In their first 65 games, about 40 percent of the 2023 season, the Baltimore Orioles have met nearly every challenge in their path.
They haven’t been swept in a multi-game series in 13 months, have had three winning streaks of four or more games and have just one losing streak of three games.
Their record has been equally impressive at home, 20-12, and on the road, 21-12.
When one of their two most irreplaceable position players, centerfielder Cedric Mullins, suffered a strained groin muscle on Memorial Day, the Orioles were in the midst of losing consecutive series for the first time this season. But in the last three series, the Orioles have played better, and begin a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday with a 41-24 record.
They haven’t been 17 games over .500 since July 26th, 2016, and if they can get to 19 games over, they’ll be at their highest point since the end of the 2014 season when they finished 96-66, 30 games over.
As well as the Orioles have played, they’re still facing their greatest challenge, catching the Tampa Bay Rays, who entered Monday night’s game at Oakland with a 48-20 record, 5 ½ games ahead of the Orioles.
The Orioles have trailed the Rays since the second game of the season but beat Tampa Bay, two games to one, in a three-game series at Camden Yards last month. They play two games at the Rays next week.
FanGraphs calculates that the Orioles have a 54.9 percent chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2016. BaseballReference.com.’s estimation is 47 percent.
BetOnline.ag believes there’s a 43.5 percent chance of the Orioles making the postseason. At the beginning of the year, they gave the Orioles just an 18.2 percent chance of playing beyond October 1st.
There are still so many skeptics.
FanGraphs calculates their opponents’ strength of schedule at .514, the hardest in the major leagues, and predicts their record will be 87-75. The means they think the Orioles will play less than .500 ball for the remainder of the season, 46-51. If the Orioles simply play a game above .500 for the rest of the season, 49-48, that translates to 90 games and a likely postseason spot.
From May 5th-28th, the Orioles played 22 games against teams over .500, including four teams that were leading their divisions — Tampa Bay, Texas, Atlanta and Pittsburgh — and were 13-9. Between now the All-Star break, which begins July 9th, the Orioles play 24 games, and only nine are against teams with a winning record, all AL East opponents, the Blue Jays, Rays and Yankees.
But after the All-Star break, they’ll be faced with 25 games against difficult teams — Miami, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Rays, Phillies, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mets and Houston.
The good news is if they’re able to play decently in their remaining games against the American League East, they should be in good shape. So far, they’re 11-7 against the East with 34 left to play. The Orioles lead the Yankees by four games and Toronto by five. Boston is 8 ½ games behind them.
While each of the AL East teams are at .500 or better, three AL West teams are, Texas, Houston and Los Angeles.
For the moment, there aren’t any AL Central teams for the Orioles to be concerned about. Minnesota (33-33) leads a weak division, but there aren’t any wild-card contenders. The Orioles play six games against the Twins before the All-Star break.
There are nearly four months left in the season, and change happens.
After 65 games in 2022, the Orioles were 28-37. The Mariners were just a half-game better, but the Orioles went on a 10-game winning streak, their longest in 23 years, and Seattle reeled off a 14-game run, propelling them to the postseason.
Cleveland was 43-44 on July 13th and finished 22 games over (92-70), winning the AL Central going away.
Despite Mullins’ injury, the Orioles continue to enjoy good health. They’ve had just seven players for 272 days on the injured list, second lowest in baseball behind the Guardians.
Surely there will be new contenders in the rest of this season and some teams that are playing well now will flounder.
In the first 65 games, the Orioles haven’t shown evidence that they will flounder.
Note: Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells will be the Orioles’ starters for the Blue Jays series.
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions later this week. Please send them to: [email protected]