NEW YORK—Early on the morning of October 1st, the Orioles were eliminated from the postseason when the Seattle Mariners defeated the Oakland Athletics. The disappointment was overshadowed by what the Orioles have accomplished this season and what may lie ahead.
With four games remaining, the Orioles have 81 wins, 29 more than in 2021 when they went 52-110. The Orioles were expected to improve in 2022, but no one believed they would be in the playoff chase until the final week of the season.
“I am proud of how our team has played this year and exceeded everybody’s expectations,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We stayed in it until October 1st, so pretty cool for our guys. As a competitor, I wanted to be in the playoffs. I wanted to experience those things. I wanted our guys to, but we gave it a good run.”
The Orioles had an outstanding two months. From July 3rd through September 3rd, they were 36-17. They had a 10-game winning streak, their longest since 1999, and had winning records in three consecutive months, June, July and August, for the first time since 2016.
“It was such a fun summer this year,” outfielder Austin Hays said. “Those few months this year, everything was just clicking. We were rolling. It got us to the point where we were able to make it until five games left in the season before we were eliminated from playoff contention.
“I don’t think anybody would have believed you if you said that in the beginning of the year. That was a big step for this organization, this team and all the guys in this locker room, to be playing meaningful games for three weeks in September and just really feel like we were fighting for our season.”
The Orioles were a season-high 10 games over .500 (71-61) on September 3rd and lost two series each to the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox and one to the Detroit Tigers last month.
“It’s really disappointing that’s not a possibility that we have to go out and play today knowing that we can’t get there,” Hays said. “It was a fun ride, and it was a fun season, and I’m really looking forward to what this team can do next season.”
Hyde points to when Adley Rutschman took over as the team’s catcher on May 21st as a pivotal change.
“Around the time Adley got here and we started playing better baseball, started taking better at-bats, winning more series,” Hyde said. “I don’t know if there was a moment, but once Adley got here, we started playing better.”
Outfielder Anthony Santander, who has been with the Orioles longer than any other player on the roster, thought that things were different even before the season.
“I think from spring training, we had a really good team going into it and once we started compiling some wins together during that win streak, it really hit me, ‘wow, we really have something good going on here,” he said through a translator. “It’s just building upon that. That’s when things started seeming that we were really legit.”
Hyde knows the Orioles must improve to be a playoff team in 2023.
“Getting better from the experiences we’ve had, understanding what it takes to win,” he said. “I think we understand what it takes to win now. It’s about being consistent every day. A lot of that comes from guys who haven’t been in the big leagues very long. Offensively, we have some holes there that we’re gong to get better at, hitting with runners in scoring position, the ability to take a walk, all these things that really good teams do. Those are areas to improve, and we’ll get better.”
Santander agrees. “I think when we play aggressive and we play as a unit together with the kinship we’ve been able to build this year, we do a much better job,” he said. “Next year, we’ve got to continue doing the same and being aggressive.”
The Orioles began the season with three losses at Tampa Bay were 1-5 after the season’s first week and lost 14 of their first 20.
May was better with a series win in St. Louis, but the Orioles lost six straight to Detroit and the New York Yankees before Rutschman arrived, and things started improving.
“Early on in the year, probably that second month, we were playing teams really tough,” Hays said. “Then the bullpen just started rolling. Anytime we could get them the lead, the bullpen would just come in and just close it down, and then our starters improved as the season went on, especially later in the year. It seemed like everybody was getting better throughout the course of the year. As the year was going, you could see the team growing.”
Hays is hoping that the hard lessons for 2022 will pay off in 2023.
“It’s heartbreaking, disappointing,” he said. “All of us were dreaming of that idea of getting to the playoffs this year. We were fighting for it, fighting really hard for it this month, just came up a little bit short.”