Orioles fans, pinch yourselves.
It is just four days until the calendar turns to September and your team is just 3 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East, the O's smallest deficit in the division since June 24. If they remain steady this week against the Chicago White Sox, they can chip into that lead even more this weekend in the Bronx.
Take a deep breath.
As you wake up today, after the Orioles' 4-3 comeback win over the White Sox, they are tied for the two AL wild card spots with the Oakland Athletics. They've jumped over the Tampa Bay Rays, who have gone to the playoffs three of the last four years, into second place in the division.
Your starting rotation has three pitchers with a total of 13 career wins, but you're still in the thick of it. Your team has won 16 games when tied or trailing after seven innings. And they've won 57 of 58 when they lead after eight innings.
Your team is a season-high 13 games over .500 for just the second time this season, and the first time since May 19.
The Orioles have a minus-45 run differential. But they have won a franchise-record 13 straight one-run games dating back to June 22. They are 16-1 in their last 17 one-run games and are 24-6 on the season in one-run games. They're 46-28 in one-run games since the start of the 2011 season.
You can thank guys like Nate McLouth, who was released by the Pirates 34 games into the season after hitting .140. He's hit two game-winning homers in the past week.
You can thank Lew Ford, who picked the right time to hit his first major leage homer since July 27, 2007 against a team that owns the second best record in baseball since mid-May.
And you can even thank much-maligned Mark Reynolds, who drew three walks on Monday, including one in the eigth inning that ended up being the tying run. He's also made some incredible plays at first, saving errant throws and diving snags into the hole. He made one in the sixth on Monday that was negated by Wei-Yin Chen's dropped-catch error.
And thank Chen, a virtual unknown coming into the season who leads the team with 12 wins. As a rookie, he's been the stabilizing force of the rotation. He has as many wins as that other rookie phenom who pitched in Japan -- Yu Darvish -- and owns the most wins by an Orioles pitcher since Erik Bedard won 13 in 2007.
On Monday, he made the AL's top home-run hitting team have holes in their bats. He had eight strikeouts, making the Sox offense look erratic chasing his tantilizing high fastballs and breaking balls out of the zone. And thank him for his intensity. He knows nothing of the 14 straight losing seasons that you do, so when he made that costly error in the sixth, he let his emotion show, just like he did when the Orioles came back later that inning.
Thank them all. All season, we've all been saying it wouldn't last. But thank them for making it last this long.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun