The Orioles split their double header against the Jays yesterday, lost a half a game against the Yankees but saw no real movement in the wild card. As the season winds down every single game matters with the Rays and Angels knocking on the door of the playoffs with both teams within four games of the Birds with eight games remaining. The Orioles are still in the driver's seat of their playoff destiny but with every game carrying so much weight Baltimore is in a tizzy as it deals with emotions the fans simply haven't had to deal with in a very long time.
The Orioles' loss yesterday, as frustrating as it was, has sent many fans into a bit of a defcon-3 frenzy. The Orioles sit only 1.5 games behind the division-leading Yankees but many fans now see that as an insurmountable feat. Meanwhile, even though the Orioles' playoff cushion is currently three times the size of that gap, scenarios are being devised that see the Orioles missing the playoffs in a sort of 1989 "Why Not?" heartbreak.
As I type this entry the Orioles' bats have been silenced thus far by the Blue Jays, a stark contrast from the last couple of days and an equally stark reminder that on any night anything can happen.
An Orioles' loss tonight could result in their lead in the wild card being reduced to half a game over the A's with the Angels and Rays sitting two and three games back respectively, with seven games left to play. It certainly would make the Orioles' job a bit more difficult and the last week's worth of games would be insanley tense but still in a very solid position.
The Orioles have lost a couple games here, it is not time to panic. The Orioles are still sitting at 88 wins and really need to find a way to squeak out only a couple more wins to really secure a spot. Remember, the Angels and Rays will have to play exceptional baseball if the Orioles can simply go .500 from here on out.
It is the stuff that makes for memorable Septembers and late-season heroics, though I too would much rather wrap this regular season up this week before the Orioles head to Tampa on Monday.
There is no reason to panic Orioles fans, take a step back off the ledge and understand that this was never going to be an easy road to the playoffs. That being said with four games remaining in this the final homestand of the year the Orioles really need to find a way to win three of them. Winning three of the next four would have the Orioles sitting at 91 wins going into Tampa Bay. If the Orioles can get that done it means the over the last series They will at least have a two game lead over the Rays and a one game lead over the Angels going into the final series of the year.
That is how close the Orioles are. The team is so close you can feel it, so every game is magnified and every loss feels like something is slipping away but the Orioles are still in control, even if they hit a bump in the road this week.