Tuesday marks the beginning of an eight-game homestand, a 16-game jaunt without an off day and 19 consecutive contests against clubs with records above .500. Of their 45 games remaining in the regular season, the Orioles only play 10 against sub-.500 teams, seven versus the Tampa Bay Rays and three versus the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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There are some favorable nuances in the remaining schedule – three off days in September, for instance – and some unfavorable things, such as non-division games against a trio of tough opponents: The Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers and National League East power Washington Nationals.
Ultimately, the Orioles control their own destiny. Win at their current pace, win enough in the division and on the road, and get into the playoffs. That, of course, is simplistic. Here are five things the Orioles must do to have a better chance at their third postseason in five years.
The ultimate goal is to get into the playoffs, no matter the manner of entrance. So winning the American League East is not essential. But the division crown is there for the taking. The Orioles play 31 of their final 45 games against division rivals: six versus the Toronto Blue Jays, seven versus the Rays and nine each against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
The Orioles are currently 26-19 against AL East teams, the best record of the group. The Blue Jays have the second best mark at 27-21. The Blue Jays have won seven of 13 against the Orioles this season with six left to play – three each in Baltimore and Toronto.
Obviously, the Orioles would love to get home-field advantage and force the Blue Jays into a one-game Wild Card matchup. A big help would be beating Toronto in four of the next six head-to-head matchups to win the season series.
The Orioles are great at Camden Yards, better than any team in the AL at 39-17. Only the National League Central’s Chicago Cubs have more home wins than the Orioles.
But that road record, 27-34, is much less desirable. When I recently wrote about the Orioles’ road troubles, one commenter on our Facebook page asked, almost defensively, “How many teams are good on the road?”
The answer: Of the seven clubs currently playing .560 or better baseball, only the Orioles have a losing road record. It’s just one of those baseball truisms – good teams win on the road. The Orioles have 20 games away from Camden Yards remaining, and they need to make the most of them. Not sure what the formula is – more focus? – but it’s imperative to turn more than half of those contests into victories.
This is something the Orioles should have done at the beginning of the season, or when they released Brian Matusz or when Brian Duensing got hurt or when the trade deadline came and went.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette tried to acquire a lefty specialist in July, but the price was too hefty.
Now, with versatile, right-handed set-up man Darren O’Day on the shelf, adding someone who can retire left-handers late in games becomes more of a need.