No question, looming West Coast trip is huge - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

No question, looming West Coast trip is huge

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

I don’t mean to throw water all over the Orioles’ 5-2 homestand.

It got them to one-game under .500 for the season. The sweep of the Kansas City Royals sure helped them gain ground in the American League Wild Card race. And rebounding from two losses against the Detroit Tigers to even that series showed something.

“You have a good series against Kansas City then Detroit pops you a couple times. It’s a challenge to come back. It was a big win for us (Saturday) night,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I’m right, but I felt good coming into (Sunday’s) game. To get back and finish 5-2. But we’ve got a tough road.”

Road – that’s the key here.

The Orioles are supposed to win at home – they are now 35-23 at Camden Yards (a .603 winning percentage) — especially against a club like the Tigers that are clearly targeting the future.

So, this week was a test, like most in the baseball season.

But it wasn’t a crucial test, a potentially season-defining exam. That starts Monday night in Anaheim, Calif.

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I’ve written a bunch of times in the last couple years that you have to take the baseball season as a marathon and not a sprint.

But these next 10 days are the climb up a mountainous hill with a few more miles to go.

Ten consecutive games against American League West teams on the road. Two of those teams, the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners, are elbowing the Orioles on the fringes of the Wild Card race.

“It’s gonna be big. I mean, it’s always a challenge to go to the West Coast. Because of the difference of the time and stuff like that,” Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez said. “You have to get adjusted. But we have to find a way to get some wins.”

In September, the Orioles get a heavy dose of the AL East: 24 of their final 29 games are within the division.

From now until then, though, it’s all about the AL West: 19 of the Orioles next 22 are against the Angels, Mariners and Oakland A’s, all at or below .500, like the Orioles.

This should be the time that they truly decide whether they are contenders or pretenders.

Although, Showalter, as he is wont to do, downplayed the road trip’s significance.

“So, is the season over if we don’t do well on the West Coast? No,” Showalter said. “Our guys know what’s at stake the rest of the season and that road trip includes that.”

I understand that sentiment, but also understand this: The Orioles don’t have recent history on their side out west.

In the previous six seasons under Showalter, the Orioles are 30-39 on the West Coast. They were 3-8 last year, which included a four-game sweep by the Mariners.

Add in that the Orioles have no off days on this trip — they go to three cities in 10 days before a travel day at the end on Aug. 17 — and it’s a real gauntlet.

What makes matters worse is that the Orioles are an awful 20-33 (.377 winning percentage) away from Camden Yards in 2017. Only the A’s have won fewer on the road this season in the American League.

The Orioles must come to play in the next 10 days.

“It’s important to us because we’re going to play really good teams,” second baseman Jonathan Schoop said. “You want to go out there and play to win, play hard, leave it out there, win as many games as we can to push our way to the playoffs. Because that’s our goal, win the playoffs and win the World Series.”

Yes, a 5-2 homestand is solid. Creeping back almost to .500 by winning seven of their last nine is encouraging. Outscoring the opponent 39-20 in seven games looks good for both the offense and pitching staff.

But we’ve seen good spurts before ruined by ugly ones. We’ve seen opportunities come and go during this head-scratcher of a year.

The Orioles are running out of games. They are running out of ways to win outside the brutal division. They need to get themselves closer to the second Wild Card in 10 days, not further away, or even status quo. They need to get in front of some of the teams in their way like the Angels and Mariners.

This 10-day trip is the biggest test of the season so far.

Frankly, this 10-game trip may end up determining this season for the Orioles.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    August 7, 2017 at 8:13 am

    I’m with you on this one Dan. It’s indeed a daunting test our boys have ahead of them in the next week and ½.

    But to paraphrase the great Rick Flair … ” to be the best, you have to beat a bunch of middle of the pack west coast teams on the road … wooooooo” … or something like that.

    I for one, have complete faith in them. Wooooooo!
    Go O’s!

    • Dan Connolly

      August 7, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Love the fact you are paraphrasing bygone wrestling stars. This place is special.

