BALTIMORE—September is here, and the Orioles begin this crucial month 1 ½ games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.
“This is definitely an exciting time now for our club,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Going back to the West Coast. It’s an important road trip. Every game matters right now. Every game is important, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun playing games that matter.”
The Orioles have 29 games remaining in the regular season—28 in September and one in October.
According to FanGraphs, both the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays have 99.8 percent odds of making the postseason, but the Orioles want to do more than that.
If the Rays beat them out for the AL East title, the Orioles would have to win two more games—13—to win the World Series because they’d have to win the best two-of-three wild-card series before beginning the Division Series.
The second place team in the East may well have the second-best record in the league. Currently, the Rays have a .612 winning percentage, which extrapolates to 99 wins, and is better than Minnesota, the AL Central leader, and the top three teams in the AL West — Houston, Seattle and Texas.
If the Orioles win the East, they’d get a bye and would face the winner of a wild-card series between Tampa Bay and the team with the second-best record among wild-card teams.
So, there’s a lot at stake.
The remaining Oriole opponents have a .510 winning percentage while the Rays’ schedule is a smidge harder; their opponents have a .518 percentage.
Of those final 29 games, only 11 are against the East with four of them, September 14th-17th, against Tampa Bay at Oriole Park.
The Orioles play three against Boston at Fenway Park on September 8th-10th and host the Red Sox for the final four games of the season, September 28th-October 1st.
Last month, the Orioles played two tough series against the Astros and Mariners, losing two of three to Houston and winning two of three against Seattle.
The Orioles have three more games to play at Houston from September 18th-20th.
According to FanGraphs, the Red Sox don’t have much chance for a playoff spot. They calculate their odds at just 4.8 percent, and they trail the Rangers, who are currently the third and final wild-card team by 6 ½ games.
Th Orioles have finished play against Toronto, which is 2 ½ games behind Texas, and have a 44.1 percent odds of qualifying for the wild card.
Before the Orioles get to that big series against Tampa Bay in two weeks, they must complete their second trip to the West Coast in three weeks.
They’ll play three games at Arizona beginning on Friday night. The Diamondbacks, who are in a tight race with San Francisco and Cincinnati for the final wild-card spot, could provide tough competition for the Orioles.
After Arizona, the Orioles will play three against the Los Angeles Angels, who lost five players on waiver claims this week — starter Lucas Giolito and relievers Reynaldo Lopez and Matt Moore to Cleveland, Dominic Leone to Seattle, and outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Reds. Los Angeles had dreams of contending in the AL West, but after Shohei Ohtani suffered a UCL injury, ending his season on the mound, they had other ideas.
After the three games against the Angels, the Orioles move on to Boston next weekend.
Besides Los Angeles, which is 64-70, there are three other series against sub. 500 clubs—three with St. Louis (September 11th-13rd), four at Cleveland (September 21st-24th) and two at home with Washington (September 26th-27th).
The Orioles will attempt to extend their streak of not being swept, currently at 82 and fifth-best in baseball history. If they win at least a game against the Diamondbacks and Angels, they’ll pass the 1922-24 New York Yankees, who weren’t swept in 83 straight series.
While their first postseason appearance since 2016 is nearly assured, a first division title since 2014 is more important. The Orioles’ next win will surpass last year’s win total of 83.
“I thought last year was great for our guys,” Hyde said. “We were in it this time last year. To have the guys have that experience last year was great. This year is a little different. We have a better record. We’ll try to win as many games as possible.”
The wild-card round begins on October 3rd, and the Division Series four days later on October 7th. Winning the East would give the Orioles five days off after a rigorous regular season and allow them to align their starting pitching the way they want it for the postseason, a subject the players have begun talking about, but not Hyde—at least publicly.
“It’s totally different, but you’ve got serious adrenaline going,” he said of the postseason. “We’re not talking about that, yet. We’re talking about finishing the season strong.”
Cowser, Krehbiel joining Orioles: Outfielder Colton Cowser and right-handed reliever Joey Krehbiel will join the Orioles from Triple-A Norfolk when the rosters expand from 26 to 28 on Friday.
Cowser batted .115 (7-for-61) with four RBIs in 26 games with the Orioles. In 69 games at Norfolk, Cowser hit .314 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.
Krehbiel threw 1 2/3 spotless innings in two appearances for the Orioles. He was 1-1 with a 2.75 ERA and three saves in 31 games at Norfolk.
News of the promotions was first reported by MASNSports.com and confirmed by an industry source.
There are likely to be additional roster moves in the coming days. Outfielder Aaron Hicks, who’s on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain, could return to the active list on the road trip. Right-hander Tyler Wells and left-hander John Means, who are at Norfolk, should both be returning soon to the Orioles.
Means, who is rehabbing from April 2022 Tommy John surgery, threw five scoreless innings, allowing one hit for Norfolk at Worcester on Thursday night. He walked two, struck out six and threw 86 pitches.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB