As my tag team partner James noted in a post from Sunday, the Baltimore Orioles won their 66th game of the 2012 season on Sunday, defeating the Detroit Tigers, 7-5.
The victory on Sunday capped yet another strong series for the Orioles. After getting burned by the bats of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder on Friday night; Saturday’s game featured a clutch effort by Zach Britton on the mound as he threw seven shutout innings, and Sunday’s rubber game had Wei-Yin Chen plow through a rough outing and the offense came together again.
This would have been more than likely a series that Baltimore would have lost last season; however, this is clearly a different year under the tutelage of Beck Showalter and they have a much different mindset.
Baltimore believes they can truly beat anymore. That change in mindset in huge and fans can see that when they play on the field.
The mood around the area – heck, even among Orioles fans here is different. A lot of people are thinking big, despite the history shown by this team over past decade-plus. The NFL isn’t even on my mind right now, I’m doing more scoreboard watching than ever and keep up with the sport of baseball more than ever.
The Orioles are only one win away from matching their total from the 2011 season. For the umpteenth time, no one – unless you’re the rosiest of all fans – expected the Orioles to finish .500, much more contend for a playoff spot into the end of August.
I cannot remember this team ever playing this strong and with such cohesion in over fourteen years.
Whether you feel the Orioles are playing with house money, plain lucky, or are doing all the little things to win, this has been an amazing season. It’s almost strange having the confidence as a fan now believing your team has a chance to win day in a day out, rather than expecting the worst.
The Orioles have hung tough, been resilient and despite a team that seemingly goes through changes almost every other day, they have more than held their own with the big money Yankees, the train-wreck Red Sox and the ever-so-smart-and-young Tampa Bay Rays.
At this point, the Orioles will more than likely or not finish at or above .500 barring a disaster.
It’s weird to hear fans talking about the Orioles and the playoffs; however, as the season inching further to a close – the thought of the Birds playing in October is becoming that much closer to reality.
I know everyone in the back of their minds is wondering about the playoffs --- and yes, the World Series. It all seems like a long way off. For now, it seems that Orioles will not catch the Yankees for the American League Division lead, but if they make the Wild Card one-and-done play-in game, that would be huge.
As Buster Olney had in his ESPN blog the other day, it doesn’t matter if the Baltimore Orioles or the Pittsburgh Pirates – two teams with an infamous history over the past two decades – win the Wild Card play-in game; the fortunes of the franchise would change.
However, I’d like more to happen.
Then again, they just have to win as many games as they can now and things will take care of itself. With Tampa Bay surging, along with Oakland, Detroit and Los Angeles (albeit, fading despite their talent) in the hunt, Baltimore just has to grind it out day to day.
Baltimore starts yet another critical series against the Rangers down in Texas. If the Orioles can do the same thing down there like they in did the Motor City, they’d be in great shape heading into this weekend’s series at home versus the Toronto Blue Jays.