Who would have guessed that the Baltimore Orioles would play a meaningful game on the last day of the season … the 52-109 Orioles. But Baltimore could have an effect on the outcome of an American League Wild-Card race that is coming down to the wire.
In a series of games starting just after 3 on a football Sunday, the Orioles will take center stage against the Toronto Blue Jays, who at 90-71 are a game behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, both of whom are 91-70, in the wild-card standings. The Seattle Mariners are also 90-71.
It also should be noted that the Tampa Bay Rays are 100-61, which means four of the five teams in the AL East have at least 90 wins. It shows how far the Orioles need to travel to become competitive in the best division in baseball but, like they did this past week when they won two of three against Boston, the Orioles could affect the playoff picture.
The Orioles pitched three rookie lefthanders against the Red Sox, starting with Bruce Zimmermann, who gets the start Sunday against the Blue Jays. Each of the three — Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells followed Zimmermann — gave up only one run in 15 combined innings. It got the attention of manager Brandon Hyde.
“We just threw three inexperienced left-handers against the Boston Red Sox, and they’re in a playoff race, and we won two out of three, and all three were really good starts,” Hyde said.
He would love to get another one today from Zimmermann against a Blue Jays team that scored 10 runs Saturday and is stacked with offensive talent.
On Friday night, after the Orioles scored four runs in the eighth in a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays, outfielder Austin Hays acknowledged the excitement of the environment.
“It’s a really positive environment for us to play in,” Hays said. “The goal is for us in the next couple of years to be on the other side of this and be in the situation those guys over there are in right now. We’re trying to continue to play the game hard and play the game the right way and treat every game like it matters and just keep battling like we tried to battle our way back into that game tonight.”
Hyde also appreciated being in a playoff atmosphere.
“This is what it’s about,” Hyde said. ”Our guys haven’t had a whole lot of experiences in this type of environment. It’s loud in here. The fans are into it. We’re getting booed a little bit. This is what makes major league baseball fun, playing the games that matter in hostile environments on the road, playing against teams, must-win type of games. This is what competitors live for. It’s a lot of fun. I’m happy our guys got to experience it.”
The Orioles will get to experience it one more time before going into the offseason and watching their rivals in the AL East in the playoffs. They get to have a say on the final day, and you can’t ask for better than that, especially for a team that hopes its final games will have even more meaning in the future.