NEW YORK—The Orioles’ four-game winning streak has moved them to within a half-game of the New York Yankees and only a game behind the Houston Astros.
When this unique season began July 24, the common theme was “anything can happen,” but there weren’t many who thought the Orioles could be within hailing distance of the Yankees and Astros more than two-thirds into the season.
Had this been a conventional 162-game season, the Orioles’ 20-21 record would have been impressive, but it would have been just past the quarter-point in the middle of May.
Instead, the Orioles have a better record than six of the American League’s 15 teams, including the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels.
Those big-money teams are far out of contention while the Orioles are making things tough on the other contenders.
“I think we’re focused on the Orioles right now, and we need to win as many games as possible,” manager Brandon Hyde said during his Wednesday pregame video conference call.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know what was going on around the league, if I didn’t watch highlights at night, check scores and watch MLB Network the next day to see what’s happening. It doesn’t matter what the league does if we don’t win.”
BaseballReference.com gives the Orioles an 18.8 percent chance of playing in the postseason while FanGraphs estimates their chances at 11.6 percent, not great, but far above what most fans expected.
“I’d be disappointed if we don’t play well the rest of the year,” Hyde said. “I think whatever happens, happens. Obviously, I’d love for our team to continue to experience these games that matter the last two weeks.
“We don’t have many in that room who’ve been in a pennant race. I think continuing to play games that matter is really beneficial for guys. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and there are still a lot of teams that are right there.”
If the Orioles beat the Mets on Wednesday night, they’ll be 21-21. They haven’t been at .500 since August 23rd when they were 14-14.
“I think we came into this short season not really knowing what to expect,” Hyde said. “Not knowing what teams were going to look like.
“[General manager Mike Elias]’s been really transparent about adding as much talent to the organization as possible. That’s been our mindset. He’s done an amazing job doing that these first couple of years, and developing the guys that we have.
“I think we’ve done that fairly well. We’re still trying to develop the younger players that we have on our team right now as well as the guys that are at our secondary site that we’re excited about. With less than 20 games to go, and hovering around .500, I’d just like to see us play well these last couple of weeks.”
Entering Wednesday game, the Orioles have 20 wins. With their next victory, they’ll surpass BetOnline.ag’s projection of 20 ½. Their net win also guarantees them an improved winning percentage in 2020.
Last year, the Orioles went 54-108, a winning percentage of .333. A 20-40 record in a 60-game season gives them an identical winning percentage.
To avoid the 2020 equivalent of 100 losses, the Orioles would need at least 24 wins.
Their remaining schedule, as Hyde points out, is difficult. After Wednesday’s game, they have four games with the New York Yankees.
Next week’s final homestand includes three games against the Atlanta Braves, who lead the National League East, and five against the Tampa Bay Rays, including a Thursday doubleheader. Tampa Bay has the best record in the American League.
The Orioles’ final six games are on the road — three at Boston and three against Toronto in Buffalo.
“We have less than three weeks to go, but I know that we have a long way to go,” Hyde said. “Still have a lot of games to go. We’re still playing really good teams. Obviously would love to play well and have these guys experience a postseason, what that feels like. That would be incredible, an incredible achievement for the guys in our clubhouse.
“Really I am just taking this day-to-day to be honest with you, and try to win tonight, wake up tomorrow and see where we are and continue to do that the next three weeks.”
Injury updates: Hyde said he hoped starter Alex Cobb, who’s on the injured list, could return later this week … Austin Hays, who’s been on the 10-day injured list since August 15th because of a rib fracture, was supposed to play in a simulated game on Wednesday but rain in Bowie prevented that. Hyde thinks he needs about a week of at-bats to return … Relief pitcher Shawn Armstrong, who’s been on the IL because of lower back soreness, is beginning to throw, and Hyde hopes he can pitch before the end of the season.