One of the impressive things about the Buck Showalter Era Orioles is that they don’t panic.
The manager continually preaches taking each game as it comes, and his players have followed that mantra. So, when things go badly, the Orioles usually find a way to break free. And when they are on a winning streak, they don’t lose touch of reality, understanding that adversity could be around the corner.
Some of that is Showalter; some of that is the veteran group that has grown up together, players such as Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Darren O’Day and Zach Britton.
In a sense, this current team is the epitome of that “not too high or too low” philosophy. In another sense, this team has taken that mantra too literally. This season has been marred by an inconsistency that is impossible to explain.
They hit and can’t pitch. The pitching gets better and the hitting collapses, like this weekend in Cleveland, where they’ve lost 2-0 and 4-2.
The Orioles started the season 22-10 and then plummeted, going 12-16 in May, 12-16 in June and 12-14 in July before an out-of-nowhere 17-12 August.
Just when you expect their year is over, these Orioles rally. After a lackluster West Coast trip and subsequent homestand, the Orioles put together a seven-game win streak to be within a whisker of the AL Wild Card’s second spot on Aug. 30.
They’ve gone 3-6, and are being leapfrogged again by other pseudo-contenders. They are sitting at 71-71, have lost four of five and may get swept Sunday night in Cleveland.
How difficult is this nationally televised, Sunday night assignment?
Well, the Indians have won 17 consecutive games and are attempting to catch the 2002 Oakland Athletics, who won 20 in a row.
The Indians send right-hander Trevor Bauer to the mound Sunday. Bauer, who was taken third overall — a spot ahead of Dylan Bundy — in the 2011 amateur draft, has won eight consecutive decisions in his last 10 tries.
The Orioles counter with Jeremy Hellickson, who sports a 6.87 ERA in his seven starts since being acquired in a late July trade with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Let’s just say the odds aren’t with the Orioles on Sunday night.
Now, we all know it’s baseball. And anything can happen.
And it’s baseball played by the 2017 Orioles, who keep zigging when they are supposed to zag,
There’s only 20 games remaining in their season. It seems like only a matter of time before the dirt is pulled up around them, to paraphrase Showalter.
They could surprise again, of course. But they are back to their old tricks. While the pitching has been OK the last two games in Cleveland, the Orioles’ offense has scored two runs – three in their last three games (including a 9-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday).
Oh, and they just happen to be facing the hottest team in 16 years on Sunday night.
Yes, this team doesn’t panic.
But it’d be nice if the Orioles showed a little urgency as time runs out on a frustrating 2017.