The Orioles (52-42) may hold a four-game lead in the American League East and be a season-high 10 games over .500 entering the All-Star break, but recent history indicates that it’s not safe to make postseason plans quite yet.
Last year, the Orioles were also 10 games above .500 (53-43) at the Midsummer Classic. Despite that record, they were in third place in a strong AL East, behind the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Following a lackluster second half (33-34), the Orioles finished 85-77, 12 games back of the eventual World Series champion Red Sox.
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At the All-Star break for the postseason-bound club in 2012, the Orioles were just five games above .500 (45-40) and seven games back of the New York Yankees.
With a 48-win second half, the Orioles eventually clinched an AL wild-card berth, topped the Texas Rangers in a one-game playoff and fell in five games to the Yankees in the AL Division Series.
This season, the Orioles want to avoid that de facto play-in game.
“We have the goal of going out and winning the division this year,” Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said Sunday. “We want to control our own destiny, so to speak. We’re definitely in the driver’s seat right now.”
A tough start to the second half looms between the Orioles and that dream. Their next 29 games are against teams currently at or above .500, and 17 of those are on the road.
And they will be without starter Ubaldo Jimenez for part of that stretch. The right-hander experienced weakness in his injured ankle during a work day Sunday, cutting the session short.
But the Orioles have been impressive against AL East foes (26-18). That’s tied for the most in-division wins in the AL, and it’s a big reason for the Orioles being atop the AL East at the All-Star break for the first time since 1997, when they led wire-to-wire.
“As long as we’re getting wins, we’ll take it,” Davis said. “I think this is a good little break for everybody to take a breath, reflect, regroup and then get ready to get back out there.”
As Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, expect twists and turns after the All-Star break. And all things considered, there’s nowhere the club would rather be right now than in first.
“Going into the break, we all feel pretty good about what we’ve done the first half,” right-hander Kevin Gausman said. “It’s not going to mean anything if we don’t have a solid second half, too.”