  2. Osfan73

    August 7, 2017 at 8:33 am

    Of the teams with similar records to the Os, like these 3 west teams we’ll be facing, I really believe Baltimore is better than. It’s going to be a matter of can our starting rotation continue their improved pitching of these last few weeks. If they can, and it’s a big IF this year, I like our chances.
    Our core group Davis, Jones, Britton, Schoop were here facing this same road trip after the all-star break in the divivsion winning season in 14′. Came out of it 6-4, a little different circumstances this year but point is they’ve been down this road before and know what it takes to succeed on these important and long trips.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 7, 2017 at 9:18 am

      Let’s not forget Jonathan Schoop’s 9th inning 2 run homer to complete a 6 run comeback against the Giants just last year which salvaged (at 5-5) what started as a disastrous 10 game west coast road trip vs. Seattle, Oakland & San Francisco as I remember it.

      • Bancells Moustache

        August 7, 2017 at 10:29 am

        I believe that was a three run jack by Schoop. That was, in my opinion, the game of the year in 16

    • Dan Connolly

      August 7, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      It can be done. And it has been done. But they really need to show something in the next 10 days to help separate from the pack.

  3. Bancells Moustache

    August 7, 2017 at 11:01 am

    I’m not buying stock in the Birds until they show they can win on the road. The team appears to follow the NFL script and is built to compete within their division, and if they can get to the September AL East cage match in striking distance, we might have something. Even still, I just don’t see a scenario where this team doesn’t get crushed by a Houston or Cleveland in the post-season.

    Semi related, sad week for O’s fans and baseball seeing Lee May then Don Baylor, two players with very similar skill sets, pass away. Then last night a guy I always tried to emulate when I was a young backstop, Darren Daulton passed on. Damn shame, those guys will be missed.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 7, 2017 at 11:19 am

      I agree with your assessment on the need to prove they can win on the road 100%. I’m just hoping they get an opportunity to get crushed by Houston or Cleveland. You never know what can happen in this game, just ask the ’69 Mets.

      I heard the news about Lee May .. but this is the 1st I heard of Don Baylor’s passing. Coincidentally, I witnessed each of these men have 2 home run games in Fenway when I was young. I half think May’s may have been a 3 home run game, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It’s been a long time.

      Baylor was always a favorite of mine. Partly because he was from my home town of Austin Tx, and partly because he was just plain awesome. Largest forearms this side of Steve Garvey. I rue the day he was traded for Reggie.

      RIP Mr. Baylor.

      • Bancells Moustache

        August 7, 2017 at 12:33 pm

        The 69 METS?!!

        Boog, lay off the hard stuff. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan ain’t walking through that door.

        • Osfan73

          August 7, 2017 at 1:50 pm

          I wasn’t walking and talking on this Earth quite yet in 69′ but I grew up thinking that had to be a rough year for the Baltimore sports fan. To have come up just short to a couple of teams from ‘up there’ (new york….there I got the words out) must’ve been torture.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 7, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      I just wrote a piece on Baylor for the site. Slightly weird perspective, but will make some of you laugh.

  4. ATCguy

    August 7, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Still highly skeptical of the O’s chances of a post-season appearance (I don’t count the wild-card playoff as part of the post-season… it’s merely a tie-breaker game). But since I’ll be in RV’ing in Washington when the birds are in Seattle… if they have good series’ in Anaheim & Oakland, I may change my mind and go see ’em in Seattle.

    • Dan Connolly

      August 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Come on ATC. The wild card is the playoffs. Yes, it is a play-in. But it still counts. Embrace. Embrace. :).

      • ATCguy

        August 7, 2017 at 3:02 pm

        LOL… nope, sorry… can’t. Baseball seasons are made up of series. The regular season is made up of a succession of smaller 3 & 4 game series (with an occasional 2-gamer)… and the post season is made up of three elimination series’ (divisional, league, and WS). A single-game playoff is just that… a simple tie-breaker. 🙂

  5. Rob

    August 7, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    They are who we thought they were. And, that’s basically a flawed, .500 team. A team that looks great for stretches and then for two or three or four games acts like a complete train wreck of a girlfriend. I expect this trip to yield a 3-7 or 4-6 result. I will be ecstatic if they go 5-5 or better! Either way, I’m back at the Yards on the 18th!

    • Dan Connolly

      August 8, 2017 at 8:50 am

      I’ll be honest Rob. I thought they were a better team than this. At least heading into the season. But that’s because I thought Gausman and Tillman would be better than they have been. You give them typical seasons and this is a team five or more games above .500 not at it. But that’s why we predict. Just an educated guess about what people may do. Not what they will do.

  6. Delsym

    August 8, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    I Billiever, but then again, I am a Bills fan and ticket holder. I am optimistic about catching the Sox, but we gotta keep pitching, bats may carry us… Here’s hoping.

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