In the aftermath of two heartbreaking losses to the supposedly unimposing Cleveland Guardians, this is probably a good time to remind everyone that this is no time to push the panic button, but you might want to keep it handy.
The O’s are in a classic good news/bad news situation – well actually, several of them — and you’re just going to have to gut out the next eight games right along with them. So which do you want first?
The good news: They’re still in first place, of course, and they’ve already qualified for the postseason, which is pretty cool no matter what happens the rest of the regular season.
The bad news: That’s probably not going to be good enough to position them well for a deep playoff run. They need to win AL East to earn several days of crucial rest before the Division Series.
The good news: The schedule clearly favors them, because the Tampa Bay Rays have to play a ton of games against the very formidable Toronto Blue Jays, while the Orioles play all sub-.500 teams the rest of the way.
The bad news: Clearly, the O’s are in the midst of a full-fledged bullpen crisis and they have lost the first two games against one of those losing teams in particularly discouraging fashion.
The good news: They have been here before … just last weekend, when they rebounded from four straight losses to win four straight against the Rays and Houston Astros. Much tougher competition than they will face the rest of the way.
The bad news: The bullpen is more stressed than it was then, in no small part because the Orioles have played 15 games without a day off and have two more games in Cleveland before Monday’s final offday of the regular season.
The good news: Solid right-hander Tyler Wells looked every good in his first major league relief appearance since he pitched all those no-hit innings the day Kyle Bradish got hurt in early April.
The bad news: All-Star Yennier Cano and 2022 All-Star Jorge López keep speeding up bats with two strikes, as Cano did when he gave up a key leadoff double to Andrés Giménez with no one out in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night. Pretty sure Giménez was hoping for a second 91-mph changeup from a guy who can throw 98.
Don’t get me wrong. Cano has been a godsend this year and deserves tremendous credit for the overall success of the bullpen, but he has become extremely vulnerable in right-left matchups. He and his coaches and catchers need to figure something out, because the other late-inning alternatives are finally showing signs of overwork and successful advance scouting.
Still, if the Orioles’ hitters can continue to perform the way they did on Friday night, showing plate discipline that was not evident in the series opener, they remain positioned very well to hold off the Rays.
The best news: All the major internet betting sites still are giving at least 7-1 odds on Tampa Bay to win the division, which works out to a projected probability of less than 12 percent. It certainly doesn’t feel that after three-straight Oriole losses, but take heart. The wise guys usually know their stuff.