest of the Baltimore bullpen includes a bunch of guys you would turn your nose up about if they showed up in your baseball card package, but they’re the strongest group in baseball. The O’s pen includes Luis Ayala (2.70 ERA, 60 games); Pedro Strop (2.31, 64); Darren O’Day (2.54, 62) and Troy Patton (2.58, 50).
This is a baseball season full of great stories and the Orioles are at the top of that list. In a division with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, it’s Baltimore that has risen to the top with only a handful of players even the most studious baseball fan has heard of.