Will the Orioles walk through it.
Let's face it, when you look at the numbers the Orioles probably don't belong where they are right now. There are a million reasons why the Orioles should not be here, yet they are four games over .500 and sit a mere 1.5 games back in the wild card. After a disappointing effort in last night's 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, a game that while not a must-win it certainly felt close, the Orioles are STILL right there.
The door is open, the Orioles have been successful thus far in sheer defiance of maths, logic and the assumptions of the greatest minds of baseball. A winning season, the post-season, is sitting right there waiting for the Orioles to step up and take it. Will they?
Mark Reynolds is killing this team right now. His OPS is under .700, his slugging numbers have vanished. Last night Reynolds left six men on base and his at bats were not impressive. Over the winter Reynolds worked out and trimmed down to become a better fielder. one has to wonder if the lost weight has altered his swing because Reynolds has not been the same. The Orioles have certainly missed his power bat in the bottom third of the lineup. And without the homers Reynolds doesn't really have a point on this team. His defense at first has been serviceable at first, that is to say his sometimes erratic arm is minimized and he can pick the ball out of the dirt fairly well, but its not enough.
Where would the Orioles be right now if Reynolds had a season that in any way resembled 2011?
Omar Quintanilla has been a great pickup thus far. He plays solid defense at second and his bat has been a pleasant surprise in the small sample. he has been good enough to push Robert Andino back to more of a reserve role for the time. That is fine with me, as beloved as Andino might be, his bat had cooled significantly while Quintanilla has flourished and at this point of the year you have to go with the hot hand.
Helping the Orioles take the next step is Nick Markakis who has become the leadoff hitter the Orioles have missed all year. JJ Hardy's bat finally seems to be coming around, as is Chris Davis'. Matt Wieters continues to struggle but his bat has been showing signs of life and his defense is always a plus.
The Orioles' pitching staff has had a solid couple of rotations. Despite a couple rough starts from Miguel Gonzalez and Zach Britton the starters have been putting together some decent starts. Tommy Hunter pitched a very good game last night and deserved a much better fate. Tonight Wei yin Chen will attempt to keep the solid pitching going against one of the few teams that has truly given the Orioles a fit this year.
If last night's game wasn't a must-win, this one pretty much is. The Orioles are now in third place, a game behind the Rays. Their place in the wild card chase hasn't changed much but they need to win these head-to-head games against the teams near them/ ahead of them in the standings. Winning the series in New York was the first step, the Orioles need to find a way to win the next two games in Tampa. There is a lot of baseball left to play and for the first time in more than a decade the Orioles are playing significant games in August. To be playing significant games in September the offense needs to step up and pitching needs to stabilize.
The door is open, the Orioles need to step through.